15 Responses to Unbroken: A Review

  • Although this man’s tail of survival is remarkable, I fail to see why he should be held up as a hero to Catholics. He turned his back on the Catholic faith and became a Protestant. I wonder what his family thought of his “conversion”?

  • A powerful movie. Your review and the clips have convinced me. Movie night coming up. Thanks. 🙂

  • Stephen, maybe you should be asking where the Church was when this man was hurting and trying to live. From Don’s description of his post-war life, there was plenty of time for Catholics to act as doctors, but it was the Protestant who actually did.

    Someone once said: “By their fruits you will know them.” Maybe you should be asking why one tree bore fruit and the other did not.

    Besides, you think the World cares one bit about the difference?

  • “Although this man’s tail of survival is remarkable, I fail to see why he should be held up as a hero to Catholics. He turned his back on the Catholic faith and became a Protestant.”
    Mark 9:38-41
    John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.

  • Let me make one thing very clear. This comment thread is not, and you can underline that not, going to be taken up in sectarian debates. Further comments along those lines will be deleted by me. I will not have discussion of the movie turned into that truly futile and acrimonious debate.

  • The opposite was the intent of my comment, Don.

  • My comment was not directed at your comment Paul. I want this thread to be addressed to the movie and the themes of courage, endurance and forgiveness raised by the film.

  • Thanks for the review. I’m pleasantly surprised that a film such as this can
    still be green-lit in today’s Hollywood. It sounds like this movie deserves
    all the support we can give it.

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  • A fair review, but a minor point with a major consequence. As any track person knows, a 5000-meter race is not a “dash,” since it’s roughly three miles long. Maybe, in part, Zamparini could do what he did precisely because he’d trained at long-distance endurance.

  • Good point NV, and as Zamperini demonstrated later as a POW, endurance was definitely his strong suite.

  • Apologies for earlier, Don.

    So when you say “epilogue” to the film, do you mean they actually put a “what happened next” over the credits or in text in the film or do you mean “what happened in real life after these events”?

    My mom read the book apparently and wants to go see the film but was worried if she would be able to stand the camp scenes. Thanks for letting me know those were toned down (even if doing so is a debatable choice).

  • The epilogue is in writing with still photos before the credits. I think a sequel on the events of redemption, conversion and forgiveness could be a masterful film if done properly. A subplot showing the different paths taken by Zamperini and The Bird after the War could be especially intriguing.

  • JMJ Praise God I was never a POW. Our POW training camps use methods reported to us by our repatriated POWs. What they endured at the hands the Koreans/Japanese. I was a combat crewmember on B-52s. I can identify with his B-24 time. The training I went through was frightening. Even though I was in training, I feared for my life. I kept focus on that Light at the end of the tunnel. Mel Gibsons The Passion comes to mind when I think of the torture and interrogation techniques with the Resurrection being the Light at the end of the tunnel. Viva Cristo Rey

  • Probably the best review I have seen of this film. The comments are also quite incisive. I would add only one matter, partially relevant to the film. My late wife and her family, Philipino, were forced to live in the back forest and jungle during the war because the Japanese put a price on their heads After the war, despite one million Philipinos killed by the Japanese, there was no wholesale revenge on the perpetrators of these crimes nor was a great number of judicial proceedings conducted by the allies to hold to account the war criminals. Result: Murders in great numbers by the communist Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese. A lesson that should be noted for the future. I would not think the present location of The Bird to be very desireable.

One Response to Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

  • And here I’d been hoping that Bale and the Israelites got saved by sand worms. Interesting. Glad to hear it didn’t offend you as a theist (I’m not quite sure how else to say that, but I hope you know what I mean).

Cover Me! I’m Going In!

Thursday, December 11, AD 2014

I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.

Chistian Bale, star of Exodus:  Gods and Kings, in reference to Moses, who he is portraying in the film.

One of the many services that TAC has provided to its readers over the years is me going to see bad films so you don’t have to.  My bride and I are picking up our daughter on Friday from college and on Saturday our son will arrive by train, fresh from the rigors of first semester law school finals.  We will eat after he arrives and then the family will go off to see Exodus:  Gods and Kings.  I suspect it will be a bad film from everything I have read about it.  I hope it will be so bad that it may be a cult classic in the making rather like Dune (1984).  Whatever it is, I will review it for the blog.

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22 Responses to Cover Me! I’m Going In!

  • Because schizophrenics are known for their leadership abilities and charismatic appeal, both of which Moses had to have in order to keep the Israelites following him for 40 years, pillar of smoke notwithstanding. As for “barbaric”, someone should perhaps introduce Mr Bale to the Canaanites.

  • Good luck, but remember your brain is a receptacle; you don’t want to put garbage into it!

  • “pillar of smoke notwithstanding”
    Moses followed the Word of God. Does that make Moses schizophrenic? or charismatics ? How could Moses, the Lawgiver, give laws with a broken mind? How could Moses direct the establishment of the nation of Israel, the temple and lead the nation of Israel for forty years in the desert of sin until every person of the generation of the golden calf had perished…with a broken mind?
    The atheists have having fun with us. The atheists have not yet figured out that they are in the desert of sin and they will not find the Promised Land until they perish to themselves.

  • The atheists are having fun with us. All law, (Exodus, Leviticus) and our Constitution (Isaiah and Jeremiah) are in the Old Testament. One would have to give up one’s Faith to believe this and I have not yet seen it.

  • Forgive me, I have to ask: How can anyone portray another on the film if they do not know him intimately?

  • “…a cult classic in the making rather like Dune.”
    Hey, I liked Dune!

  • My family watches it every New Year’s Eve Paul!

  • Every promising basketball player gets billed as the next Michael Jordan, and every young golfer aims to be the next Tiger Woods. I understand why a catastrophically inept big-budget mess would aspire to Dunehood, but that’s a pretty high bar. It’s a rare generation that gets to witness such greatness.

  • Indeed Pinky, and there are always mere pretenders to the film stinkeroo hall of fame like Heaven’s Gate or Waterworld!

