After a cavalry group is massacred by the Cheyenne, only two survivors remain: Honus, a naive private devoted to his duty, and Cresta, a young woman who had lived with the Cheyenne two years and whose sympathies lie more with them than with the US government. Together, they must try to reach the cavalry's main base camp. As they travel onward, Honus is torn between his growing affection for Cresta, and his disgust for her anti-American beliefs. They reach the cavalry campsite on the eve of an attack on a Cheyenne village, where Honus will learn which side has really been telling him the truth.
- POIGNANT,BEAUTIFUL AND BLOODY
In its unedited form(amazingly available in censor happy Britain)this is a remarkable movie that once seen is difficult to ever forget.From its eyecatching opening credits accompanied by the heartfelt rendering of the title song by Buffy Saint-Marie to its graphic close,"SOLDIER BLUE" is the masterwork of journeyman director Ralph Nelson. The movie culminates in the notorious Sand Creek massacre when the U.S.cavalry exterminated a peaceful Indian village with very extreme prejudice.The images of carnage here remain vividly grotesque and etch the movie into the mind of the viewer. To get to this point,however,we are treated to the growing romance of the two leading players.Candice Bergen never had a better role than here as Cresta Lee,a far from typical western heroine and Peter Strauss as naive Honus Gant;the "soldier blue" is nothing short of wonderful and seems to grow from boy to man before your eyes as he realises the grim realities of the cause he has eschewed.This actor,always worthy of note,never made it big in the cinema.On the basis of his performance here he most certainly deserved to. His rendering of Tennyson's "THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE" over the bodies of his dead comrades is a heart-breaking moment and he handles his love scene in a cave with Bergen with remarkable tenderness.Donald Pleasance also scores points as a particularly nasty villain that Cresta and Honus meet on their journey.All supporting roles are very well played and the music by Roy Budd is also worthy of note,a very pleasing score indeed. "SOLDIER BLUE" is a film awaiting rediscovery,it is better than anything directed by John Ford and this poignant,beautiful and bloody tale should be viewed by everyone;young and old alike.
- Excellent Period Piece
I remember seeing this film when it came out and having my head completely turned. I had seen 'Custer's Last Stand' shortly before which had bored me with it's stereotypical 'Good Guy/Bad Guy' view of American history. Soldier Blue raised the 'Wild West' period out of the 'OK Corral' mire and gave us an interesting story with an educational backdrop. We learned to appreciate the other side of the story. I also developed a crush on Candice Bergen, admiring the idea of a woman that could stand up for herself, more so than a trained soldier. This film inspired me, setting standards by which all further movies would be judged. A landmark film in movie history with many quality films that should pay homage to it. (I wish I owned it on a DVD, maybe with some historical documentary 'extras')
- I look out and I see a land...
Don't miss the beginning at any cost.Or else you would not hear Buffy Sainte-Marie's eponymous anthemic song (Yes this is my country,young and growing free and flowing from sea to sea...).The version of the song as performed here features a string arrangement not present in the original version (which is to be found on BSM's "she used to wanna be a ballerina",vanguard).This song is as moving today as it was 30 years ago,and when the singers implores "can't you see there's another way to love her?" it gains an universal meaning(not only American natives or Vietnamese as it has been mooted at the time for the movie)
The movie is famous for the slaughter which ends it.Terribly realist ,it remains impressive today and may repel some viewers.There's a very strong use of the score during these scenes.But most of the movie deals with the initiatory journey of a young and naive soldier,"educated " by a woman who was captured by the Indians and had to live with them for a while.Candice Bergen's performance came aside as a shock at the time because she used to play frail young maids (Robert Wise's "the sand pebbles";Claude Lelouch's "vivre pour vivre" ) before.But there's a problem:her character is not really believable;just compare her with the heroines with a similar fate in Ford's movies :"the searchers" ,1956;"two rode together",1961..They are far from Crista 's outspoken and politically aware character.Actually ,it seems that this woman is a contemporary woman,with Joan Baez's, Buffy Sainte-Marie's or Jane Fonda's mind (in the late sixties)..
For all that,"soldier blue " is worth watching and superbly uses cinemascope :the landscapes match Sainte-Marie's song.Primarily an intimate movie,for most of the time there are only two people on the screen.Hence the contrast with the violent finale.
- An ending that shows no mercy to the viewer.
