Soldier Blue (1970)

R | 112 mins | Western | 12 August 1970

Director:

Ralph Nelson

Writer:

John Gay

Cinematographer:

Robert B. Hauser

Editor:

Alex Beaton

Production Designer:

Frank Arrigo

Production Company:

Katzka-Berne Productions
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HISTORY

A review of the film in the 20 Sep 1970 NYT noted that a spoken epilogue states that “the American Chief of Staff condemned the massacre at Sand Creek, decades after it occurred, as the greatest atrocity in the history of the American Army.” Although Soldier Blue was reportedly set in 1875, the real-life massacres upon which it was based included the 1864 massacre at Sand Creek and the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.
       On 20 Aug 1969, a Var news item indicated that Candice Bergen had been cast and filming was planned to take place at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico. Director Ralph Nelson gained cooperation from the Mexican government, and permission to use members of the Mexican cavalry, as stated in the 10 Sep 1969 DV, which also noted that principal photography would begin in Durango, Mexico, in Oct 1969. Production officially began in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on 28 Oct 1969, according to the following day’s DV. Ten weeks of shooting were scheduled, and the budget was set at $2.5 million, the 30 Oct 1969 DV noted.
       In an interview published in the 5 Oct 1969 NYT, Nelson acknowledged that the film would be “savage, perhaps more savage than ‘The Wild Bunch’ [1969, see entry].” The director stated than an emphasis on brutality was intended “to stir a national consciousness of the violence that was done to the Indians—a violence that is still being done.” He also related the themes of the picture to the present-day American participation in the Vietnam War. When it was released in Aug ... More Less

A review of the film in the 20 Sep 1970 NYT noted that a spoken epilogue states that “the American Chief of Staff condemned the massacre at Sand Creek, decades after it occurred, as the greatest atrocity in the history of the American Army.” Although Soldier Blue was reportedly set in 1875, the real-life massacres upon which it was based included the 1864 massacre at Sand Creek and the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.
       On 20 Aug 1969, a Var news item indicated that Candice Bergen had been cast and filming was planned to take place at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, Mexico. Director Ralph Nelson gained cooperation from the Mexican government, and permission to use members of the Mexican cavalry, as stated in the 10 Sep 1969 DV, which also noted that principal photography would begin in Durango, Mexico, in Oct 1969. Production officially began in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on 28 Oct 1969, according to the following day’s DV. Ten weeks of shooting were scheduled, and the budget was set at $2.5 million, the 30 Oct 1969 DV noted.
       In an interview published in the 5 Oct 1969 NYT, Nelson acknowledged that the film would be “savage, perhaps more savage than ‘The Wild Bunch’ [1969, see entry].” The director stated than an emphasis on brutality was intended “to stir a national consciousness of the violence that was done to the Indians—a violence that is still being done.” He also related the themes of the picture to the present-day American participation in the Vietnam War. When it was released in Aug 1970, Soldier Blue’s massacre scene was criticized in several reviews, including the 12 Aug 1970 DV, which suggested the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) should have given the picture an “X” rating instead of an “R,” despite the organization’s tendency to judge sex more strictly than violence. A negative review by Roger Greenspun in the 13 Aug 1970 NYT denounced the “scenes of slaughter, full of bloody bodies, scalped heads, random arms and legs, raped Indian women and impaled Indian babies, [and] decapitated bodies falling before your very eyes and faces in the process of being shot to pieces.” One month later, on 20 Sep 1970, a positive review by Dotson Rader appeared in the same publication, calling Soldier Blue “a movie of great art and courage” that was “painful to witness,” especially for white viewers who had yet to confront the atrocities perpetrated by U.S. soldiers against Native Americans. In response to a negative review in the 14 Aug 1970 LAT, a letter to the editor was published in the 13 Sep 1970 LAT, admonishing the paper for panning Soldier Blue after having lauded The Wild Bunch (1969, see entry), ostensibly because the former depicted a shameful part of U.S. history that white Americans would rather ignore.
       The film went on to gross $1.2 million in film rentals in its first six months of release, according to a 6 Jan 1971 Var box-office chart.
       The DV review noted the following literary sources, in addition to Theodore V. Olsen’s 1969 novel, Arrow in the Sun: Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” which is quoted by a soldier; and the “St. Crispin’s Day oration” from William Shakespeare’s Henry V, which was at least partially excerpted in “Colonel Iverson’s” closing speech that follows the massacre.
       Arthur Ornitz was replaced as photographer several weeks into production; Robert B. Hauser receives screen credit. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1969
p. 13.
Daily Variety
29 Oct 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Oct 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1970
p. 3, 7.
Los Angeles Times
16 Sep 1969
Section G, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1970
Section G, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1970
Section G, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1970
Section P, p. 19.
New York Times
5 Oct 1969
Section D, p. 15.
New York Times
13 Aug 1970
p. 29.
New York Times
20 Sep 1970.
---
Variety
20 Aug 1969
p. 32.
Variety
17 Sep 1969
p. 25.
Variety
8 Jul 1970
p. 6.
Variety
6 Jan 1971
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Arrow in the Sun by Theodore V. Olsen (New York, 1969).
SONGS
"Soldier Blue" and "No One Told Me," music and lyrics by Buffy Sainte-Marie, sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 August 1970
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 12 August 1970
Los Angeles opening: 14 August 1970
Production Date:
began 28 October 1969
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor, print by Movielab
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22615
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Cresta Marybelle Lee and Private Honus Gant, the sole survivors of a Cheyenne massacre, set out for Fort Reunion. As they travel, the foulmouthed Cresta reveals that during two years of captivity she was the wife of Spotted Wolf, head of the raiding party, and that she now intends to marry Lieutenant John McNair, her wealthy fiancé. Although menaced by a Kiowa band, the pair is allowed to proceed when Gant bests the Indian leader in a fight. When they encounter gunrunner Isaac Q. Cumber, however, Gant sets the salesman's store afire, and the infuriated Cumber shoots Gant in retaliation. In a secluded cave, Cresta binds the soldier's wounds and the couple make love. Anxious for Gant's recovery, Cresta rushes to Fort Reunion. As she arrives, she learns that the cavalry is bound on a reprisal raid against the Cheyenne. Alarmed, she warns the tribe and discovers Spotted Wolf eager to make peace. Gant reaches the regiment as it, ignoring Spotted Wolf's white flag, massacres, mutilates, rapes, and pillages the Indian encampment. Horrified, he protests and is promptly arrested. Cresta chooses to remain among the ... +


Cresta Marybelle Lee and Private Honus Gant, the sole survivors of a Cheyenne massacre, set out for Fort Reunion. As they travel, the foulmouthed Cresta reveals that during two years of captivity she was the wife of Spotted Wolf, head of the raiding party, and that she now intends to marry Lieutenant John McNair, her wealthy fiancé. Although menaced by a Kiowa band, the pair is allowed to proceed when Gant bests the Indian leader in a fight. When they encounter gunrunner Isaac Q. Cumber, however, Gant sets the salesman's store afire, and the infuriated Cumber shoots Gant in retaliation. In a secluded cave, Cresta binds the soldier's wounds and the couple make love. Anxious for Gant's recovery, Cresta rushes to Fort Reunion. As she arrives, she learns that the cavalry is bound on a reprisal raid against the Cheyenne. Alarmed, she warns the tribe and discovers Spotted Wolf eager to make peace. Gant reaches the regiment as it, ignoring Spotted Wolf's white flag, massacres, mutilates, rapes, and pillages the Indian encampment. Horrified, he protests and is promptly arrested. Cresta chooses to remain among the survivors. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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