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Soldier Blue

Soldier Blue – 1970
Stained with the blood of the innocent.
Ralph Nelson

Theodore V. Olsen (novel Arrow in the Sun)
John Gay (screenplay)

William S. Gilmore associate producer (as William S. Gilmore Jr)
Gabriel Katzka producer
Joseph E. Levine executive producer
Harold Loeb producer

Candice Bergen – Kathy Maribel Lee, ‘Cresta’
Peter Strauss – Honus Gent
Donald Pleasence – Isaac Q. Cumber
John Anderson – Col. Iverson
Jorge Rivero – Spotted Wolf
Dana Elcar – Capt. Battles
Bob Carraway – Lt. McNair
Martin West – Lt. Spingarn
James Hampton – Pvt. Menzies
Mort Mills – Sgt. O’Hearn
Jorge Russek – Running Fox
Aurora Clavel – Indian woman (as Aurora Clavell)
Ralph Nelson – Agent Long (as Alf Elson)
Marco Antonio Arzate – Kiowa warrior (uncredited)
Ron Fletcher – Lt. Mitchell (uncredited)
Lance Hool – Guard (uncredited)
Barbara Turner – Mrs. Long (uncredited)

Review by Theo Robertson

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***
I recall sometime in the late 1970s a film called SOLDIER BLUE being broadcast on ITV . It was on past my bedtime so unfortunately I never saw it but I distinctly remember my parents discussing it the next day and how shaken they were by the amount of violence the movie used in showing a massacre against the Indians at the end . As years passed I have heard how this movie has become a cult classic and how it was an allegory on American involvement in South East Asia and being something of a fan of this type of movie I looked forward to seeing it . Unfortunately it’s not a film that appears on the TV schedules and when the BBC broadcast it tonight I think this was the first time it’d been broadcast since my parents saw it nearly 30 years ago.

I must confess while I was watching it I was in something of a state of shock , not so much because of the violence ( I’ll come to that in a moment ) but because it’s a truly bizarre movie . You can just imagine Joseph Levine scratching his chin while reading several scripts on his desk featuring different genres and deciding that he’s going to make a movie featuring bits and pieces from all of them so we have

1 ) A love story between two protagonists where opposites attract
2 ) A couple hiking in the great outdoors being kidnapped by a sadistic thug and having to run for their lives
3 ) A standard western that borrows ideas from THE SEARCHERS
4 ) An ( Anti) Vietnam war movie that’s the perfect antidote to THE GREEN BERETS

All of these are incorporated into SOLDIER BLUE and I’m afraid that it doesn’t really work . Can you believe that if this was an unsolicited script arriving on someone’s desk that it would be produced ? It’s like watching clips from several movies edited together , edited together very well I might add , but still edited from other movies . Thus we see a calvary platoon massacred early into the film while the next hour is devoted to two people wandering around the wilderness not liking one another but finding themselves falling in love . These scenes are like watching a star vehicle for Rock Hudson and Doris Day if you ignore the leftist / rightist diatribes.

As for the violence , it’s probably as violent as the stuff Peckinpah was doing at the time with slow motion death scenes where people spurt blood , a cinematic violence that hasn’t dated very well in the 21st Century since it appears clichd . There is one slight difference and that is director Ralph Nelson doesn’t shy away from showing innocent children getting shot down , even in 2005 the massacre scene still carries an impact and the impact would have been bigger still if the Indians hadn’t been shown massacring a Calvary unit earlier , but I guess when discussing what was happening in ‘Nam the movie wants to have its cake and eat it.

It’s impossible not to discuss SOLDIER BLUE without mentioning Candice Bergen as Cresta . Men of a certain age have confessed how their ideal woman would be Bergen in this movie and I can certainly see their point , it’s not just Bergin’s physical presence but the written character too . Obviously Cresta is a total anachronism but she’s a very memorable strong woman , a sort of hippy chick fused with Emma Peel and along with the Indian massacre Cresta is what people remember most about the movie . Peter Strauss as Honus seems a bit too old for the role and the part should have gone to a younger actor while Donald Pleasence seems to have wandered in from another movie.

This is a movie that I have wanted to see since I heard about it many years ago and after seeing SOLDIER BLUE I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s certainly a very strange film that’s heavy handed and got perhaps too much to say for itself. It’s like watching a Walt Disney movie spliced with an exploitation movie , in short it’s one of the most bizarre movies a Hollywood studio has produced and that alone makes it worth watching

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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