Category Archives: Outdoors

The Final Terror (1983)

final-terror

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Killer in the woods.

A group of young forest rangers go camping out in the woods only to find themselves quietly stalked by a menacing presence. When some of them go missing and then turn up dead they become convinced that it was caused by Eggar (Joe Pantoliano) a member of the group who was kicked-out for his anti-social behavior, but the killer may actually be more evasive than they thought and somehow able to track them down no matter where they try to go.

The film takes a different approach to most other ‘80s horror flicks in that it emphasizes the tension instead of the shocks or gore, which might’ve worked had the story been better plotted and the characters more rounded. As it is though it comes off like a weak rip-off to Deliverance and nothing more.

The characters are less cardboard here, but the viewer is still forced to slog through a lot of formulaic stuff that seems to have to appear any scary movie dealing with campers including the tacky ghost story told around a campfire, which in this case is even cornier than usual. The opening sequence, which was filmed later after the rest of the movie had already been shot and done by a different director, is completely pointless and should’ve been discarded.

The biggest issue I had though with the movie is that you barely ever see the killer. In fact out of its entire runtime you probably only see the killer’s figure for less than a minute. When you do spot him he comes off looking like a giant human-sized fur ball made by Stan and Marty Kroft for one of their Kroft Superstars show.

The acting is okay and much of the cast went on to have distinguished careers including Daryl Hannah and Rachel Ward who both look beautiful and should’ve been given more to do. Since this was filmed in 1981 it is technically Adrian Zmed’s film debut who manages to do a pretty good howl.

The music, which was inspired by Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ has a good funky beat and the killer’s ultimate demise is well shot, but overall it’s rather lame with not enough to distinguish it from slew of other slasher films already out there. I also thought the title was stupid. Just exactly what is so final about this terror? It never gets explained or addressed and was apparently just tacked on once they found a distributor 2 years after it was already shot. The original working title was ‘Bump in the Night’, which would’ve been better.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 1, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Andrew Davis

Studio: Aquarius Releasing

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video 

Blood Beach (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Beachgoers get sucked away.

Something is lurking beneath a Southern California beach and it’s not human. People and even animals are being sucked underneath the sand and disappearing, never to be found again. Lifeguard Harry (David Huffman) tries to do some investigating while starting up a relationship with the daughter (Marianna Hill) of one of the victims, but his efforts prove futile, so the police are called in, but do no better.

One of the nice things about this movie is that unlike most other horror films from that era it actually has a pretty decent budget and distinctive music score. The beach location, which was filmed at Santa Monica, makes for a pleasant diversion from the usual horror settings and the one thing I came away liking most about the movie.

Huffman, who ended up becoming a homicide victim himself in real-life only a few years after this was filmed, is bland to the point of being completely forgettable. However, the much more talented supporting cast gives the film some life. John Saxon is great as a brash and gruff police captain. Burt Young and Otis Young are amusing as police detectives with completely contrasting styles with Otis playing an amusing extension to the character that he did in The Last Detail where he tries earnestly to reel in his more undisciplined partner.

The film’s weak point is the second act that stalls without enough new twists being brought in. Seeing people constantly being swallowed up by the sand becomes monotonous and it takes way too long before we finally get an understanding to what is causing it. The film also has some quick cutaways showing what happens to the people once they are underneath the sand, which looks like it was spliced in from a cheaper film stock with tacky special effects that may simply be a product of the ‘Complete and Uncut’ version that I saw, but should’ve been avoided.

The attempt at doing a Jaws formula storyline on land instead of the water doesn’t work and only helps make the original seem all that much better. Had this been done as a parody might’ve helped it.

Spoiler Alert!

The biggest letdown is the ending that never fully explains what this creature is and only gives the viewer a brief glimpse of it during the film’s last few minutes, which is disappointing. The story then goes full circle by showing the sand ready to swallow up more unsuspecting beachgoers while making the viewer feel like they’ve wasted 90 minutes of their time watching a film that doesn’t progress anywhere.

End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 28, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes (‘Complete’ cut)

Rated R

Director: Jeffrey Bloom

Studio: Compass International Pictures

Available: DVD

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

ballad of cable hogue

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Desperate man finds water.