  • Guessing Exodus; Gods and Kings, will be as close to biblical reenactment that Noah was last year. Another lame frame by frame mockery of Our Lords inspired Word.

    I hope the movie portrayal of St. Padre Pio will be actuate. What I’ve read thus far is promising.

  • Accurate…excuse my typo.

  • Can’t watch the trailer after seeing the example of costuming. Did Moses really wear such as that couture for forty years?

  • With his penchant for pyrotechnics, I would have thought the subject of Soddom and Gamorrah more amenable to Ridley Scott’s cinematic endeavors.

  • Anyway, I know Bale cited Numbers 31 (the Extermination of the Midianites) as an example of Moseses barbarity.

  • Ernst Schreib: “Anyway, I know Bale cited Numbers 31 (the Extermination of the Midianites) as an example of Moseses barbarity.”
    All, but the Israelites performed human sacrifice, and therefore were ordered by God for extermination. God prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac to end human sacrifice of another one of His children, a person, Now, If cutting the heart out of another human being, a newly begotten human being’s heart begins to beat at 18 days after fertilization of the human egg by the human sperm, is not barbaric, then the word has no meaning. Yes, abortion is human sacrifice.

  • In ancient times, when Charlton Heston played Moses, the characters knew the proper pronoun cases.

  • Comment of the week Kmbold! Take ‘er away Sam!

  • The Film Stinkeroo Hall of Fame!

    Several Christmases ago I went looking for a DVD of the 1958 film Gigi as a gift for my wife. The salesperson had no idea what I was talking about, and kept trying to sell me the 2003 film Gigli! We don’t have a dog, but I know what would have happened if I came home with Gigli for Christmas.

  • Re: Dune: Imagine how well this could be re-done today. I still watch the old one if it comes on. Guy McClung

  • Kmbold: “In ancient times, when Charlton Heston played Moses, the characters knew the proper pronoun cases.”
    As beautiful as The Ten Commandments was, God’s Name is: “I AM WHO I AM”. “that” and “which” and “it” cannot denote, identify or demonstrate a human being, a sovereign person, made in the image of God and especially God.

  • So true. My own reference was to the misuse of the personal pronoun in the dialogue of the video herein: Egyptian: “We’ll see who is more effective at killing, you or me.” As you well know, it should be “you or I”. Honestly, one expects so much more from royalty than one gets.

  • I don’t think Dune was bad because of when it was made. At least, I don’t remember its special effects being a problem. I thought the ship designs were amazing. I haven’t run across it on tv in a long time, but I’d definitely watch it again. It was interesting.

Fury: A Review

Monday, December 1, AD 2014

And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? and who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here am I, send me.  

Isaiah 6: 8   

If a man loves the world, the love of the
Father ain’t in him. For all in the
world, lust of the flesh, lust of the
eyes, the pride of life, is not of the
Father. But of the world.

Don “Wardaddy” Collier quoting John 2:15



I saw the movie Fury with my family on Saturday.  It is a superb, albeit grueling, look at an American tank crew in Germany in April 1945.  Go below for my review.  The usual caveat as to spoilers applies.

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3 Responses to Fury: A Review

  • I wonder if I would have the courage to say in the face of certain death, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”

  • I might Paul, but the temptation would be strong to say this is crazy and head for the hills.

  • “”Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”” This is the agenda of the film. Keep your “ideals” but do not take up arms against injustice. “Violence” and “armed force” are two distinct and opposing concepts. If St. Michael had not driven Lucifer from heaven with armed force, souls would have two Supreme Sovereign Beings, only One Infinite Being.

6 Responses to Noah: A Review

  • Whenever Noah is mentioned, I always recall a 7-year old at my convent school asking Sœur Marie-des-Anges if Joan of Arc was Noah’s daughter.

    “No,” replied the good sister, “Remember, Noah’s ark was made of wood and St Joan of Arc was Maid of Orléans” – No bad, for someone who did not have English as her mother tongue.

  • Thank you Donald for saving me the aggravation, time, and even the needless expense my watching this non-seasonal turkey would have cost. Russell Crowe should perhaps confine his talents to the Coliseum.

  • O Hollywood . . .

    The most recent occasion for me paying $$ to see a flick was some horror movie in June 2013. Before that it was the third LotR movie. No, wait! The warden and her sister/bro-in-law dragged (kicking and screaming) me to see “Lincoln.” Someone else paid. So, It was okay.

    However, if the movie “Unbroken” is half as good as the book, I could actually “spring” to see it.

  • T.Shaw, I suspect you would enjoy the movie Fury. I saw it today with my family and I will be reviewing it in a few days.

  • I can’t help but be resolved to the conclusion that Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings will be just as bad. The cynic in me asks, “How else was he able to raise the money to make this flick?”
    I hope I’m wrong, but, the track record of Hollywood pretty much makes this a safe bet. (Instead of rock people, maybe there will be bread people, who leave the manna in the desert!)

  • Mac, my Uncle Tom (RIP) was a tanker in North Africa, Sicily and Italy – all the way up the Italian boot. He ended the war in the Po Valley Campaign.

    I’ve read several on-line reviews that highly recommend “Fury.” I will place more faith in your review.

    My father (RIP) picked it up in a second-hand book store. I again read a short (like a coffee table or year book) division history of the 83rd (Thunderbolt) Inf. Div. in WWII ETO published immediately after the war, and written (including pencil sketches and photos) by unit personnel. The men’s courage, perseverance and skill are on display.
    I will mail the book to my son in the 101st.

