Mixed Messaging: SOLDIER BLUE

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The Generic Western

SOLDIER BLUE is an anti-war western that came out in the seventies, which should tip off that it will containt:

  1. Gore
  2. Wiseass dialogue
  3. Attacks on The Authorities
  4. Flower Children
  5. and/or A downbeat ending

 

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This isn’t ‘the most savage film in history!” by any stretch. It’s the story of a Union soldier who escorts a woman who was captured by Cheyenne back to her fiance and civilization with irony quotes. Along the way we get the expected criticism of “civilization,” while the Cheyenne are noble agrarian etc.

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On the way, our hero and heroine find love while on the run from the peaceful Cheyenne who massacred the rest of Pvt. Gant’s company. I’ve never been a huge Candice Bergen fan, and her Cresta Lee is annoying, but she’s also strong and stands up for herself. She’s the type of post-sixties heroine who sprouted in the seventies.

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Then they meet Donald Pleasance, who’s running guns to the peaceful agrarian etc. He is the villain, of course, as are the soldiers Gant and Cresta Lee meet up with. All of this is setting up the climactic Sand Creek Massacre, based on an actual massacre of Cheyenne.

The balance of the movie is enjoyable enough, with the mismatched duo coming to terms in a spectacular landscape. It also has a so-what, dashed-off quality. The director really seems to perk up at the climax–it feels like he’s watched PATTON and SPARTACUS a few times, he’s so interested in the formations of fightin’ men. As with ULZANA’S RAID and the later BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, it’s a revisionist western that revels in the violence the characters tut-tut.

I’m not knocking the movie for exposing another shameful part of America’s past, but it’s a bit much, all this “OH, how horrible we were–LOOK AT THAT COOL SHOOTOUT!” schizophrenia. It doesn’t help that Roy Budd’s score rips off both THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE WILD BUNCH. It’s a B movie with an ending that tells us it’s an Art film.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that–look at the sorts of things I like. But the smugness is a bit much.

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Let’s drawn people into our incisive commentary on Vietnam with some bondage imagery!
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