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  • Soldier Blue
    • Soldier Blue
    • Runtime:115 min
    • Release Date:2014-04-25 01:08:19
    • Director: Ralph Nelson
    • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Romance, Western
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Soldier Blue
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Soldier Blue chronicles the adventures of Honus (Peter Strauss) and
Cresta (Candice Bergen), the only survivors of a Cheyenne Indian
attack, as they journey across the wilderness of the old west in search
of refuge. Donald Pleasance has a memorable but all too brief role as
an eerily sleazy gun runner who encounters the pair,( witness his
enormous teeth!) 'Soldier Blue' encompasses A life changing journey
that reaches a tragic climax as they bare witness to the cold-blooded
slaughter of the Cheyenne tribe. Reflecting the political climate of
the time, Soldier Blue is uncompromising in its anti-war stance and its
extremely graphic and savage depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre of
1864. It is dated albeit slightly witness the all too bright red paint
like blood! but remains an incredible allegory.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw Soldier Blue several times at the cinema when it first came out,
covered in notoriety, and have watched it a number of times since.

The story is simple. A cavalry detail is wiped out by Indians. The only
survivors are cavalryman Honus Gant (Peter Strauss) and "rescued" (from
Indians) Cresta Maribel Lee (Candice Bergman). As they trek back to
civilisation, encountering further Indians as well as creepy gunrunner
Isaac Q Cumber (geddit?) (Donald Pleasance), they argue because Cresta
seeks to challenge Honus' preconceptions of the Indians as murderous
savages and, gradually, fall in love. When they finally reach the
"civilisation" of a forward army camp, they are just in time to witness
the horrific slaughter of a peaceful Indian settlement by the cavalry,
making it clear to Honus (and the audience) that not only was the
savagery far from one-sided, in the cavalry's case it was backed up by
superior weaponry.

The central section of the film, when Honus and Cresta are wandering
through the wilderness enduring trials and falling in love, is
thoughtful, eventful, gentle and exciting. But the raison d'etre of
this movie – stated, if obliquely, in Buffy St Marie's opening theme
song – is the massacre at the end, which is genuinely horrific (if
rather dated in terms of special effects).

The opening attack is set in order to align the audience's sympathies
with Honus, so that we travel on the same journey as him, starting by
regarding the Indians as murderous barbarians, and ending up forced to
confront the idea that maybe it is we who are barbaric.

Peter Strauss and Candice Bergen both give perhaps their best
performances ever.

An over-sensationalised and under-rated movie.

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"I would say that most people in our company didn't consider the
Vietnamese human." – Dennis Bunning

"It looks like a bloodbath down there! What the hell is going on?" –
Hugh Thompson (helicopter pilot hovering over My Lai)

"Soldier Blue" often gets touted as a "revisionist western", but its
actually got more in common with exploitation cinema.

The plot is simple: the film is a recreation of the Sand Creek
massacre, a horrific incident which occurred in 1864, in which a 700
man force of the Colorado Territory militia, attacked, destroyed and
raped a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Almost 200 natives
were slaughtered during the attack, most of whom were women and
children.

But what made "Soldier Blue" popular were its allusions to the Vietnam
War. The film was released in 1970, several months after news of the My
Lai Massacre (and its attempted cover-up) was leaked to the public. The
My Lai Massacre occurred in 1968, and involved a United States Army
task force which marched into My Lai, a hamlet in South Vietnam, and
killed over 500 civilians.

Helicopter pilots flying over the town reported being shocked at the
violent frenzy occurring down below. The soldiers were overcome with
blood-lust, gangs of young Americans raping women, babies tossed in the
air and shot, the elderly tied up and tortured, men decapitated,
children mutilated…it was human nature at its most dark.

But what was worse was the wave of denial that promptly followed.
Politicians, generals and congressmen began to downplay the incident,
doing their best to keep the massacre under wraps. They succeeded at
first, but eventually letters circulated to the press and the incident
went public in 1969.

News of the My Lai Massacre caused anti-war protesters to grow even
more vocal. Support of the Vietnam War was at an all time low, horrific
images were all over the news and horror reports flooded the radios. In
this era of bloodshed and disgust, cinema likewise became increasingly
violent, films like "The Wild Bunch", "Straw Dogs", "Blue Soldier" etc,
venting their rage on screen. Peckinpah was the God of this era, his
personal cocktail of nihilism, rage and passion, shocking audiences.

Cashing in on this trend was "Soldier Blue", notorious for its
"massacre sequence" in which boys are shot, children are trampled by
horses, squaws are beheaded, men are impaled, women are stripped,
breasts are cut, civilians are mutilated and all manners of sadistic
evil and re-enacted, all in the name of "keeping the country clean".
It's a sickening sequence, nauseating.

7.5/10 – Veering from powerful to ridiculous, this little western
continues the trend of telling "Indian stories" from the point of view
of "white men" who enter the tribe. Like "A Man Called Horse",
"Amistad", "Dances With Wolves", even the recent "Avatar", these films
are really just exercises in white guilt.

Worth one viewing (uncut version only).

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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Part of a wave of revisionist westerns in the late 60s and early 70s,
this alternately comic and violent film takes pains to point out the
evil of the white man towards Native Americans. Strauss plays a rather
green cavalry private who's part of a detail escorting a payroll to a
fort, along with a recently recovered captive (Bergen) who was kept as
the wife of a Cheyenne chief. A surprise attack leaves everyone dead
except Strauss and Bergen, who must make their way across unforgiving
terrain to the fort, their differences in manner and demeanor
eventually blossoming into romance. However, before they can ever make
it to the fort, they run into shady Pleasance, whose sideline causes
more problems for the pair. In the end, Bergen and Strauss bear witness
to a horrendous massacre in which cavalry soldiers slaughter many
Indian women and children in retaliation for the earlier attack.
Strauss has been taken to task over the years for his hapless
portrayal, but it is actually exactly what is described in the source
novel "Arrow in the Sun." His character is intended to be an unseasoned
failure of a soldier. Bergen also mirrors the characterization found in
the novel, though her delivery leans towards the grating side. She also
has little or no period detail in her performance. It's a shrill,
contemporary performance with a couple of welcome tender moments.
Pleasance is outfitted with some preposterous crooked teeth, though he
does manage to add a little variety to what is nearly a two-character
film. Rivero is heinously underutilized as the Indian chief. At least
his impressive figure lends a little physical presence and power to his
character. Other roles go to veteran character actors Anderson and
Elcar as cavalry officers. This is also the debut of Hampton (playing
an unlucky soldier), who would go on to numerous comedy supporting
roles. The scenery in the film is gorgeous and the scope of it is
surprisingly vast considering the company that made it. There are quite
a few soldiers, Indians, tepees, horses and so on to add to the
authenticity. However, the film rarely, if ever, attains a true period
vibe thanks to the attempts to draw parallels between the events its
story (based on fact) and the then-contemporary events taking place in
Vietnam. Bergen's disregard for the era only contributes more to the
situation. A title song is sung with excruciating Duracell battery
vibrato by folk singer Saint-Marie. Although several sequences are
interesting and arresting, it's difficult to invest a lot of feeling
into a film so calculatingly one-sided and transparent (not to mention
exploitive!) Viewers may also have trouble accepting the shifts in tone
as the film goes from abrupt violence to romantic comedy to savage
murder, rape, infanticide, dismemberment and the like. That said,
there's a certain fascination with the storyline and the actors. So
long as one can marry the divergent approaches to the material, it's
fairly captivating viewing.

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