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Author Topic: Shenandoah (1965)  (Read 7111 times)
Tuco the ugly
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« on: May 02, 2009, 06:04:29 AM »


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059711/


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I must say this one was never amongst my favorites, but I learned to appreciate it a little more than when I was younger. You know, the pacifist message and things like that. James Stewart's not bad but the story is too secured for my taste (apart from being very slow and overlong). The intention to run within that mold was obviously an imperative, that unfortunately turns into a very unsubtle melodrama. Can't deny it a couple of decent lines, though.


5.85/10


« Last Edit: May 02, 2009, 06:17:01 AM by Tuco the ugly » Logged
Tuco the ugly
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« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2009, 06:18:28 AM »

But it's way better than ''Bandolero!''

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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2009, 04:35:27 PM »

I finally got around to watching this today as I mentioned on the RTLMYS thread. I'm not sure I'd call it a Western, personally, but I won't object strongly to that classification.

As I said on the other thread, this might well have been a good movie had it been directed by John Ford. The idea of the story is interesting on paper, and it's certainly got a fine cast to make it work - James Stewart, Glenn Corbett, Katharine Ross, George Kennedy, Paul Fix, Harry Carey Jr., Denver Pyle, Strother Martin, Warren Oates. However, the movie is directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, one of Hollywood's most notorious hack directors, and that pretty much dooms it from the get go. Nonetheless, I was hoping that the film would at least get by on its story and acting.

The movie plays indeed like a "Ford-lite" film, with lots of goofy slapstick humor, broadly drawn characters and hamfisted melodrama. The problem is, unlike Ford, McLaglen's ham fist plays up the ridiculous angles and makes the melodrama so predictable and painfully drawn out as to veer into soap opera territory. The movie plays like the second half of Gone With the Wind minus the little girl breaking her neck. The battle scenes are competently staged but nothing overly impressive. As said, the basic story and concept are interesting - Stewart as a pacifist who wants no part in the war - but the movie largely deviates from this with lots of long, drawn-out scenes of corn pone family melodrama and hamfisted anti-war preaching, and especially when Stewart breaks his principles to seek vengeance on the Yankees (what purpose did burning poor Strother Martin's train and releasing all the POW's serve?). The movie has some nice scenery and yet manages somehow to be visually indistinguished. James Stewart gives an excellent performance that's definitely worthy of a much better film, but the rest of the cast is mostly underused and at best adequate (although the lovely Katharine Ross in her film debut deserves some mention). Not only that, but the film is boring - even at 105 minutes, with a decent number of action scenes, it seems too long, with way too many talky scenes and deviations from the story that serve little purpose.

Although perhaps a minor quibble, the movie is ridiculously inaccurate and imprecise in depicting the Civil War. The movie can't seem to make up its mind when it takes place; it seems during one of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 (either the Sigel/Hunter invasion in the spring, or Sheridan's scorched-earth campaign in the fall) is likely, and Gettysburg is referred to as having taken place in the past, but there's a line of dialogue about "the folks in Vicksburg" (which fell a day after Gettysburg ended) eating rats and such, which indicates a spring 1863 setting. We also have ridiculous inaccuracies like integrated black-white units of Union troops (which, needless to say, is ridiculous; no integrated US Army units existed until after the Second World War) and Yankee troops sporting III and V Corps badges on their caps (neither of which operated in the Shenandoah, and if the movie takes place in 1864 III Corps was no longer even in existence). There are other minor quibbles, like Paul Fix saying that his son died on Little Round Top at Gettysburg when the regiments assaulting the Round Tops were from the Deep South, and the escaped Rebels implausibly packing breach-loading rifles in their skirmish with the Yankees. This may seem like nitpicking, but even by Hollywood standards at least the first few of these are rather egregious errors.

So, 4/10 is my personal rating. Just another piece of Andy McLaglen drek that happens to have a very good Stewart performance in it.

« Last Edit: June 01, 2009, 07:48:49 PM by Groggy » Logged


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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2009, 06:04:22 PM »

I've always wanted to see this just out of the premise of the film and what i heard of Stewart's performance, but know that i here Andy "Mitchell" McLaglen directed this Ill be sure to give it a pass.

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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2009, 07:25:21 PM »


Although perhaps a minor quibble, the movie is ridiculously inaccurate and imprecise in depicting the Civil War. The movie can't seem to make up its mind when it takes place; it seems during one of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 (either the Sigel/Hunter invasion in the spring, or Sheridan's scorched-earth campaign in the fall) is likely, and Gettysburg is referred to as having taken place in the past, but there's a line of dialogue about "the folks in Vicksburg" (which fell a day after Gettysburg ended) eating rats and such, which indicates a spring 1863 setting. We also have ridiculous inaccuracies like integrated black-white units of Union troops (which, needless to say, is ridiculous; no integrated US Army units existed until the Second World War) and Yankee troops sporting I and V Corps badges on their caps (neither of which operated in the Shenandoah, and if the movie takes place in 1864 I Corps was no longer even in existence). There are other minor quibbles, like Paul Fix saying that his son died on Little Round Top at Gettysburg when the regiments assaulting the Round Top were from the Deep South, and the escaped Rebels implausibly packing breach-loading rifles in their skirmish with the Yankees. This may seem like nitpicking, but even by Hollywood standards at least the first few of these are rather egregious errors.

