(1970) Bekim Fehmiu, Richard Crenna, John Huston, Ricardo Montalban, Chuck Connors, Slim Pickens, Woody Strode, Albert Salmi, Patrick Wayne, Brandon de Wilde, Ian Bannen.
Captain Victor Kaleb (Bekim Fehmiu), blaming the U.S. Army for his wife’s death in an Apache raid, shoots his commanding officer and deserts the troop.
Upon retrieval, Kaleb is offered a full pardon in exchange for his expertise. His mission: to train a special combat unit to thwart the genocide planned by the advancing Apache forces.
This action yarn is well-directed by Burt Kennedy. In spite of an elementary script, and a lethargic performance by Fehmiu, the explosive battle scenes and stellar cast make The Deserter momentous.
Highlights include Huston keeping Fehmiu and Crenna from tearing each other apart; Bannen (also in The Flight of the Phoenix and Braveheart) coping with a canine; Wayne firing his Gattling gun; and Salmi and Strode experiencing bittersweet heroics.
Montalban and Pickens are a dynamic duo as they provide philosophical and comical relief. Connors is curious as a preacher and dynamite expert. Sadly, this is de Wilde’s last Western appearance, as he would die in a car accident the following year.