Customer Review

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The DUKE rides again!, May 13, 2001
This review is from: The Horse Soldiers (DVD)
A wonderful picture of the war between the states, "Horse Soldiers" follows the story of Wayne leading his troopers in an attack deep into enemy territory. Loosely based on a factual event, the Union must cut off the supply lines to Vicksburg. DUKE leads the raid.
This is a fantastic transfer, as others have mentioned. I spotted literally one damaged frame, with a "V" shaped crease in it. The colors blaze off the screeen, and although there are no booklets, inserts, or extras (other than the original trailer), the disc is a real keeper.
Although many see this picture as "Ford-lite," there are several classic Ford touches throughout the film. The opening shot of the calvary marching in a sundown silhouette is stirring. The charge of the child soldiers is a great moment (you see Wayne tip his hat to them as he rides off).
For me, I like the subtle, "hidden" Ford touches in all of his films, which reveal telling information about characters without the overbearing, in-your-face, and just plain heavy-handed direction in today's movies.
In "Horse Soldiers", the dyed-in-the-wool Southern patriot Hannah Hunter has spent several days as prisoner of the Union soldiers. At one point, in order to make her feel better, a soldier gives her a candle for light. Another offers her a fragment of a looking glass. The soldier holds up the broken mirror, and when she looks at her reflection she can see the soldier's Yankee cap over the top of it, as if she wore it herself. That's Ford telling us she's been converted, without slapping us in the face or dumbing it down for us.
You'll see familiar Ford faces pop up here and there, too. Jack Pennick is in just about all of John Ford's westerns. Hank Worden and Ken Curtis will be instantly familiar to fans of "The Searchers". Ken Curtis was also in "Rio Grande" and "The Quiet Man", and is probably best known as Festus on "Gunsmoke".
O.Z. Whitehead was in "The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". Walter Reed was in "Sergeant Rutledge" and "Cheyenne Autumn".
Bing Russell, who plays Dunker, is the man gunned down in the saloon in another DUKE movie, "Rio Bravo".
Of couse, other familiar faces include Storther Martin and Denver Pyle as a pair of Confederate deserters.
This is a really solid cavalry film, with The DUKE in the thick of the action. William Holden is a good match as a foil for DUKE.
For those who say DUKE couldn't act, DUKE has a great scene in the Newton Station bar when he reveals why he doesn't like doctors.
"Horse Soldiers" is an overlooked gem from Ford, only because his more famous films shine that much more.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 9, 2011 8:28:35 PM PDT
I believe this is the best John Wayne movie. Non-fans often say he can't act - let them watch this and they will change their mind! I read a quote of Wayne's on-line, where he said (paraphrasing), 'People used to say I play myself in my movies, well I didn't, I acted; I've got to the stage in my career where I just play myself when I want to' (One can see this thought more obviously in Rio Bravo, for instance. However, in 'The Searchers', Wayne puts on a scorching performance in his facial reaction to seeing some girls who have been left out in the wilds too long, whilst he is looking for his niece, Natalie Wood. This still can be seen in a book called the 60 Greatest Movies). The Horse Soldiers is a movie where Wayne acts in such a diverse and interesting way. For instance, his constant fights with William Holden (the doctor); his interactions with 'Miss Hannah Hunter'; his dealing with the southern soldiers who have deserted and held up the local Sherrif (?) at a barn below southern lines; his loss of temper (culminating in a kick up the arse) with Colonel Secor - appropriate, when one finds out that Wayne's character "used to build engines for a living, you know!" - after Secor boasts of the Union army destroying them at a rail junction town - ; and his explanation of his dislike for doctors to Hannah Hunter at Newton Station (as mentioned above) - Quote goes something like: "And I didn't kill him! I don't know why. Must have been drunk, or too conventional!
The story has adventure, proper cavalry etiquette to learn from (as a non-American), true (in a movie style sense) history with boys being called in to fight and friend vs. friend, humour, and great characters. Including the 'regular' Wayne friend, Hank Worden as 'The Deacon', with more of his classic quotes:e.g. Wayne: Deacon, how far to the river? (Trying to out run southern soldiers).
Deacon (Hank Warden: "I've been baptized, Colonel; I've been baptized!"
The most important factor is an attempt to characterize the brutality of this - or any) civil war - the amputation scene being a standout.

Posted on Mar 9, 2012 6:45:53 AM PST
J. Mcbride says:
you noticed all of those Ford supporting and character actors and didn't notice Hoot Gibson?

Posted on May 5, 2013 12:16:09 PM PDT
JNagarya says:
Wayne always played himself. That's why he's the same film-to-film-to-film.

Moreover, the always-toughtest-guy-in-the-room facade seems to be typical of the draft dodger (though Wayne is outdone in this by loud-mouthed loon Ted Nugent).
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