After he is betrayed by his two friends (L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin) and forced to survive in the middle of the desert without the benefit of food, water, a gun or even a horse Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) goes on a mad search for an oasis. After four days in the heat he collapses and just as he is ready to die he suddenly finds water in the most unlikely place. He uses this untapped spring to create a way station for the stagecoaches that travel through the area and becomes quite rich, but deep down he harbors the dark desire to get revenge on the two who wronged him and one day he finally gets his chance.

Theoretically a person can survive up to 4 ½ days, or 100 hours, without water if they are in a climate with a temperature of 72, but in much hotter conditions such as the one shown here it would be far less, so having the character survive like he does seems to be a an extreme stretch, but if you can get past that then the film is quite enjoyable at least at the beginning. The script was written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney who spent the majority of their careers working as character actors in B-movies and this was their one and only foray as writers. The story’s biggest asset is the main character that is expertly portrayed by the gifted Robards. His determination to beat long odds and find success even as he starts from rock bottom should resonate with most viewers and the character’s grit meshes well with director Sam Peckinpah’s perennial theme of rugged individualism.

The addition of David Warner as a dubious minister who helps Cable build his station is excellent and the film could’ve been an engaging buddy movie had it remained at this level. Unfortunately it felt the need to add in a love interest in the form of Stella Stevens, sans make-up, who portrays a whore that takes a liking to Cable. Stevens is not as strong of an actor as Warner and doesn’t know how to carry a scene like he does, so her time in front of the camera is boring and does nothing but bog down the pace while pushing Warner’s character out, which severely hurts the film’s rugged but whimsical chemistry.

Spoiler Alert!

Strother Martin’s character becomes yet another issue. He again gets straddled with the creepy, cowardly bad guy role of which is plays to perfection, but eventually made it seem almost like typecasting. To some extent I was happy to see him become humanized as it went along, but I didn’t like how Cable decides to leave his way station to him instead of the Warner character as he was the one who helped build it. Maybe Cable realized that with the invention of the automobile his station would no longer be prosperous and he would then be sticking Martin with a stinker instead of the goldmine that he thought, which is okay, but then he saves Martin’s life just a few minutes after he was ready to kill him, which became too much of a contradiction.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The film has some funny moments, but I didn’t like the fast motion running as it made it seem too cartoon-like. The numerous potshots at religion and those that expound on it are hilarious and I enjoyed how Peckinpah looks at capitalism from both sides where it is shown to greatly benefit an individual who is able to take advantage of a market demand, but also how it can coldly abandoned that same person the second that demand goes away.  The first 40 minutes are great, but then the story loses steam with comical moments that become too drawn out and have little to do with the main story as well as a protracted ending that really fizzles.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 8, 1970

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Walkabout (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lost in the outback.

A teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg, but billed as Lucien John) find themselves trapped amidst the harsh climate of the Australian outback. After spending a couple of days walking in the heat they manage to come upon a watering hole, but find to their horror that it dries up overnight. Feeling almost ready to give up they spot an aborigine (David Gulpilil in his film debut) marauding through the desert as part of his walkabout where young men are cast off into the wilderness for several months as part of their journey to manhood. He helps find them water, food and shelter, but eventually the cultural differences between the three and their inability to effectively communicate become a problem.

The legendary Nicholas Roeg makes his directorial debut here and even casts his own son, who is excellent, as the 9-year-old boy.  The way the camera captures the desert by focusing on the different types of animal life and rock formations is impressive.  I also enjoyed the editing which cuts back and forth between the desert and modern civilization while examining how each are uniquely connected and commenting on how our advanced culture has made us regress and less able to survive the savage elements that our ancestors were able to.

There are also scenes of animal cruelty as the aborigine hunts a kangaroo by first injuring him and then, as the animal gives out a whimpering cry, he spears it. Later the viewer is shown scenes involving big game hunters who mow down water buffalo for sport while graphically slitting their throats.

The film was controversial for capturing Agutter, who was only 17 at the time that this was filmed, in the nude while swimming at a watering hole. The actress felt uncomfortable doing the scene and required only the minimum of the crew to be present while it was shot. To me the scene was unnecessary as it didn’t fit the character who was prim and proper and didn’t at all come off like the type of person who would suddenly become carefree and risk being spotted by the aborigine that she really didn’t know or the ‘embarrassment’ of being seen by her younger brother. The camera stays on her naked body far longer than needed and comes off like shameless voyeurism.

