Tag Archives: Candice Bergen

Gandhi (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fighting for India independence.

The film follows the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) starting at the age of 23 when he gets thrown off of a train in South Africa simply for being Indian. After spending many years fighting for Indian rights in that country he then moves back to his homeland of India. It is there that he takes up the challenge of fighting for its independence from Britain by advocating for his followers to practice peaceful civil disobedience.

This film project took director Richard Attenborough 20 years in the making as all the Hollywood studios refused to back it. He also went through many different casting choices in regards to who would play the lead and at one time seriously considered Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Due to the difficulty of finding backers and other hurdles some of the stars that do appear here were offered their parts many years before the filming actually took place including Candice Bergen, who plays Margaret Bourke-White, who first got approached about it in 1966.

Yet the long wait proved to be worth it as the film comes close to being a masterpiece in just about every conceivable area. I was surprised too that for  such a long runtime it hardly ever seems slow and clips along at a brisk pace. The story is filled with many strong scenes even a few harrowing ones like the recreation of the Amritsar Massacre that is quite disturbing, but thoughtfully handled.

After making his film debut a decade earlier as the bad guy in Fear is the Key and then moving back to the stage Kingsley shines in his Academy Award winning performance . The rest of the cast gets filled with a lot of big names, but many of them have brief appearances that almost amount to walk-on parts. My favorite though was Trevor Howard, who plays a judge and despite have little dialogue and only 2-minutes in front of the camera still manages to make the most of it, which is what great acting is all about.

The film though lacks a complete oversight of Gandhi’s character as we only get introduced to him when he is already 23 even though the crucial formative years are during childhood and it would’ve been revealing and insightful to have seen some scenes of him during that period. His family life also takes a backseat. We see only one scene of him with his children and then they just disappear. He also discusses marrying his wife when he was very young, but a flashback showing it would’ve been stronger.

The film also has its share of dissenters who feel it’s biased as it only shows the positive side to Gandhi’s personality. It even instigated three novels, which paints Gandhi in a much different light by arguing that he fought for Indian rights while in South Africa, but not for the blacks and there’s evidence that he had the same disdain for the blacks in that country as the whites did.

Some also argue that his involvement in the push for India independence was much more minimal than the film portrays and that India most likely would’ve eventually broken off from British rule one way or the other had Gandhi existed or not. All of these counter arguments could have some merit, but I don’t think that was the intended point of the film, but instead the focus was on how peaceful non-violent resistance can make a difference and in that regard the movie succeeds nicely.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: December 6, 1982

Runtime: 3 Hours 11 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Attenborough

Studio: Columbia Pictures

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

Oliver’s Story (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Adjusting to wife’s death.

It’s been 6 years since Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) lost his wife to leukemia and he’s still having a hard time learning to move on from it. He hasn’t been in a serious relationship since and his friends including his step father (Edward Binns) are pressuring him to start dating. Finally by chance he meets Marci (Candice Bergen) while she is out jogging. She is secretly an heiress to a massive fortune, which allows the two to connect due to their similar well-to-do upbringings, but when things start to get serious Oliver finds himself  resisting unable to cut the ties from his past and move forward.

This is definitely a sequel that nobody asked for and in fact both O’Neal and Bergen initially had no interest doing it. The original film worked because it centered on the couple and when you take away one of them you have only half a movie. Oliver on his own is boring and watching him learn to adjust to life as a single person is not compelling and no different than the hundreds of other movies dealing with the dating scene.

John Marley, who played Jenny’s father in the first film, refused to appear in this one because he was unhappy with how his name was going to be placed in the credits, so he got replaced by Edward Binns who seems to be playing a completely different character. Here the father-in-law and Oliverhave acquired a chummy friendship and even hang out together despite this never having been established in the first film. Ray Milland reprises his role as Oliver’s father, but gets portrayed in a much more likable way while in the first one he came off more as a heavy.

The film’s only interesting aspect is seeing how much the social norms have changed. Here being single is considered like a disease and his pesky friends are emboldened enough to set Oliver up on dates and openly telling him that he needs to ‘get out more’ even though by today’s standards the single lifestyle is much more prevalent and accepted and doing these same types of actions now by well meaning friends would be considered intrusive and obnoxious.

Having one of the women that he meets at a dinner party invite him back to her place despite barely knowing him is something not likely to occur today either. The way though that Oliver meets Marcie is the most absurd as he quite literally chases her down while she is jogging, which would scare most women into thinking that they had a crazy stalker on their hands.

On the production end the film is competently made with the springtime scenery of New York as well as shots of the couple’s trip to Hong Kong being the only thing that I enjoyed. The story though lacks punch and drones on with too many side dramas. O’Neal’s performance is good, but his chemistry with Bergen is lacking, which ultimately makes this a production that had misfire written all over it before a single frame of it was even shot.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Korty

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Video,  YouTube

Soldier Blue (1970)

soldier blue 1

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 played many varied roles during his career, gets one of his best ones here while wearing 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 dull 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 were 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 attempt to tie it into the My Lai Massacre that has forever stigmatized this as being nothing more than dated emotionally manipulative propaganda.

soldier blue 2

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