Apachen (1973)

a.k.a. - Apaches

Gojko Mitic stars in Gottfried Kolditz's impressive Indianerfilm, shot on location in Uzbekistan. FRF USA R0 DVD

The Film

In 1966, as a response to The West German company Rialto Film's Karl May Western series, the state controlled DEFA studio in East Germany produced Die Söhne der großen Bärin, emphasising the brutality of the American settlers and military towards the Native Americans in the late 1800s. The film proved a big success in the Communist States and quickly game birth to a long running series of films, telling the fates of different Indian tribes.

In Northern Mexico, the Apache tribe have negotiated an agreement, granting passage over their land to the Mexicans in exchange for food. However, the American miner Johnson wants to expand the local copper mine into the Apache land and wants them out of the way, so while the Apaches are collecting their food ration and being encouraged to be drunk and merry, his group massacre the tribe. Only a few survivors remain and they flee to another tribal village where Ulzana (Gojko Mitic) rallies the braves into taking revenge on the villagers and the Americans.

Co-written by star Gojko Mitic and director Gottfried Kolditz, Apachen is the eighth installment in the very loose Indianerfilm series - like the other films it emphasises the plight of the Native Americans (this time the Apache tribes of the Southwest) against the cruelty of the Americans and is loosely based on the 1837 Santa Rita massacre (although with the events transposed to the mid-1840s). The series was conceived as anti-American propaganda but this story in particular has some very strong shades of grey - the Apaches are seen taking out their revenge not only on the Americans behind the massacre but also on the Mexican townspeople, including those who actually stood up against it. The opening scenes have an almost mystical feel, emphasising the connections that the Apaches had with their land - and there is a beautiful sequence midway through the film of the Apaches riding to seek their revenge to a poetic narration from one of the characters. Pacing is relatively slow and the massacre scene and the climax in particular feel a little drawn out, although the rest of the film never drags.

Director Gottfried Kolditz, who had already helmed the earlier entry Spur des Falken (1968) does some good work here, giving the film a very professional look, at least akin to the mid-card Italian Westerns of the same era and infinitely better looking than the amateurish early DEFA Westerns. The film was shot on location near Samarkand in modern day Uzbekistan - an area that looks incredibly like the American Southwest. Kolditz emphasises this with some very wide shots to really show off the scale of the scenery. The soundtrack, credited to Hans-Dieter Hosalla, is generally strong, although it is rather too light in the run up to the massacre when there could have been a lot of tension.

As usual, Gojko Mitic takes the lead role and certainly looks the part and although his acting is not particularly strong, the script seems to be written to emphasise his strength and physique rather than his emoting. The villain, Johnson, is effectively played by Jugoslavian actor Milan Beli who had also appeared in the earlier series entry, Tecumseh (1972).

A realistic and well made story of the Old West with some amazing location shots, Apachen is certainly one of the best of the Indianerfilm series and a great place for Western fans to experience this unique and forgotten series of Westerns.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Gojko Mitic - Jugoslavian born actor who appeared in the first Indianerfilm Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966)
Directed by anyone interesting? Gottfried Kolditz - a German born director who helmed several of the DEFA Westerns, including Spur des Falken (1968) and the sequel to this film, Ulzana (1974) as well as the Sci-fi film Im Staub der Sterne (1976)
Any gore or violence ? Some blood and some very nasty looking horse falls
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Recommended to anyone wanting to experience the DEFA Western series.

Visuals Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Not anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
Original aspect ratio not confirmed, cropping is not particularly evident.
Good colours and detail with only a little grain.
Audio German audio - sounds fine.
Subtitles English - translate the German.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Interview with Gojko Mitic - he discusses his work on the series. In German with English subs (6 minutes).
  • On screen text notes on the background to the film.
  • Brief on screen text biographies of three of the leading actors and the director.
  • Picture gallery - manually scrolling publicity stills for this film as well as 'Die Söhne der großen Bärin' and 'Apachen'.
  • A newly created trailer for the DEFA Western collection - includes selection of clips from the three available films as well as several more not yet on DVD. Interesting but tantalising viewing. (10 minutes)
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Available on its own or in the Westerns with a Twist boxset, along with 'Die Söhne der großen Bärin' and 'Apachen'.
Other regions? Also available on DVD in Germany, with no English options.
Cuts? Cut status unconfirmed - no apparent cuts. German language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 7th August 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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