I had the same issue with the scene involving researchers at a weather station that resembles footage to a soft core porn flick instead as the men ogle the only woman in their group, become overtly aroused at glimpses of her bosom and in one truly absurd moment even has one of the them sucking on her finger. I realize scientists have sex drives too, but I would think they would be able to behave in a professional capacity when on the job and not act like they hadn’t gotten laid in years and like with the swimming sequence this scene has nothing to do with the main story and could’ve been cut out completely.

The presence of the radio weakens the story as well as supposedly they’re in the middle of nowhere and miles from civilization and yet somehow are able to pick up different radio stations that come in crystal clear without any static, which would mean that they must be much closer to a city than it seems and thus hurts the desolate feeling that the film otherwise tries hard to create.

Spoiler Alert!

The film is based on a 1959 novel of the same name that was written by Donald Gordon Payne under the pseudonym of James Vance Marshall. The script though differs from the book in two major ways, one of which I liked and the other I didn’t.

The first difference involves the reason for how the two children get stranded. In the book they are victims of a plane crash, but in the film it is because their father tries to kill them, which is offbeat and sends the message that this movie will be different from any you’ve seen before, which I liked. Normally I would’ve wanted an explanation for his behavior, but by keeping it a mystery it elevates the intrigue and if anything was a far more creative explanation for their predicament than the formulaic plane crash one.

However, the way the aborigine dies is ludicrous. In the book he is stricken with the flu virus that was inadvertently passed onto him by the boy, but in the movie he ends up killing himself when the girl does not respond to his attempts at courtship, which seemed excessively rash.

Rejection is a part of the human experience and transcends all cultures. Everyone will have to deal with it at some point in their lives. If everyone killed themselves the minute they are rebuffed by someone they were attracted to then virtually no one on would make it past adolescence. The idea that a normal, healthy and otherwise happy young man with no signs of mental illness, and the film does not show him as having any so we must assume that he doesn’t, would suddenly off himself over a girl he has just met and barely knew is absurd. In reality he probably would’ve just gotten frustrated and left them stranded while going back to his own tribe where I presume he’d meet other women who he’d bond better with due to being more culturally connected and most likely would’ve found more attractive anyways.

End of Spoiler Alert!

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 1, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicholas Roeg

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Checkered Flag or Crash (1977)

checkered flag 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Drivers race off-road.

Walkaway Madden (Joe Don Baker) is a lifelong racer who has just broken up with his racing partner of many years and is now going solo, or at least he thinks he is until reporter C.C. Wainwright (Susan Sarandon) arrives and tells him that the company who sponsors his car has hired her to cover the race for their newspaper and thus she’ll be riding along with him. Walkaway isn’t too happy about this as he has very old-fashioned, sexist ideas about a ‘woman’s place’, but begrudgingly accepts it as he has no other choice. Together the two take part in a grueling off-road race that is organized by Bo Cochran (Larry Hagman) and takes them through some of the most treacherous terrain of the Philippines.

The movie might’ve been more exciting had the racing footage been better captured. Instead we get treated to choppy shots of random car wipeouts and flashing, poorly focused images of vehicles buzzing through various locales while shown in a grainy film stock. The editing is so quick that it’s hard to follow what is going on and the only time it is ever impressive is when the camera gets tied to the front of the vehicle and we see firsthand just how bumpy and fast a ride like that must be, but this shot unfortunately is only brief.

There is little or no backstory to any of the racers and therefore no emotionally compelling reason to cheer for any of them. There is also too many of them and all are generic, transparent characters, so when you see someone wipeout it’s hard to remember which one it is, or even care. I did kind of like Daina House as a woman with beautiful model-like features who dresses in all black and just as tough as any of the guys, but her character isn’t shown or played-up enough.

The best thing about the film is the presence of Sarandon who lends a necessary grounded anchor to the silliness that surrounds her. Hagman is terrific as the hyper race promoter and every scene he is in is far more entertaining than any of the racing footage. Baker isn’t bad either. He certainly isn’t any A-list actor, but a very competent B one, who seems at ease in both comedy and action parts.