So, 4/10 is my personal rating. Just another piece of Andy McLaglen drek that happens to have a very good Stewart performance in it.
How could a better director have gotten a better product out of that awful script? You know what made Hawks, Ford and others such good directors in the first place? Their internal sh*t detectors. They knew enough--if they ever came across a turkey like this--to pass on it. This screenplay no doubt kept getting passed downward until it found the director it deserved.

The historical inaccuracies are indicators of just what a colossal piece of garbage this is. Here's another one: the 1862 Conscription act would have required that Stewart's boys had to fight for the CSA, and they wouldn't have been given a choice in the matter. This historical fact was very inconvenient to the scriptwriter, so rather than change the script, he chose to ignore historical truth instead. After all, the concept was just so wonderful that he couldn't let things like reality get in the way.

Yes, the concept was everything. In fact, the premise was so wonderful that Mel Gibson reused it for The Patriot. Now that's what I call an endorsement!

Here's my rating: POS.

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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2009, 07:43:32 PM »

How could a better director have gotten a better product out of that awful script? You know what made Hawks, Ford and others such good directors in the first place? Their internal sh*t detectors. They knew enough--if they ever came across a turkey like this--to pass on it. This screenplay no doubt kept getting passed downward until it found the director it deserved.

The historical inaccuracies are indicators of just what a colossal piece of garbage this is. Here's another one: the 1862 Conscription act would have required that Stewart's boys had to fight for the CSA, and they wouldn't have been given a choice in the matter. This historical fact was very inconvenient to the scriptwriter, so rather than change the script, he chose to ignore historical truth instead. After all, the concept was just so wonderful that he couldn't let things like reality get in the way.

Yes, the concept was everything. In fact, the premise was so wonderful that Mel Gibson reused it for The Patriot. Now that's what I call an endorsement!

Here's my rating: POS.

The script certainly wasn't very good, but on the other hand, imagine a Ford or Hawks film of the same story with a script by, say, Leigh Brackett. I've yet to see a truly good film by McLaglen, and I think it's fair to blame him at least in part for the end result, regardless of the script's shortcomings. At the very worst, Ford would have made it a minor entry in his filmography.

I just think that the historical details that the movie presented were so obviously wrong that there was little point in including them. Who would have cried foul if the Union soldiers didn't have the corps insignia? It seems a historical detail included for little reason other than an air of authenticity, but anyone who would notice such a thing would undoubtedly notice the inaccuracy (I also believe the corps badges were red instead of blue as depicted in the film).

Good point about The Patriot, I thought about that while watching. Say what you will about Mel's film, that movie is at least fun on a dumb action movie level. This movie doesn't even have that.

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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2009, 06:56:46 AM »

Was leafing through my Videohound War Movie guide and came across a 3-bone (out of 4) review of Shenandoah. Fair enough that they disagree, but one will note this ludicrous passage:

Quote
In many important ways, this is one of Hollywood's more accurate attempts to show what the Civil War was like... But director Andrew V. McLaglen and writer James Lee Barrett never let strict adherence to accuracy get in the way of their historical soap opera

You can say that again... Grin

Of course, the guy who wrote the book also thinks that The Battle of the Bulge is very accurate, so... Cheesy

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« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2009, 08:50:35 AM »

I don't buy that either, I honestly can't think what miracle Ford could have pulled out to make it better.

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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2009, 05:19:42 PM »

You don't think the film could have been good with a completely different script?

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« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2009, 06:53:10 PM »

You don't think the film could have been good > - better - < with a completely different script?

Yes, I do.

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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2011, 12:37:24 PM »

It took me 45 years before I watched it, somehow I always let it pass me by. I partially disagree with what it is said above, being rather inclined to give this a 6\10, especially for the first part, until after Stewart and Kennedy meet. I don't think Stewart is a pacifist: his actions show this rather well. He's a true individualist and he can recur to violence when need calls to defend his rights. And that's where the interest of the movie lies: he looks so much better than the people who decided to don a uniform for unscrutable reasons which, when they are made explicit in verbal confrontations with him, show their absurdity or at least (in the good dialogue of Stewart with the doctor, at best an equal value). Unfortunately the movie starts to lose direction after Stewart decides to take sides: the train scene doesn't rhyme with his former behaviour. And the other incredible coincidences (his son being saved by the former black friend) make the story even more unpalatable. But for a good half the movie is very good. And I don't care about the historical inadequacies: the problems with the movie plot turns lie elsewhere.

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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2011, 09:52:53 AM »

A more legit reason to hate this movie than historical inaccuracy: it's a complete rip-off of Friendly Persuasion.

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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2011, 11:30:20 AM »

I repeat: Stewart is not a pacifist.

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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2011, 06:17:58 PM »

Being willing to defend oneself does not disqualify a person from pacifism.

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« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2011, 08:55:10 PM »

Being willing to defend oneself does not disqualify a person from pacifism.

It is not just a matter of being ready to defend himself. Stewart doesn't have the conscience problems which, if I remember well (I saw the movie many decades ago) tormented Cooper's. He never preaches against war: he  just says: this is not my war. I owe nothing to the State of Virginia and I'm not gonna fight to maintain slavery when I thrived only on my forces and those of my children. The whole exchange with the confederate officer come to enrole his sons makes this quite clear. And you never hear him invoke God's authority (btw, he's no bigot: he says he goes to church because his wife was wont to do so).   Unfortunately the movie it isn't completely coherent with this line.



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