Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Soldier Blue (1970)

This movie opens with a text scrawl that warns that the ending will be unpleasant.  It does not lie.  But no movie based on the Sand Creek massacre - an event so outrageous it was officially condemned even in the 1860s - was ever going to be puppy dogs and rainbows.  And if anything, the real life events were more horrific.

The movie opens with an attack by Cheyenne on a US Cavalry payroll convoy.  The attackers kill almost all the soldiers and steal the gold.  The only survivors are one young cavalryman and a white woman who was travelling with the convoy.  She has just spent two years among the Cheyenne - not entirely voluntarily.

With no-one to rely on but each other, the pair begin the cross country journey to their original destination.  On the way, the cavalryman is shocked by the woman's profane language and her generally positive attitude toward her recent captors.  She sees their clashes with the US as being mostly caused by white greed, and is scornful of her companion's idealism and naivety.

The duo will of course experience many hardships and difficulties along their journey, both human and otherwise.  And when it finally seems like they may have reached safety, they might just have walked into the most dangerous place of all ...

This is not a cheeerful film.  Nor is it a subtle one.  There's not much subtext to be found here: it's plain old text.  For all that, it's a well-crafted piece of work, with good performances, fine photography, and even the occasional glimmer of humour, before we get to that ending.  The one they warn you about.

If you think you can handle it, this is worth your time, but it's definitely not going to be to all tastes.

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