Release Date(s)1954 (May 26, 2020)
Studio(s)Universal-Intertational (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
Birthing the career of Rock Hudson prior to his involvement with Douglas Sirk in Magnificent Obsession, Taza, Son of Cochise (the third in a series of films involving the character of Cochise—following Broken Arrow and The Battle at Apache Pass) was released in 1954 by Universal-International. Utilizing the Pola-Lite 3D system, its director (Sirk) and cinematographer (Russell Metty) were ultimately not interested in composing traditonal 3D shots. The occasional flaming torch and spear flying by the camera do appear, but the images are mostly composed for depth instead of gimmicks. The film’s story and the way it’s presented are unusual, even fresh for the time. Most of the lead actors are not Native American, but their portrayal and the way they interact with white men has a more grounded feel. The violence is also unmistakably different. Arrows fly into people’s sides and chests (even women), and though there’s a lack of bloodshed, it’s more impactful than most. The politics, the look of the film, the interaction between characters, and the attention to detail make Taza, Son of Cochise highly unorthodox, particularly for a director like Sirk who would later become known as the master of the melodrama.
The Apache tribe is in turmoil after the death of its leader, Cochise (Jeff Chandler). His sons Taza (Rock Hudson) and Naiche (Bart Roberts, aka Rex Reason) are at odds with each other. Taza wishes to remain peaceful like his father, while Naiche prefers to take up with Geronimo (Ian MacDonald), who wants to wage war. Taza also wishes to marry Oona (Barbara Rush), the daughter of Geronimo, but is overwrought by his actions and the actions of his followers. After several break off and kill white settlers, Taza attempts to punish them before the US calvary, headed by Captain Burnett (Gregg Palmer), arrives to intervene. Initially a standoff, Taza implores with Burnett to allow the Apache the right to police themselves, which Burnett reluctantly agrees to, but only if the Apache relocate. Taza complies, which sows further distrust between him and his people. Ultimately maintaining the peace rather than being forced to fight proves to be impossible.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Taza, Son of Cochise to Blu-ray for the time with a new 2K restoration, presumably from a later generation element, as well as a new restoration of the 3D version of the film by 3D Film Archive. Both versions can be accessed from the main menu. The 2D version is soft with occasional speckling and color temperature discrepancies, but organic and film-like otherwise. Since this is a Technicolor production, the color palette, for the most part, offers a wide array of bold, natural hues. It’s also a stable presentation with solid blacks and good contrast. Fine detail ranges from the intricacies of the costumes to skin textures, all of which is dutifully represented.
The 3D presentation is stellar. As previously mentioned, the film wasn’t shot with the sole intention of sticking objects at the camera for the sake of the gimmick. Foreground and midground objects dazzle, though far background items, such as rock formations, aren’t quite as defined. Wide open vistas, particularly the breathtaking opening shot with a Native American on horseback above a canyon, excel beautifully. It’s a spectacular 3D presentation, one that adds further dimension (no pun intended) to a film that, on the surface at least, seems to be little more than “cowboys and Indians.” It isn’t that, but the 3D certainly enhances the experience.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono with optional subtitles in English SDH. Though limited by its single channel source, it handles the various elements with relative ease. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, while score and sound effects mix well into the sound stage without overcrowding the track, especially during battle scenes. It’s a clean track as well, free of leftover hiss, clicks, distortion, and dropouts.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by David Del Valle and C. Courtney Joyner
- Animated Slideshow with Commentary by Mike Ballew (HD – 77 in all – 19:58)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:06)
The audio commentary with film historian David Del Valle and author/screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner is an enjoyable one as the two men joyfully discuss the careers of Douglas Sirk and Rock Hudson; the other Cochise films and how they relate to Taza, Son of Cochise; the composition of the film and where and how it was shot; the real life historical figures and events; other westerns and 3D films of the era; the personal and working relationship between Hudson and Sirk; the film’s treatment of Native American customs; the score; and the pros and cons of the climax, among other subjects. The Slideshow features non-optional commentary by 3D expert Mike Ballew (with an introduction by David Del Valle) in which he discusses the history of the film and its use of 3D. The images consist of 77 on-set stills, behind-the-scenes photos, promotional stills, posters, lobby cards, and other promotional items. The trailer is an HD recreation and can be viewed in either 2D or 3D.
A curiosity from a period when most films of its ilk did little to add depth to their story or characters, Taza, Son of Cochise is certainly engaging. Though not a perfect film, it’s quite entertaining, and the 3D really adds something special to it. Kino Lorber and 3D Film Archive’s work is commendable, particularly for bringing a relatively obscure title into print. For those with a 3D setup, it comes highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons