SOLDIER BLUE (director: Ralph Nelson; screenwriters: based on the novel by Theodore V. Olsen/John Gay; cinematographer: Robert Hauser; editor: Alex Beaton; music: Roy Budd; cast: Candice Bergen (Cresta Marybelle Lee), Peter Strauss (Honus Gant), Donald Pleasence (Isaac Cumber), John Anderson (Col. Iverson), Jorge Rivero (Dana Elcar); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Harold Loeb/Gabriel Katzka; LionsGate (Avco Embassy); 1970)
“Tries to compare this atrocity in Indian history with the My Lai massacre occurring in modern times during the Vietnam War.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The once controversial violent anti-war film was a box office flop. It has not dated well. The climax of the cavalry looking to wipe-out the Indians in a massacre, makes the soldiers look like the villains. The mutilations, hordes of atrocities and rapes have been removed to give this R rated film a PG rating. It’s a dramatization of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Director Ralph Nelson(“Fate is the Hunter”/”Charly”/”Father Goose”) keeps things bloody violent. It’s based on the novel by Theodore V. Olsen and screenplay by John Gay, who keeps to the anti-violence agenda by filling the screen with relentless bloody violence.
Indian folksinger Buffy Ste. Marie sings.
In 1864, a cavalry unit in Colorado is transporting to Fort Reunion, home of the 11th Colorado Volunteers, Cresta Marybelle Lee (Candice Bergen), the fiancée of an officer once stationed at the fort. Two years ago Cresta was taken by the Cheyenne and has just escaped, hoping to join her fiancé out west. Also on the mission is Captain Battles (Dana Elcar), the paymaster, with a strongbox containing gold. They are attacked in an ambush by Cheyenne, who steal the gold. The only 2 survivors are Cresta and a callow soldier Honus Gant (Peter Strauss), who flee through the desert and must overcome many obstacles. They survive due to Cresta’s battle skills learned while in captivity.
Along the way they encounter the evil white man Isaac Cumber (Donald Pleasence), an unscrupulous trader who sells the Cheyenne guns for the stolen gold. Cumber takes the pair prisoner. When Honus is wounded, Cresta escapes and goes to the fort for help. Once there, she overhears the soldiers preparing for a massacre and finds herself in conflict as she races to warn the Cheyenne.
Nelson tries to compare this atrocity in Indian history with the My Lai massacre occurring in modern times during the Vietnam War.
Though a disturbing film, it’s greatly weakened by the poor performances of a miscast Bergen and the bland Strauss.
REVIEWED ON 5/29/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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