SOLDIER BLUE—-gawdawful revisionist junk from 1970, a year studded with End-of-the-West westerns that reflected a society riven by the Vietnam War and youthful rebellion. The sniff-the-dough side of Hollywood took its oldest genre to the woodshed. Like Little Big Man, this one chose the cavalry v. Indians wing of the pantheon, but aside from lacking any of the finesse of the other epic, this asinine fake aced a bad name for itself by upping the violence quotient into the crassly repellent, purporting to tell “truth” (always easiest if you make sure it’s one-sided) while wallowing in blood-spurting sensationalism. Other than two competent supporting performances, it’s a risable mess, with pathetic acting from the leads, a terrible script, blunt direction, choppy editing, anachronistic scoring and a blithely arrogant disdain for realism, logic and tone. *
Colorado: the two survivors of a cavalry patrol wiped out by Cheyennes make their way on foot to safety at the nearest fort. By the time they make it back, a messianic Colonel intends to use his force to wreak vengeance on the tribe—men, women and children. The finale massacre is based on the brutal 1864 attack on peaceful Cheyenne’s by a Col. John Chivington (in the movie veteran John Anderson plays ‘Col. Iverson’) at Sand Creek, which saw at least 130-250 Indians murdered, with accompanying atrocities. Not content with the real figure, screenwriter John Gay and director Ralph Nelson up the total to 500, and the obvious moviegoers takeaway from their graphic depiction is that it was underscoring the recently revealed Mỹ Lai slaughter in Vietnam.
The half-accurate depiction of the grotesque (and condemned) Sand Creek tragedy is one thing (director Nelson revels in it), but the rest of the movie is a bad joke. In the leads, Candice Bergen, 23 with hairstyling, costuming and attitude a full century removed from the 1860s, and Peter Strauss, 22, with one prior screen role logged, are so bad they’re pitiful: both would thankfully improve. Their embarrassment is guaranteed by atrocious writing, with stupid comic insertions as wildly out-of-place as the absurd modish dialog. Roy Budd’s energetic score would be okay in a modern day action film, but it’s jarring in a period piece. Only Anderson’s pro work as the hateful officer and that from Donald Pleasence as a merrily corrupt trader (a nonetheless ridiculous segment) have any craft validity. Otherwise, it’s an insulting stinker.
Starts off with a treacly title tune squawked by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Based, not on the historical record, but on “Arrow In The Sun”, a seriocomic novel written by Theodore V. Olsen. Shot in Mexico, with Dana Elcar, Jorge Rivero, James Hampton, Mort Mills, Jorge Russek, Aurora Clavell, Eddie Little Sky. 112 minutes.
* How The West Was Tossed, in 1970, the few good, the numerous bad and the mostly ugly, by box office results—Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse, Chisum, The Cheyenne Social Club, Rio Lobo, Two Mules For Sister Sara, Dirty Dingus Magee, The Ballad Of Cable Hogue, Monte Walsh, Soldier Blue (73rd with a gross of $3,600,000), There Was A Crooked Man…,A Man Called Sledge, Barquero, El Condor, The McMasters, Macho Callahan.