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

And All His Empty Promises

Monday, August 11, AD 2014



Back when I was a boy, I watched entirely too much television.  Of course, who could blame me?  Tempted by a luxuriant three, count them, three channels, albeit one of them fuzzy in bad weather, to choose from!  However, I do not regret watching the Early Show on Channel 3.  Back in those bygone days, many stations would run old movies from the thirties, forties and fifties, between 3:00 PM-5:00 PM.  Thus I first experienced some of the classics of cinema, and one of my favorites was Double Indemnity, 1944, the first of the film noire genre. Adultery and murder were perhaps too mature topics for me in my initial pre-teen viewings, but I was fascinated by it because it seemed to be a playing out on screen of what I was learning at the time from The Baltimore Catechism:  that sin will lead inevitably to destruction unless contrition and amendment are made.   The film was fortunate to have at its center three masters of the craft of acting.


Fred MacMurray, born in Kankakee, Illinois, 37 miles from my abode, in 1907, was a good guy in real life and usually in reel life.  A firm Catholic and staunch Republican, he tried to join the military after Pearl Harbor but a punctured ear drum kept him out of service.  He adopted a total of four kids with his two wives:  his first wife dying from cancer in 1953, and his second wife remaining his wife until his death.  (Such fidelity was as rare in Hollywood then as it is now.)  On screen MacMurray played to type and was almost always a good guy, but not always, and it is ironic  that the two best performances of his career came when he played bad guys:  weak, lustful and doomed Walter Neff in Double Indemnity and the scheming, cowardly Lieutenant  Thomas Keefer in The Caine Mutiny.


Barbara Stanwyck had a Dickensian childhood from which she was lucky to emerge alive, her mother dying of a miscarriage and her father going off to work on the Panama Canal and never being heard from again.  A series of foster homes followed, which Ruby Catherine Stevens, as Stanwyck was then named, constantly ran away from.  Dropping out of school at 14 to begin working, she never looked back.  Breaking into show business by becoming a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies at age 16, she was a star on broadway in the play Burlesque before she turned 20.  Changing her name to Barbara Stanwyck, she broke into films immediately thereafter, displaying a flair for both drama and comedy, specializing in strong independent women.  Her personal, as opposed to her professional, life was a mess.  Married in 1928 to her Burlesque co-star Frank Fay, they adopted a son, Stanwyck having been rendered sterile by an abortion at 15.  The marriage ended in divorce in 1935, Fay during the marriage often slapping Stanwyck around when he was drunk. Stanwyck got custody of their son.  Stanwyck was a hovering and authoritarian mother, leading to a life long alienation from her son after he became an adult.  Stanwyck married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and, after numerous acts of infidelity on both sides, divorced in 1950.  Ironically Stanwyck and Taylor did stay friends after their divorce, Stanwyck, who never remarried, referring to him as the true love of her life.  In her politics Stanwyck was a staunch conservative Republican who supported the investigations of Congress into Communist infiltration into Hollywood.  Remaining in demand as an actress almost until her death in 1990, she filled her last years with charitable work.  Stanwyck was well equipped by her own tumultuous life to give depth to her portrayal of the murderous, scheming Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.


Although remembered today chiefly for his gangster roles and his portrayal of the rat-like Dathan in The Ten Commandments, Edward G. Robinson was actually an actor with a very broad range of work:  comedies, dramas, historical epics, you name it.  By 1944 he was age 51 and realized that his days as a leading man were coming to a close.  His half comedic role as the insurance claims adjuster Barton Keyes in Double Indemnity he viewed as a step in his transition to being a character actor.  Always a liberal, Robinson was blacklisted in Hollywood due to his affiliation with Communist front groups.  Robinson admitted as much by an article he wrote for the American Legion Magazine entitled “How the Reds Made a Sucker Out of Me”.  His comeback came when anti-Communist director Cecil B. DeMille, who thought that Robinson had been treated unfairly, cast him in the scene-stealing role of Dathan in The Ten Commandments.


Spoiler alerts in regard to the following:

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5 Responses to And All His Empty Promises

  • “We forget however that sin is often its own punishment”
    Sin is its own punishment.

  • MacMurray was definitely one of the good guys. His second wife, June Haver, was a young actress who had worked with Fred once when she was 18. She later left Hollywood to become a Sister of Charity. She took leave from the convent and was praying a novena for her vocation when she ran into the now-widower MacMurray again.

  • A big fan of old movies…I love(d) both those guys!

  • For the wages of sin is death – Romans 6:23a

  • The plot/story of “Double Indemnity” came from a 1935 serial novel by James M. Cain (1892-1977), who is perhaps best known for his earlier stand-alone novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. Cain was born to an Irish Catholic family from Annapolis, Md. and worked for several newspapers before taking up fiction. He was married 4 times and divorced 3 times in an era when remarriage after divorce incurred automatic excommunication, so I’m guessing he wasn’t a practicing Catholic for most of his life; but he could have absorbed Catholic concepts of sin and its consequences as a result of his upbringing.

    Cain’s inspiration for “Double Indemnity” was a sensational murder case he covered as a journalist. In 1927 Ruth Snyder, a housewife from Queens, conspired with her lover Judd Gray to kill her husband Albert and claim his life insurance benefits. The couple’s lame attempts to pass off Albert’s murder as having been committed by an intruder fooled no one, and both were convicted and sentenced to death. The New York Daily News ran a front-page photo of Ruth at the moment of her death in the Sing Sing electric chair that was and still is one of the most infamous instances of tabloid journalism. That case, perhaps. proved the veracity of a favorite saying of another Catholic blogger of note: “Sin makes you stupid.”

8 Responses to America: A Review

  • God often does not chose the virtuous and the holy to bring a message. Sometimes the person is very self-destructive. Jonah comes to mind. Maybe after D’Souza has spent some time in the belly of the whale that is the Federal Penitentiary, he will straighten up and fly right. Oh what a pun for right he flies! 😉

  • IIRC, d’Souza’s adulteries were subsequent to being tossed aside by his 1st wife Given what we’ve seen over the last year re the IRS, I would not buy it if the Justice department were to assert that his (selective) prosecution were not politically motivated.

    D’Souza has a talent for producing entertaining political propaganda that makes a profit. He may eventually have as much impact

    He’s 55. I recall seeing his name in print when I was in high school 30+ years ago. His old confederates at the Dartmouth Review have gone into various other occupations while d’Souza has worked as an opinion journalist. I tend to doubt a man his age will have all that much more impact than he has to date.

