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Soldier Blue

Ralph Nelson’s Soldier Blue is a strange hippie western. Theoretically, it’s about the lead up to the Sand Creek Massacre, when the Colorado militia massacred a village of Cheyenne and Arapahoes in 1864. It’s one of the most brutal and horrifying events in American history. Nelson wants to show this horror in detail. And he does. The rapes, the mutilations, the cutting off of women’s breasts, etc. That stuff did happen at Sand Creek, but Nelson didn’t earn the right to tell that story here. The movie itself is mostly garbage. Candace Bergen is a young foul-mouthed woman who has been redeemed from the Cheyenne and is begin taken back to her army officer finance. She’s clearly the hippie stuck back in the 1860s–the sexually open, angry, flower child horrified at the world’s injustice. As they are going back, the Cheyenne attack an army caravan. The only survivors are her and Peter Strauss. He’s a prude but they fall in love. They try to get back to the army base. Doesn’t quite work out.

It’s mostly a bad film. The “Indians” speak the same “Indian-speak” as they did in the racist films this is supposedly critiquing. The acting is bad. The blood makes Spaghetti Western blood look real. Of course, for a film that’s supposed to be pro-Indian, all the major characters are white and it’s about two white people on an adventure. And then there’s one of the most brutal scenes in American film. Unfortunately, it feels more like exploitation than a honest indictment of American conquest. The Army colonel is the scumbag you’d expect, but it’s hard to care. You just want the film to end. I guess it gets a little credit for trying to take this on and I suppose I’m glad I’ve seen it so I can talk about it, but I wouldn’t watch it again.

During the 1970s, the East Germans were making anti-American propaganda westerns. I don’t know why. They could have just shown the anti-American conquest westerns made in the United States during the same years.