The film shifts clumsily between being silly and gritty and would’ve done better had it stuck to a more consistent tone. It’s also cheap and amateurish with a terrible, country tinged title tune that gets played throughout. The only reason it gets 2 points is simply for the performances of its three leads.

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My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 3, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alan Gibson

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

Quest for Fire (1981)

quest for fire

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cavemen search of fire.

After their tribe is attacked by another one and their only source of fire put out three male members from the group (Everett McGill, Ron Pearlman, Nicholas Kadi) set out to find fire from somewhere else and bring it back to the others.  Their quest is not easy as they are forced to travel through harsh terrain, escape from man eating tigers, and fight off a tribe of cannibals. They also meet up with Ika (Rae Dawn Chong) who comes from a more advanced tribe where the members live in huts instead of caves and who also harbors the secret to starting a fire, which she just might share with the others.

Filmed on-location in Canada, Scotland, and Kenya this film brings to life the true nature of prehistoric times in vivid detail and better than any other movie that has dealt with the same subject. The male actors were fitted with masks that gave them ape-like features and except for one brief moment there is no discernable line of dialogue and communication is spoken through grunts and groans as well as words not connected to modern day language. Some DVD issues do have subtitles, but to me this is taking the viewer out of the experience as the whole idea is to allow one a true sense of how things where like back then and therefore forcing one to try to understand things through the primitives means of communication during that period is the only way to do it and I’m thankful that the theatrical version and the streaming version that I saw did not offer them.

While I applaud the filmmaker’s commitment to keeping things close to the true form as possible and not willing to compromise it simply to make it more accessible to a mainstream audience I still found it to be confusing at spots and even at times boring. The opening battle between the two tribes seemed almost unintentionally funny and the loud, booming music played over most of the movie is a bit off-putting as there was clearly no music at the time of the setting, so silence or natural sounds would’ve kept it truer to the authentic tone.

There is also a scene where the men come upon the remains of some meat left from another tribe. The men are hungry and begin eating the remains only to realize that what they are chewing on is human flesh, which sickens them and they spit it out, but I wasn’t so sure that genuine Neanderthals such as the ones portrayed here would be so ‘civilized’ and instead more concerned with simply satisfying their hunger needs.

Rae Dawn Chong’s presence is a major plus and the movie gets more interesting when her character appears. She remains fully nude at all times while covered in body paint, but isn’t as erotic as you might think. The scene where she gets raped by the men late at night is brutal, but authentic to the animalistic level that I would assume sex would be approached with during that time period. The way her character ends up bonding and even forming a romantic attachment to the one of them as the film progresses is genuinely touching.

The film has a lot of lulls and may be just too unique for some. I found myself intrigued at certain parts and bored at others, but the scene where the men watch in amazement when Chong creates a fire for the first time is a surprisingly exhilarating moment where the viewer feels the same emotion that people back then must’ve felt, which to be able to convey such a feeling to a modern audience is an achievement in itself and a sign of astute filmmaking at its finest.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 16, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Fighting the desert elements.

A cargo plane flying to Benghazi and piloted by Frank Towns (James Stewart) is forced to make a crash landing in the middle of the Sahara desert when a freak sand storm shuts down the plane’s engines. Of the 14 men on board two are killed instantly when several oil drums break loose during the crash which also injures a third. The rest of the men find themselves stranded in the searing heat with only dates as their food and a 2 week supply of water. The radio communication was destroyed during the crash and they are too far off their main route for anyone to find them. One of the passengers, Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Kruger) who works as a plane designer believes he has a way to take what’s left of the wreckage and build it into a new plane, which will then be able to fly the men out of there. Initially everyone else is skeptical, but eventually they begin working during the night to put it together while continuing to fight the elements and themselves in the process.

What makes this film stand out from the rest of the epic adventures is the fact that there is no good guy versus bad guy here. Every one of the individuals has their own unique character flaws and must learn to overcome them and their egos in order to work together as a team. The characterizations are realistic and multi-faceted making their conflicts believable from start to finish and helping to create a story that is gripping on both an adventure level and a psychological one.

Stewart is outstanding in the lead and I enjoyed seeing him play a part that is cynical and savvy and with less of the humble, country boy charm that he is known for. Kruger is solid in support and watching his confrontations with Stewart and then their eventual respect for each is the film’s main highlight. Richard Attenborough is also good as the sort-of moderator between the two and I also enjoyed Peter Finch as the brave and honorable Captain as well as Ronald Fraser as his sergeant who doesn’t quite share his same courage or sense of duty.

I was disappointed to some extent that it wasn’t filmed on-location in the Sahara and instead in Arizona and California although the desert locales look authentic enough even though eventually after two hours it becomes monotonous visually. Director Robert Aldrich keeps things believable including having the men visibly slow down physically as the days wear on as well as growing beards, which is something that sometimes gets overlooked in other stranded dramas although I was still confused why the Finch character formed a goatee instead of a full beard.

The climactic sequence is both nerve-wracking and exhilarating particularly the scene where Stewart tries to start the plane with only 7 cartridges remaining and with each one failing. Whether the logistics of this could actually occur is a big question, but it still remains grand entertainment.

flight of the phoenix 2

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1965

Runtime: 2Hours 22Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Robert Aldrich

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD

The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

great waldo pepper 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Flying the unfriendly skies.

Waldo Pepper (Robert Redford) makes a living traveling the Midwest during the 1920’s and giving rides on his biplane to the eager public of the small towns that he goes through as well as doing airplane stunts at aerial shows. He misses his years during WWI when he was a fighter pilot trying to take on the German flying ace Ernest Kessler (Bo Brundin). Later when Pepper is grounded and can no longer fly legally he gets a job as a stunt man in Hollywood. It is there that he meets Kessler who is now working as a consultant on a movie about his flying days and the two agree to relive their war battle by having a duel to the death in the skies.

The aerial footage is the film’s greatest asset and it is amazing particularly since the actors did all their own stunt work and without any type of protection. When we see actor Bo Svenson walk out onto the wing of the plane while in midair and even fall through it it’s all real and it makes you hold your breath. The scene where Redford flies his plane underneath another one in an attempt to save Susan Sarandon who has walked out onto the wing and then unable to come back is equally nerve-wracking.

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The film’s biggest fault and probably the reason why this big budgeted picture became an unexpected box office flop is because its unable to retain the breezy fun loving atmosphere of Redford’s and Hill’s two earlier collaborations. The film starts out amusingly enough, but then becomes quite serious when it features two deaths. The first one is good because it is completely unexpected and hits home the fact that stunt flying can have a dangerous side, but then the film has another death occur just 10 minutes later and it’s far more gruesome and drawn out while sucking all the lightheartedness out, which it’s never able to recover from.

I’ve never been overly impressed with Redford as an actor. Sure he’s great looking and competent at times, but he always has too much of a laid back persona and unable to ever show any intensity even though he did manage to grow on me more as the film progressed. The supporting cast of Svenson, Philip Bruns and a young Susan Sarandon fare better and help keep the film afloat.

The third act where Waldo meets his idol only to find that the man isn’t quite as successful or exciting when he is on the ground as he was in the air is where the film gels as it makes some strong points about our culture’s need for hero worship and their climactic aerial duel is both thrilling and amusing.

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My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 13, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Rated PG

Director: George Roy Hill

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The White Dawn (1974)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Trapped in the artic.

In 1896 three whalers inadvertently become lost from the rest of their crew and stranded all alone on an artic island. There is Billy (Warren Oates) who is the impulsive and belligerent one of the bunch and Daggett (Timothy Bottoms) who is more quiet and introspective as well as Portagee (Louis Gossett Jr.). After wandering in the snow and cold for many days they finally come upon an Eskimo tribe who takes them in with food and shelter. The men though never seem to fully appreciate what the Eskimos have done for them while at times even exploiting their kindness, which eventually leads to tensions from both sides.

Filmed on-location on Baffin Island in northern Canada it is based on the novel ‘The White Dawn: An Eskimo Saga’ by James Houston who also wrote the screenplay. He lived with the Inuit people during the 50’s and 60 and helped spread their art and culture to the rest of the world. The film though doesn’t seem all that revealing. Much of what happens is rather predictable and with scenes that tend to ramble. There are also other moments that are a bit bizarre like the scene during a celebration where two girls take off their shirts and then lock lips and proceed to blow air into each other’s mouths at an accelerated rate that might’ve been more interesting had it been explained what exactly they were doing and why.