  • We enjoyed the movie. The importance of “Americanism” committees on school boards came up inout discussion afterwards. Maybe those committees who check textbooks for anti American propaganda in textbooks are a thing of the past. We still had one at our kid’s school in Nebraska in the 80’s, 90’s and ’10s.
    Zinn and his ilk have been very successful in forming youngsters in this country. Proverb 22:6 “Train the young in the way they should go;even when old, they will not swerve from it.” Trying to talk with some of our younger relatives over the Fourth we found just how much they have been led away from a positive view of America.

  • I hope that he will use his time in the slammer for prayer and reflection. God has given him many gifts, but his self destructive behavior, if it continues, will in time eclipse them all.
    Very well put and a cautionary tale for us all.
    Review, that’s well and good, but where is America now headed?
    From her current path, it appears that she is determined to share in The Fate of Nations Forgetful of God [cf. Ps 9]

  • In the case of conquest, we must distinguish between possession, which is a fact and ownership, which is a right.
    According to the Institutes (2:1 ”ea quae ex hostibus capimus iure gentium statim nostra fiunt” [“by the law of nations, what we take from the enemy at once becomes ours] The reason is obvious enough; ownership, or any other right, can only exist within the context of a legal order, but there is no legal order common to enemies. Now, to conquer means to give laws, superseding those that exist, except insofar as the conqueror chooses to continue them.

    Property laws can differ greatly; the Classicist, Charles Rollin (1661-1741), reminds us, “Theft was permitted in Sparta. It was severely punished among the Scythians. The reason for this difference is obvious: the law, which alone determines the right to property and the use of goods, granted a private individual no right, among the Scythians, to the goods of another person, whereas in Sparta the contrary was the case.”

    Mirabeau, speaking of property, by which he means ownership and its derivatives, says rightly, “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens” This accords with St Thomas’s teaching, “the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3) Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

  • An interesting footnote about this movie. My cousin, heavy metal rocker Dave Mustain sings and plays the national anthem in America.

  • I would like to see the movie, but won’t with two little boys at home.

    First, “we” didn’t steal land from any Indians. There was no United States to steal land when the English, French and Spanish were colonizing. If anyone “stole”, it was them. Given that the Indians usually fought each other, they had the misfortune to come across an adversary with superior technology, economics and military might. Thus has it always been in our world.

    Cortez and his Tlaxcalan Indian allies, without which he had no hope of success, took on and defeated the Aztec empire and their human sacrifice practices.

    Illegal immigration is due to the failed nations to our South. Mexico has intermittently been a basket case since it achieved independence from Spain. The USA offered money for the land lost in the Mexican-American War (certainly a shameful episode in US history) and in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, payment for territory that was sparsely populated or controlled by Mexico (who took it from Spain just a few decades earlier) was made.

    The US bought Florida from Madrid. It is a shame that Madrid did not sell Cuba to Washington as well.

  • I just saw the movie and thought it was quite good. In all my meager Civil War studies I had never read anything about black slave owners! I don’t remember it being in Kens Burns’ documentary either . . .

    Stephen E Dalton – I usually can’t stand it when a singer showboats the national Anthem, I’d prefer they just sing it straight (its not about them etc), but your cousin’s rendition was Wonderful!!!

Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Thursday, July 3, AD 2014

For those of you who want some patriotic movies to watch over the long Fourth of July weekend here are some suggestions for viewing.  Longtime readers of this blog will see that this differs somewhat from earlier lists of top ten patriotic movies with some additions and deletions.  Feel free to suggest additional movies in the comboxes.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.


8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.


7.      Saving Lincoln (2013)-  Overshadowed by the Lincoln film of 2012, this rendition of Lincoln’s years as President is first rate.

The human cost of the War is always at the core of the film, as we see in the delivery of the Gettysburg Address where some of the members of the crowd hearing Lincoln are holding pictures of soldier relatives who have died.

Lincoln in the film comes to believe that he will die in office and accepts his fate, hoping that God will spare him until his work is accomplished.


6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

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5 Responses to Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

Monday, June 30, AD 2014

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.


Shelby Foote


I agree with historian Shelby Foote that it is impossible to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War, and it is “therefore fitting and proper” that over the Fourth Civil War movies come to mind.  This is a repeat of a post I originally did in 2011, with changes to some of the video clips.


10.   Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-We begin with a non-Civil War movie with the video clip at the beginning of this post.  In 1908 English Bulter Charles Ruggles, well played by actor Charles Laughton, comes to work in the American West.  It is a hilarious fish out of water comedy, as Ruggles, with his culture and British reserve comes face to face with the Wild West.  While living in America, Ruggles becomes interested in American history, and becomes a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  When he recites the Gettysburg Address, the impact on his listeners is obvious, and reminds us that for Americans the Civil War will never be a matter simply relegated to books or memory, but is something that still has a vast impact on us to this day.



9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, ” A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”



8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.



7.    The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid. Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg. John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest. Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech: Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’. You think our boys are asleep down here. Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.

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13 Responses to Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

  • Thanks so much for these titles. We are living overseas this 4th & I appreciate the suggestions for some real American movies!

  • Thank you Pam! An American rarely appreciates being an American more than when they are living abroad.

  • Gone With the Wind is only one of two movies to which I have had multiple conflicting reactions. It depicts idealism, arrogance, chivalry, racism, stupidity, and many other virtues and sins. Every time I see it I walk away with different feeling than I had before. The only constant is admiration for Mammy as the moral center of the O’Hara family.

    The other movie? Dr. Strangelove

  • Runners-up:
    Shenandoah A fine story, just a little fluff, but a bit constrained by its roots in theater.
    Lincoln had a few historical inaccuracies, and Daniel Day-Lewis hammed up a couple of scenes, but a pretty good movie nonetheless.

  • If I were redoing the list both Lincoln (2012) and Saving Lincoln (2013) would have places of honor on the list.

  • Just asked my wife, a big movie fan, to guess what was on the list. She got only three of them (I think she had blocked out The Horse Soldiers because of the amputation scene – that was the first thing she said about that movie when I named it). She mentioned my two runners-up, along with a third I have not seen: Cold Mountain.

  • I don’t know, I just read the Wikipedia synopsis of Cold Mountain and the plot seems pretty bizarre. I better tell her gently…

  • How could there even be a Civil War, when “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”?
    The citizens enjoyed their hard won freedom, but refused to share their freedom with others, like the rich man in the Gospel who refused to share his wealth with Lazarus.

  • I didn’t care for Cold Mountain, but it’s depiction of the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg makes it worthy of honorable mention.

    And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
    Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    But it should be.

  • “And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

    The War was a strong theme throughout the movie, as typified by this brilliant piece of dialogue:

    Major Dundee: Do you expect me to believe these Apaches
    will turn against their own families?
    Track down their own people?

    Samuel Potts: Why not?
    Everyone else seems to be doing it.

  • “Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    But it should be.”

    If it hadn’t been a miniseries it would have had a place, if only for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Lincoln:

  • Major Dundee was not only a great civil war themed movie. It was also a brilliant allegory of the US in general. Complicated. Diverse. Mixes of loyalties, strengths, and failures. Perhaps too optimistic about our ability to pull together against a common enemy.

    I have not seen the movie in a long time, but if memory serves, the survivors of Dundee’s unit cross back into Texas in April 9, 1865, right after Lee’s surrender

  • Yep, after they unite to fight the French, short circuiting a long anticipated show down between the Union and Confederate troops.

Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies for the Fourth of July

Tuesday, June 24, AD 2014

Fortnight For Freedom 2014



Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams




This is a repeat from a post last year, with some very slight modifications, but I think the logic behind the post still holds true.  As we are embroiled now in a struggle to preserve our religious liberty, I think the Fourth of July is a good time to recall the price paid to establish our liberties.  It is trite to say that freedom is not free, but it is also true.  A people who forget this eternal lesson will not remain free for long.



A number of feature films and miniseries have been made about the events of the American Revolution.  Here are my top ten choices for Fourth of July viewing:

10.  Ben and Me (1953)- Something for the younger patriots.  Disney put to film the novel of Robert Lawson, Ben and Me, which related how many of Ben Franklin’s bright ideas came from his mouse Amos.  Quite a bit of fun.   Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

9.  The Crossing (2000)-A retelling of Washington’s brilliant crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776 and the battle of Trenton.  This film would rank much higher on my list but for Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of Washington as sullen and out of sorts throughout the movie.  Washington had a temper, and he could give vent to it if provoked, although he usually kept it under control, but the peevish Washington portrayed here is simply ahistoric and mars an otherwise good recreation of the turning point of the Revolution.

8.  John Paul Jones (1959)  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

7.  The Patriot (2000) Finally, a film which depicts the unsung contribution of Australians to victory in the American Revolution!  Actually not too bad of a film overall.  Heath Ledger is quite good as Gibson’s oldest son who joins the Continentals at the beginning of the war against his father’s wishes.  Jason Isaacs is snarlingly good as the evil Colonel Tavington, very loosely based on Banastre Tarleton, commander of Tarleton’s Raiders during the Southern Campaign.  The film of course allows Gibson to carry on his over-the-top vendetta against all things English.  No, the British did not lock up American civilians in churches and burn them alive.  However, the ferocity of the partisan fighting in the South is well depicted, and Banastre Tarleton  at the Waxhaw Massacre earned a reputation for slaughtering men attempting to surrender.  The final battle of the film is based on the battle of Cowpens where General Daniel Morgan decisively defeated Tarleton.

6.  Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)-A John Ford classic starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.  Through the eyes of a young newlywed couple, Fonda and Colbert, the American Revolution on the frontier is depicted in the strategic Mohawk Valley.  Full of the usual Ford touches of heroism, humor and ordinary life.

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Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

Tuesday, June 17, AD 2014

Not a bad list, although I would have had Patton at number one and I would not have included The Great Dictator.  Shakespeare of course has set the standard for all pre-battle speeches:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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9 Responses to Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

  • I definitely agree Patton’s speech should be at or near the top of the list. I’m surprised there are no John Wayne speeches in the list. Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one. 🙂
    IIRC, Travis’ Alamo speech was pretty good. So was the one in We Were Soldiers. I’m sure there are plenty others that would at least beat out Independence Day and the Great Dictator.

  • Glory, on the beach, before the charge of Fort…Wagner(?).

  • Good pick Jonathan. I have always liked the sequence where the white Union troops yell out “Give ’em hell 54th!”

  • “Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one.”

    I have always liked these sequences from the Sands of Iwo Jima which captures the spirit of every DI I have ever known:

  • Me too, Donald. And, I find that I cannot imagine any scene in that movie without Horner’s score.

  • I keep meaning to comment on this thread. Shakespeare owns this category, but Branagh doesn’t pull it off. He’s doing Robin Hood, not Henry V. Too impish, too sentimental.

    Mel is great in that one. There’s something so realistic about the dynamics of that speech. And Bill Pullman has never done a better job in a movie. As for 300, technically, the whole movie is a battle speech.

  • Delivering that speech in 1944 must have felt redundant.

  • Most of the extras were British commandoes who would soon be fighting in France for real. On D-Day many of the Brits in the landing craft had read to them portions of the Band of Brothers speech.

Seven Days in May

Friday, May 9, AD 2014

Hard to believe that it is half a century since the film Seven Days in May (1964) was released.  Directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Rod Serling based on a novel published in 1962, the movie posits a failed coup attempt in the United States, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, played by Burt Lancaster, being the would be coup leader.  Kirk Douglas plays Scott’s aide Marine Corps Colonel Martin Casey who, while agreeing with Scott that President Jordan Lyman’s nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets is a disaster, is appalled when he learns of the proposed coup, and discloses it to the President, portrayed by Frederic March.

The film is an example of liberal paranoia in the early sixties and fears on the port side of our politics of a coup by some “right wing” general.  The film is unintentionally hilarious if one has served in our military, since the idea of numerous generals agreeing on a coup and keeping it secret, even from their own aides, is simply ludicrous.  Our military leaks like a sieve, and general officers almost always view each other as competitors for political favor, rather than as co-conspirators.

Ironies abound when the film is compared to reality:

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7 Responses to Seven Days in May

  • I remember reading the book as a teenager. One thing that struck me about it was that it seemed to not regard American society as very resilient. As I recall, the conspirators set up a secret base in the New Mexico desert and train a unit there to take over the five locations on American soil that will allow them to impose a military government. Five!

    The novel too was set in the 1970’s. It totally missed the Sino-Soviet split (Allen Drury’s novel Advice and Consent was a much more accurate predictor in this regard), and so it did not predict the end of the U.S. opposition to Korean-Vietnam ‘wars of liberation’. As I recall a North Iran – South Iran war was just winding down in the novel; it was presented as a fact of life.

    Don, I don’t think that LBJ really received much opposition from his generals on Vietnam, not in the sense that they wanted to avoid it. My recollection of the history is that Matt Ridgeway did a study at the time of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu which showed that victory in Vietnam would take the allocation of 2 million men for 20 years. Eisenhower read the study (he knew how to, after all) and thus resisted pressure to intervene. Ten years later the only military misgivings were over White House decisions on Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries, slow bombing escalations, and micromanagement (in all of which the military was correct, BTW).

    I think that a liberal society (and we are that in the classical sense of the word) does need to once in awhile to engage in this fantasy, as long as we realize that is what it is. There is a good scene in the novel which I don’t think made it into the movie, where General Scott has been confronted by the President and admits to the conspiracy, and justifies it due to the latest Soviet treaty-breaking. The president asks the general what he would do as president, the general takes charge and creates a list of action items, and then the president shows the general his list: it is virtually the same. This exchange was perhaps the major factor in getting the general to back down.

    In the novel the generals are not fascists, they are just classical liberals gone bad, good conservative men made desperate by seemingly desperate times. Rewrite for today’s deranged audiences and you would get fascists, and the commies would probably be the good guys in cloaks. It is still possible to see the novel with a certain nostalgia.

  • “Don, I don’t think that LBJ really received much opposition from his generals on Vietnam, not in the sense that they wanted to avoid it.”

    Typical of the skepticism of the generals was Lyman Lemnitzer who was chairman of the joint chiefs until 1962. He did not want to commit ground troops to Vietnam unless all assets were on the table including nukes.


    Many generals suspected that Vietnam would be a half hearted effort as it turned out to be. While they were fighting it they fought to win, but most of them had few illusions that the administration back in Washington was willing to do what it would take to win.

  • I recall that Admiral Arthur Radford wanted nukes on the table for the possible 1954 intervention. Matt Ridgeway didn’t think much of it. The JCS went through a similar debate during the Chinese intervention in Korea, with Omar Bradley saying “what if they just keep coming?” Properly dispersed, mass infantry units would have not been particularly affected by the blast effects of the early atomic weapons, and such units would still have been combat effective until the delayed radiation effects set in. Of course, this all changed with thermonuclear weapons, so Lemnitzer was more justified than Radford was. But there was still an element in the U.S. military that viewed nuclear weapons as a terror weapon that was closely tied to the Japanese experience, and this element was afraid that if the weapons were used in different settings with different results the fear of them among U.S. adversaries might diminish.

    Another interesting story is General George Marshall’s reaction to the immediate aftermath of the Nagasaki bombing. Marshall concluded that the first two bombs had been wasted because the Japanese government had still not surrendered. He advised against dropping the third bomb (the core was being readied for shipment) on a city and favored saving them for tactical use in the invasion. A week later, of course, events proved Marshall’s judgment to have been premature. See http://www.usni.org/store/books/ebook-editions/hell-pay for more details.

  • Don

    The quote I remember from the novel, the guard refusing entrance to an unauthorized person. “PFC is not a policy level position.”

    The plot is rather hackneyed, but presented a place for starting discussions.

    The way the US military is set up, except for self selection, officers are recruited form all across the political spectrum. While there would be little support anywhere, my unscientific observant ones who would be most likely to object strongly to a coup attempt are politically conserative.

  • “ones who would be most likely to object strongly to a coup attempt are politically conservative.”

    They would tend to be the ones who take an oath to the Constitution most seriously. In addition everyone in the military has the concept of civilian control of the military drummed into them. I remember in Army ROTC training that was part of lesson one on the first day.

  • What I could perceive happening is that Obama could invent a self-inflicted coup against himself and his administration and then use the honest American citizen to raise him up.

  • There is a story that Nixon met with the Joint Chiefs a few weeks before he resigned, and in a very roundabout way attempted to feel them out on supporting him in office in a post-impeachment trial situation, which in effect would have been a passive coup. Apparently the Chief’s commitment to civilian rule plus Nixon’s evasive language caused the comments to go right over their heads. One Chief did pick up on the feeler and later, outraged, brought it up with his fellows. The rest said, no, Nixon never said such a thing. It’s hard to say whether there is much truth to this story, but if true it again shows the U.S. military’s true commitment to the American constitutional order. They couldn’t even see a coup plot unless their noses were rubbed in it.

Jesus The Water of Life

Saturday, April 12, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  One of the most powerful depictions of Christ on film from the movie Ben Hur (1959).  A wonderful melding of music and dialogue as Christ goes silently to the aid of Ben Hur and gives him water.  The wordless encounter between Christ and the Centurion was amazing, as the Centurion’s face registers bewilderment, shame and curiosity as he has a totally unexpected encounter with the Divine.  Whatever the actor who played the Centurion was earning that day, it wasn’t nearly enough.

