Geronimo: An American Legend

Told in a semi-documentery style, Geronimo: An American Legend depicts the final years of the great Apache leader. The story is told with voice-over narratives by Britton Davis, a second Lieutenant with the U.S. Calvary. Lieutenant Davis was twenty-two when he was assigned to a small contingent that was sent to the Mexican border for the sole purpose of escorting Geronimo safely back to a reservation in the United States. Geronimo had agreed to surrender himself peacefully. Lieutenant Davis feels compelled to relate the true facts surrounding the final months of the Geronimo Campaign of 1885-1886 because of all the distortions that have been written. From his eyewitness account he attempts to set the record straight on the people and events which led to the tragic and violent Apache outbreak in May 1885. His story tells of broken promises and misunderstandings as Geronimo is pursued and eventually captured. Animals are prominent throughout the film with most of the intense action involving horses. Chickens are seen as background atmosphere and mules are either ridden or used as pack mules.

  • Starring: Wes Studi, Jason Patrick, Robert DuVall, and Gene Hackman
  • Director(s): Walter Hill
  • Producer(s): Columbia Pictures
  • Screenwriter(s): John Milius
  • Release Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1993

Featured Animal Action

In an opening scene there is a skirmish between soldiers on horseback and Indians, in which the Indians are chased and herded together for the purpose of bringing them to a reservation. There is one horse fall in this scene which was performed by a trained falling horse, the ground having been properly prepared for the fall. After the small contingent locates Geronimo and begins the trip back, with all on horseback, they are stopped by the marshal of Tombstone and a deputy, who wants Geronimo. With this challenge to their authority, the contingent takes off. The marshal has warrants and the Lieutenant wants to avoid being served. The marshal follows them with a posse, which is more of a lynch mob. A chase scene ensues in which there is much gunfire as the dust flys. Three cameras, filming from different angles, captured the action which helped reduce the number of takes required to achieve the scene. All rocks were removed from the areas over which the horses would be galloping. A horse rear was performed by a trained rearing horse. Quarter loads were fired during filming and the sound of gunfire was augmented in post production. They finally arrive at Fort Carlos where a formal ceremony will be held, marking Geronimo's surrender. A troublesome medicine man has stirred up the Indians and there is great tension between the Apaches and the Army. An incident in which the medicine man is shot by a soldier provokes a battle between the Indians and the Army. The scene which follows was shot in many cuts. Since much of this scene occurs in a shallow creek, the creek bed was examined for any potential hazards. Quarter loads were used for all gunfire and the sound of gunfire was augmented in post-production. There are several saddle falls in which a stuntman falls from his horse into the water. Trained rearing horses were used for horse rears as were trained falling horses for several horse falls. The ground was properly prepared prior to all horse falls. An air gun, which stirred up dust, was used to simulate the effect of bullets hitting the ground. Small special effects explosions were used to simulate bullets hitting the water. The horses were a safe distance from any of these small explosions. A trained falling horse was used for a horse fall in the water. The staging and timing of this very complicated scene were worked out in minute detail prior to filming. After this skirmish Geronimo takes much of the reservation with him, about 200 people, including women and children. He divides his party into several bands, all headed for Mexico. In a chase scene involving an officer and Indians, the officer falls his horse, and as the horse lies on the ground, the officer uses the animal as a shield and a rest for his rifle, after which the horse gets up. A trained falling horse was used for this scene. The horse responded to a tug on his right rein and fell in an area which had been prepared and marked and the horse laid on his mark. In a continuance of this same scene, an Indian rides towards the camera and falls his horse to the ground. A trained falling horse was used for this and the ground was properly prepared prior to the fall. As part of this scene, the Indian is killed and lies still as his horse gets up and continues toward the cameras where off camera wranglers were waiting to catch the horse. In this confrontation between the Indians and the Army, there is much gunfire and quarter loads were used throughout with cotton placed in the horses' ears to protect them. Additional men are dispatched to track Geronimo. One of these groups is headed by a man named Sieber. In a scene where Sieber chases several Apaches, he fires his gun and his horse reacts to the rifle fire. Quarter loads were used for this scene and the horse reacted naturally to the sound of gunfire. There is a scene in which an Indian on horseback falls with his horse. The horse does a forward somersault and the Indian flies over the horses back to the ground. According to the stunt rider, this was an unintentional fall. The horse stumbled and kept trying to catch his footing but was unable to and did a fall in which the stuntman was propelled over the horses back as the horse somersaulted to the ground The stuntman was momentarily stunned, but the horse was fine and got up almost immediately, unharmed. In the course of a chase scene involving gunfire, Sieber's horse is shot and falls to the ground, dead. A trained falling horse was used for the fall and then the horse was replaced with a prosthetic horse, which stood in for a dead horse. Sieber continues to fire at the Indians from over the saddle of the "dead' horse. This scene was, of course, shot in cuts so that a prosthetic horse could be put in the position of the horse that did the fall. Special effects people blew dust to give the illusion that the horse and the rider had just fallen and a stuntman did the stunt work for the actor. Geronimo still refuses to surrender, so the Army sends additional troops to track and capture him. There are several scenes with large numbers of soldiers on horseback crossing from point A to point B with a variety of terrain as backdrop. In a confrontation between the U.S. Calvary and Mexican soldiers, stuntmen do saddle falls, as if they've been shot. After they fall from their horses, the horses continue to run out of camera view, where they were caught by several wranglers who's job it was to catch any loose horses. In this scene which involved gunfire, quarter loads, again, were used for all gunfire. Geronimo not only has the U.S. Calvary to contend with, but also Mexican militia. In a skirmish between Geronimo's party and the Mexicans, there are several saddle falls. These saddle falls were performed by experienced stuntmen and the pattern of travel was rehearsed at a walk for added safety precautions. Wind machines and special movie dust, called Fullers earth, was used to create a sand storm and it was kept a safe distance from the horses' eyes. Wranglers who remained out of camera range were there to catch all the loose horses. Quarter loads were used for the gunfire for this scene.