I saw "Soldier Blue" quite recently on British Television. About 2 hours before it was aired, the BBC did a program on George Armstrong Custer, which dispelled the story of a 'Last Stand' using archaeological evidence: The Seventh cavalry made a cowardly dash for it when the Indians attacked. Unfortunately(or fortunately depending on your point of view) the cavalry troopers and Custer were swarmed by Indians as they attempted to escape. Complete disorder swelled through the ranks of troopers. The last stand was more of a chaotic melee than a heroic action. Moreover the Indians were better armed, using repeating rifles whereas the Cavalry were using single shot Springfield carbines. My boyhood notion of Little Big Horn was shattered within a matter of minutes. I lost so much respect for Errol Flynn!!! But nothing, absolutely nothing could prepare me for what was to come later on that night. My watching Soldier Blue coincided with the climax of the tragedy in Soham, England. Therefore I was already upset.
The haunting opening song is a portent of a terrible tragedy. I got the feeling that something truly horrific was going to happen. It's a song that I won't forget for a long time. The film's two protaganists(Candice Bergen and Peter Strauss, a US cavalry trooper), escape from Indians who have attacked an Army wagon train(carrying amongst other things The soldiers wages). The subsequent storyline lulled me into a false sense of security. Bergen and Strauss begin to fall in love whilst deliberating about the plight of the Indians (Bergen feels they have been mistreated. She knows this. She had lived with Cheyenne Indians for 2 years. Strauss feels differently. His naivety does show...Great acting!!Well done Peter!). Actually I got very bored with this, thinking that the movie was turning into one of those slushy 'opposites attract' stories. But the introduction of Donald Pleasance as the sadistic gunrunner changed that. Strauss and Bergen are abducted by him. This point in the movie is important. I feel the tone begins to change. Those haunting lyrics returned to my head as I watched Bergen and Strauss attempting to escape from their abductor(respite is given by the sight of Candices' wonderful rear end). Strauss, being a soldier is obliged to burn the gunrunners wagon. The gunrunner has a large number of guns which he is going to sell to the Cheyenne indians. Bergen tries to stop him, but fails. The two escape and hide out in a cave. Bergen then leaves Strauss, possibly feeling that their relationship can come to nothing as she's due to marry another Soldier. She's found by cavalry scouts and brought back to their camp. Here she learns that the Cavalry troop are about to attack a Cheyenne village a few miles away. Coincidentally the village is the one she lived in for 2 years. She leaves the cavalry troop and heads straight for the village, hoping to warn them of the pending attack. This leads us to the finale. I won't describe it as I think it is beyond me. I don't think I can describe the effect it had on me either. Before this I had some idea of how the American Indians had been treated by the Europeans. The documentary on the ill fated Custer and his troop had only hinted at this type of treatment, and of course increased my capacity for cynicism.
The finale of Soldier Blue confirmed what that haunting song had hinted at. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. I was shocked beyond belief, and as an avid movie fan I have seen some shocking movies. Even the finale in "Don't Look now" comes nowhere near this. The director should be credited. He rams his point home (although some people may feel a little exploited). Forget all that nonsense about this movie referring to the My Lai atrocities in Vietnam. It's a poignant testament to human innocence(The Indians) and a disturbing testament to a successful act of genocide. Namely the systematic destruction of the native Americans.
I recommend this movie. Although it's not for everyone. The plot line rambles a bit at times. The photography is beautiful. Although some might think it typically 1960's. The acting is top notch. But it's NOT for the squeamish or faint hearted. Keep well away from this movie regardless of the fact that you bore the brunt of the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
- incredible, eye-opening
Quite possibly the most volent yet captivating and visually exciting film I have seen. Even after watching it many times, there are things which catch your eye which may have been missed before. Not for the faint hearted, the gung-ho attitude and arrogance of the soldiers involved quite takes your breath away. This film did more to heighten the plight and bewilderment of the native American Indian than any text book in any reference library.
- PC Police strike again
It's unfortunate that this landmark film is not available in the US. Peter Strauss and Candice Bergen were phenomenal displaying incredible presence during their early careers. The attack scene on the Cheyenne village was a little too much for most viewers but I think accurately depicted some of the atrocities committed against Native Americans during the frontier settlement period. If you have a chance to see this film don't miss it. It's much more important than anything the likes of Sam Peckinpah turned out during the same timeframe. 9/10
Director: Ralph Nelson
Writers: Theodore V. Olsen (novel), John Gay
Complete credited cast:
Candice Bergen ... Kathy Maribel 'Cresta' Lee
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)
Release Date:30 October 1970 (Sweden)
Also Known As:Cuando es preciso ser hombre
Runtime:Argentina: 114 min (cut version)