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8 Responses to Jesus The Water of Life

  • Very moving clip.
    The centurion telling Jesus; “No water for him”…and the look, the double take. Very moving.
    “God help me.” Amen.

  • Wonderful. I’ve never seen that movie – that scene blessed me. Movies are such a powerful way to teach- and D. McClarey seems to be able to find the best stuff.

  • “WHO” is the only designation to be assigned to the sovereign person. Otherwise, all human rights and immortality are denied, since the immortal human soul is denied. Use of “which” or “that” as designation of the sovereign person is the denial of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. (John 4: 28, 29)

  • Ben-Hur may well be the greatest movie of its genre, the gorgeous, cinematic movies set around the background of the Roman Empire, that no one seems able to make anymore.

  • The other encounter between Jesus and Judah Ben Hur that I’ve always found moving is when they’re looking at each other across the valley as the crowd gathers for the Sermon on the Mount. The camera starts behind Ben Hur looking across the valley at Jesus on top of the hill, then, as he starts to walk away, the camera cuts to behind the head of Jesus, Who follows Ben Hur as he walks across the screen. And you just know the He knows what’s in Ben Hur’s heart at that moment.
    One of my all time absolute favorite movies. Not even Gore Vidal could ruin it for me.

  • The author of the book “Ben Hur”, Gen. Lew Wallace, was an avowed atheist whose original intent in going to the Holy Land and investigating was to prove that Jesus was a fraud. He instead discovered the Risen Christ, a division surrendered to Him.

  • Charlton Heston was a great actor and a good man, His performance in that scene is unforgettable and the depiction of Christ wonderfully reminds us He is always there when we need Him, ever there at our side, at our right and left before us behind us, ever all around us.

  • Pingback: How Fasting & Prayer Blessed Me this Lent - BigPulpit.com

Gravity and God

Saturday, March 22, AD 2014

 I mean I’d pray for myself, but I’ve never prayed—nobody ever taught me how.

Dr. Ryan Stone, Gravity

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.

Sir Isaac Newton


Something for the weekend.  The Hank Williams, Jr. tune Angels Are Hide to Find from the movie Gravity (2013).  I picked up a copy of the movie Gravity, not expecting much, and assuming that I would probably quickly resell it on e-bay.  Somehow I had managed to read nothing about the film.  I was astonished at how much I enjoyed the film and how much it had to say about the human condition.  My review is below and the usual caveat about spoilers apply.

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3 Responses to Gravity and God

  • Gravity was an excellent film. My beloved Filipino Bride and I went to see this while I was courting her.

  • Writer Andrew Klavan had much the same reaction.

  • To be accurate LT USN would be the equivalent of Capt USA. Both O-3s. I don’t recall any USN LTJGs, or USAF and USMC 1Lts in my husband’s Navy Test Pilot School class. There were however Army Chief Warrant Officers and Capts in the class.
    Good call, Don as the Clooney character would be a bit junior in rank to have gone through flight training, a fleet squadron tour, test pilot school and NASA training. Sounds like Gravity is a worthwhile flick to view. I always think that one must feel very close to our Creator whether in the cockpit on a very high altitude flight or on a space mission. Myself I’ll have to settle for the serenity of a silent snowfall in the countryside.

Major Dundee

Saturday, March 8, AD 2014



Something for the weekend.  A musical medley from the movie Major Dundee (1965).  Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

Here is a fan made trailer for the restored edition that was released in 2005 that included much of the footage that was cut over Pekinpah’s protests:


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4 Responses to Major Dundee

  • Sadly, the studio (or whomever it was –I don’t have a copy of the restoration) went and wrecked the restoration with a new score that in my opinion is inferior to the original.

    I love the director’s cut of The Wild Bunch. The extended edition of Major Dundee, not so much.

    Having said that: Charlton Heston at his monotone staccato best. “I have three orders of march….”

  • I have the restored version and I agree that the new score is a waste. Fortunately you have the option of playing it with the original score which is what I did when I viewed it for the umpteenth time last Friday night.

    The dialogue is brilliant throughout the film. I greatly enjoy this exchange between Heston and Jim Hutton, portraying Lieutenant Graham, the archetype of eager young shavetails everywhere and everywhen:

    Maj. Amos Dundee: Lieutenant Graham?

    Lt. Graham: Yes, sir.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: I gave you a specific order, and you failed to carry it out.

    Lt. Graham: No, sir, you gave me a command. I gave the orders from then on.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: You surely did, Lieutenant. Have a cigar.

  • (sin of omission identified and repented) (Major Dundee placed into Netflix queue) Here’s hoping for an enjoyable penance.

  • 1965 was a busy year, moving from New Jersey to New Hampshire, I missed the movie. Somewhere, I have an old “Charlton Heston is my President” bumper sticker. He died April 5, 2008, with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side, a favorite actor and a decent man. Rest in Peace.

Battle of the Siler River

Saturday, March 1, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  The battle of the Siler River sequence from the movie Spartacus (1960).  I have always marveled at the skillful use of music as we see the Romans marching in their checkerboard formations.

The culminating battle of the Third Servile War, Crassus and ten legions, about 32,000 men, confronted the remnants of the slave army under Spartacus, approximately 50,000 men.

Our sources for the battle of the Siler River, like most of the Third Servile War, are poor and contradictory.  That the battle was bloody and that the Romans won are two of the three facts that we can be sure of.  The remaining fact that we can be certain of is that Crassus took the 6,000 survivors and crucified them from the site of the battlefield, up the Via Appia, to the gates of Rome.  Crassus probably viewed this as a publicity stunt to gain the consulship and it worked, Pompey, home victorious from a long war against revolting Roman settlers in Spain, being the other consul.  However, perhaps even some members of the Senate viewed Crassus’ cruelty to the survivors as excessive.  Crassus was denied a Triumph in Rome and had to settle for an Ovatio, very much a second class military honor.

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2 Responses to Battle of the Siler River

  • Under Romulus, the legion consisted of 3,000 foot and 300 horse. Thereafter, the number varied, until the reforms of Gaius Marius, who fixed it at 6,200 foot (61 centuries, the Headquarters century being a double one) and 700 horse.

    Of course, a legion was not always at full strength, and would often have only 50 or 60 men to a century.

    The cohort was primarily an administrative unit and the smallest to be detached for garrison duties &c It had its own cavalry wing, engineers, signallers and artificers. The tactical unit was the maniple of two centuries, three to a cohort.

    The Romans had no stirrups (a Mongol invention) and, accordingly, their cavalry were lightly armed and used to “cover and discover.” The tallest skeletons discovered are about 14 hands and the canon bones suggest a weight of no more than 500 kg. Contrast that with the mediaeval charger of 17 or 18 hands and weighing upwards of 1,100 kg. Their modern descendants are the Percheron, the Belgian and the Clydesdale.

  • “Of course, a legion was not always at full strength, and would often have only 50 or 60 men to a century.”

    Correct. I assume that disease would take a goodly toll of newly raised legions even before they got into combat, something that happened in all armies until the onset of modern medicine. Under the Republic new legions tended to be raised rather than replacements sent to veteran legions, since this opened up more positions for officers and ambitious politicians.


Saturday, January 4, AD 2014

A prayer’s as good as a bayonet on a day like this.

Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, Zulu



Tony Rennell at the Daily Mail Online has a grand salute to one of the greatest war flicks:  Zulu:

Yet Zulu thankfully avoids taking sides in this moral morass. It doesn’t play on manufactured guilt, or lecture and hector us from some anachronistic ethical high ground. It avoids self-righteous, self-serving politics and pays pure and simple tribute to human endeavour.

The moment that, for me, elevates it into a different dimension is when a young British soldier stares open-mouthed at the huge enemy  army encircling Rorke’s Drift. The situation looks hopeless, and death — skewered agonisingly in the dust — a certainty.

‘Why does it have to be us?’ he wails. ‘Why us?’

The handlebar-moustachioed colour sergeant next to him, erect and unflinching, could have replied with windy patriotic zeal and flag-waving imperialist grandeur.

Instead, this paragon of British backbone — played incomparably by Nigel Green — says calmly: ‘Because we’re here, lad. Just us. Nobody else.’

His is the authentic voice of  soldiering through the centuries — as true today for our troops in Afghanistan as it was for Queen Victoria’s footsoldiers. Men doing their duty, facing death because that’s their job. No hint of glory. No pleasure in killing.

British grit holds out against  hopeless odds, and defeat is turned to triumph of a sort. But war, we   conclude, is always terrible, an evil — if sometimes a necessary one.

And there is a price to pay for the victors as well as the defeated. As the smoke of guns disperses over the final battle scene, the British  soldiers stare in horror at the piled-up bodies of Zulu around their  sand-bagged last redoubt.

They are not triumphant but appalled at the ‘butcher’s yard’ — as Lt Chard  (Stanley Baker) puts it — which they have inflicted. ‘I feel sick,’ says Lt Bromhead (Caine), ‘and ashamed.’

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4 Responses to Zulu!

  • To read Lt Chard’s account, we find that the movie very accurately conveys the sense that they were better off than they might have first thought with the desertions that occurred before the Zulus engaged.
    Fine movie!
    Good advice for all in these difficult times, from the Colour Sergeant:
    “Look to your front!”
    and “Nobody told you to stop working.”

  • “Look to your front!”
    and “Nobody told you to stop working.”

    Words to live by!

  • Dieu et mon droit. Things are rarely as bad as they seem nor as good.

    Despair is a sin against Hope.

    “An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:” from “Fuzzy Wuzzy” (in the Sudan Fuzzy Wuzzy broke a British square!) by Rudyad Kipling.

    Less than 24 hours before the Rourke’s Drift fight, a main column of Brit regulars and auxilliaries were massacred at Isandlhwana. The reports show that the regulars were spread too thin and could not be sufficiently supplied with cartidges to keep at bay the cold steel wielded by (relatively) huge numbers of brave athletes.

    That was worse than the Litte Big Horn.

    I have the excellent book, The Washing of the Spears, which details the war.

    The generals finally figured out how to beat the Zulu mobile assegai men. Years later, the Boers (“The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,” again Kipling) similarly roughed up the vaunted sassenach regulars.

    “The Three Feathers ” is also a good Brit (Khartoum/Omdurman) war movie.

  • The uniforms are wrong. The soldiers are dressed as if for a parade and Chard and Bromhead look as if they have just stepped out of a military tailor’s circa 1900. Rank badges were different in 1879, and worn on the collar. On campaign the sun helmets were stained brown with tea and had no plate, and the soldiers would be wearing a red serge “frock”. Most were bearded – a photograph of Chard shows him looking like an Old Testament prophet. Officers tended to wear blue patrol jackets, but at Rorke’s Drift Chard was wearing a short RE shell jacket and Bromhead an ordinary soldier’s tunic.

    Some 1960s sentiments and assumptions strike a false note. The soldiers would not have been horrified by the slaughter, in fact they went out after the battle and cheerfully despatched the wounded Zulus with bullet or bayonet. Surgeon Reynolds’s outburst: “Damn you Chard! Damn all you butchers!” would not have been uttered in that or any other war. Both Chard and Bromhead were regarded as mediocre officers; the latter was almost totally deaf and was described as “a capital fellow in everything except soldiering”. The real hero of Rorke’s Drift was Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton, aged 45 in 1879. It was he who persuaded Chard not to abandon the post and who organized the defence. He was, incidentally, a Catholic.

    There are similarities between Isandhlwana and Little Big Horn. Both Chelmsford and Custer underestimated the number of their opponents; both divided their forces. However, the greatest defeat inflicted on a European army by native troops was at Adowa in 1896 where a large Italian force was routed by the Ethiopians. Italian casualties were 11,500 (including 7,000 killed). By the way, Mr Shaw, the Scots and Irish who made up a large part of the British regular army would not have appreciated being referred to as “sassenachs”.