"The period is 1875. The War Between The States had ended. But South of the Rio Grande, another more ancient and cruel was continued. Peaceful Mexican villagers were tragic victims ...
A peaceful Mexican village is disrupted by the appearance of Comanche raiders. The are led by Quanah Parker and Black Cloud (played by Harry Brandon who played Scar in The Searchers the same year). They kidnap some women and escape the Mexican forces by crossing in to the United States. The Comanches then attack a small wagon train. Black Cloud wants to kill them but for some reason Quanah says to let them go. A cavalry troop led by scout Jim Read (Dana Andrews) meets the released men, who are scalp-hunters.
General Miles wants to have peace with the Comanches but Commissioner John Ward, sent from Washington by President Grant, wants all Comanches to be brought in to the peace table. Jim Read explains how when the Spaniards came they forced the Indians to work for them as slaves, but the Comanches rebelled. The Spaniards then offered a bounty for Comanche scalps. Mexicans and Comanches kill each other, it has become a way of life.
Read tells Ward about Quanah Parker, one of the Comanche tribal leaders. His mother had been a white captive. Jim Read heads out to talk to Quanah and to try to bring him to the peace table. John Ward then starts talking to Art Downey, one of the scalphunters. He tells Ward that you can't negotiate with the Comanches. It just makes them think you are weak. Downey tells Ward that Read and Quanah Parker are first cousins, their mothers were sisters.
Jim and another scout, Puffer, see two Comanches shot down and about to be scalped by the scalphunters, but they rescue one. Quanah comes and brings Jim and Puffer to his camp. The Comanches and Kiowas are getting ready to torture Read and Puffer, when the brave they saved come to. The brave is Quanah's brother and he tells Quanah how Jim and Puffer saved him from the scalp-hunters. Puffer then eats with Flat Mouth (Mike Mazurki).
Jim asks Quanah to come to a peace conference. Quanah says: " I do not think of Americans, only of Comanches... and the children of Comanches... and the children that will come from those children. The Americans are here. They will stay. We cannot drive them out. They will grow strong while we will not. We must learn from them so that our children will not hunger... so they will be warm in winter... so they will strong as the Americans are strong." Jim tells Quanah that their mothers were sisters and they become friends.
Black Cloud wants one of the captive women, Margarita, but so does Jim. Quanah says that he walks the path of the Americans. Those that this displeases can leave, and Black Cloud chooses to leave with his followers. The required love story between Jim and the beautiful Margarita doesn't help the story and the 'The Lancers' constantly intruding with the song 'A Man Is As Good As His Word' with different lyrics to fill in the background information hasn't aged well.
Jim and Puffer come across a cavalry troop that has been massacred. Black Cloud has continued the war. The regiment shows up, led by Downey and Commissioner Ward. Ward replaces Read with Downey as Chief of Scouts. He tells Read that he should have told him about his being Quanah's cousin. The regiment then sets out after Quanah. Black Cloud traps the troops commanded by Commissioner Ward and Downey and wipes them out. Black Cloud brings a captured Ward before General Miles and Read and their troops to use as a bartering chip. Quanah and his men then show up screaming on the hilltops. Mike Mazurki picks up Black Cloud's scout and throws Read kills Downey and then he kills Black Cloud. Quanah is tired of fighting and peace is restored. The movie then steals Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce words and has Quanah say: "For from where the sun now stands, we will fight no more, forever."
The movie has the Indians speaking in broken English. "Plenty money. Plenty gold. Plenty Comanche scalps", "His medicine too big" and "Let the young braves kill the white-eyes in the tribal manner" and it doesn't use native actors. Harry Brandon, Kent Smith and Mike Mazurki all look kind of silly in their wigs. This movie was not The Searchers, which was made the same year, although it covers the same subject and even stars Harry Brandon as a Comanche chief, but it didn't have John Ford directing, and that was the biggest difference. It did use as a character the real historic Quanah Parker, who has recently been profiled in a great book, 'Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History (2010)'.
The movie falls victim to what so many of these 1950's movies do: the Indians who fight against the white dominance are the bad guys and the Indians who want to make peace with the whites are the good guys. Should have been better, but it was still pretty good.