The characters are dull and transparent in Oates’ case genuinely unlikable. The Eskimos lack any individual distinction and most viewers will fail to find themselves emotionally attached to anyone onscreen. The film probably would’ve worked better had it been a smaller tribe and just one person that they had rescued.

There are also a lot of scenes featuring animal deaths and cruelty that may upset some viewers. On the one hand I liked that it kept things real and hunting is certainly a part of their culture especially at that time, but some of it does get graphic. One scene has the group grabbing a goose from different ends and then literally pulling it apart while later on they slaughter some walruses that are peacefully bathing in the sun.

The film’s dark ending is interesting and the time the three attempt to escape from the tribe by stealing one of their boats is also intriguing, but otherwise I was aloof with it most of the way. I admire the attempt of bringing the Eskimo culture to a wider audience and the film really isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a particularly gripping either.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 21, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Phillip Kaufman

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Soldier Blue (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: They massacre the Indians.

Two survivors of a Cheyenne Indian attack, the young and beautiful Cresta (Candice Bergen) and Honus (Peter Strauss) a private from the Calvary must travel through treacherous western terrain avoiding other attacks while also finding the Calvary’s base camp. Along the way the two start a romance despite wide differences in their temperaments and perspectives. Honus supports the position of his country and government without question while Cresta is more sympathetic to the Indians, but this all comes to a crashing halt when they witness an assault by the U.S. army on a peaceful Indian camp, which shocks Honus and changes his perspective on things forever.

The film is mainly known for its notoriously violent ending, which at the time was unprecedented for its use of explicitly savage imagery and remains controversial to this day, but before we get to that I’d like to go over what I did liked about the movie, which for the most part is still watchable.

Filmed in Mexico in October of 1969 the stunning views of the wide open terrain  is sumptuously captured by cinematographer Robert B. Hauser, which is enough to keep one enthralled with it despite its otherwise flimsy plot. I also enjoyed Buffy Sainte Marie’s rousing opening title tune, but the rest of the music score by Roy Budd seems misplaced. During the attack that starts out the film it is booming and orchestral almost like it wants to replicate the sound and mood of a conventional western even though this is supposedly a revisionist one. At other times it takes away from the potential grittiness by being played when it was not needed and sounding too modern for the time period.

Strauss in only his second film is marvelous and makes his naïve and rigid character believable and likable, but I was perplexed how someone lost in the wild for days and weeks and sometimes without food or even a gun could still remain clean shaven. Bergen as his female counterpart is great as well and beautiful. The fact that she is foul mouthed and very self-sufficient while Honas is more timid makes for a nice reversal of the sexual stereotypes, which helps propel the film during the first half. However, it eventually gets overplayed as Bergen’s character starts to display too many attitudes and behaviors from someone that was ahead-of-her-time until it seemed like she was really a late ‘60’s student radical that somehow got pulled into a western setting instead of a person that had actually lived during that era.

Donald Pleasence, a highly talented character actor who did many varied roles during his career gets one of best ones here while wearing a pair of false teeth that make him almost unrecognizable. His chase of the two when they destroy his wagon lends some much needed tension in what is otherwise a dronie romance.

The Indian massacre that climaxes the film is based on the Sand Creek Massacre that occurred on November 29, 1864. Although the film incorrectly states during its denouncement that is was led by Nelson A. Mills it was actually U.S. Army Colonel John Chivington who ordered a band of 700 men to attack a peaceful Indian village where between 150 and 200 Indians were killed most of whom where women and children.

The film portrays Bergen’s character as being the only white person outraged at the slaughter, which isn’t true as many people from the era where appalled by the news when it was found out and the attack was condemned by the army after it was investigated.  Chivington was then forced to resign where he lived out the rest of his life in almost total ostracism by every community he moved to. There were also two officers in the Calvary who refused Chivington’s orders to attack and told the men under their command to hold their fire, which doesn’t get shown at all.

Although the movie does leave some effective haunting images it would’ve worked better had it been a documentary, or a reenactment that concentrated fully on the attack while also showing its aftermath and what lead up to it. It should’ve also been better researched, accurate and balanced instead of feeling the need to pander to the political fervor of its day with stagy over-the-top dramatics and a clumsily trying to tie it in to the My Lai Massacre that has forever stigmatized it as being nothing more than dated emotionally manipulative propaganda.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 12, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ralph Nelson

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube