Trooper Hook (1957)

This review was written for TMP’s Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. For links to other reviews in this project, visit Listography.

Sergeant Hook (Joel McCrea) finds himself and his soldiers in a battle with a band of local Apache and their leader, Nanches (Rodolfo Acosta).

After taking an enormous group of Apache as prisoners, Hook realizes that among them is a white woman named Cora (Barbara Stanwyck) and her son, of whom Nanches is the father.

It is then discovered that Cora was traveling to meet her husband years earlier when she was captured by Nanches, and it becomes Hook’s duty to escort mother and son to finally meet her husband.

When Nanches escapes his imprisonment and comes after the group to get his son back, Hook must protect himself, Cora and the boy.

Trooper Hook is the final pairing of Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck on screen. This was the sixth film that they starred in together. It was directed by Charles Marquis Warren.

In my quests to finish Barbara Stanwyck’s filmography and open my mind to Westerns, I recorded this film from TCM. I was a bit wary of it in the beginning (as I always am with Westerns), and it does have an agents-vs.-“Indians” element to it, but I was pleasantly surprised that this film doesn’t tend to glorify either side.

I promise the film isn't nearly as skewed as its promotional materials. (Image: iPhotoScrap)
I promise the film isn’t nearly as skewed as its promotional materials. (Image: iPhotoScrap)

This could just be my perspective skewing the film, but McCrea and his men didn’t seem heroic at all to me as they captured people and burned the village to the ground in the film’s big opening battle scene. McCrea is even shown swaying the language of a report of the battle to make it seem like the whole ordeal was a crime against his soldiers. Whether this would strike every viewer as it did me or they’d see him as a man emotionally recounting the tragedy of the battle, I’m not sure… but I thought it painted him in a bad light.

The film does include stereotypes (dear God, those wigs!), but it doesn’t have an overall, blatant discriminatory perspective, which I was also pleasantly surprised by. All of the characters in the film speak ill of each other, but Trooper Hook doesn’t attempt to make these insults seem excusable or acceptable.

Stanwyck and McCrea are, of course, another big plus for the film. Stanwyck is phenomenal in a performance that requires a lot of powerful silence — her character has no dialogue for the first half hour or so, and even after that point she doesn’t have much dialogue. She pulls it off without a hitch. McCrea gives a solid performance as well, well-suited to the “tough but empathetic” role of Hook. This isn’t the greatest of their films together, but they were still undeniably a great screen pair by 1957.

After a bit of frenzy in the opening, the pace of the film slows. It isn’t so slow that it becomes dull, but it does drag a bit in some places. There are periods of higher drama to make up for the slowest bits.

Trooper Hook is a pretty good watch that far exceeded my expectations. I wouldn’t consider it a favorite from Stanwyck’s filmography, but I wouldn’t mind giving it another watch either. The score: 3.5/5

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