on May 29, 2004
I love this movie. John Wayne's swagger, William Holden's class, and Constance Towers' charm. They all combine to make an excellent Civil War Movie based on an actually raid that pushed deep into the South.
The movie of course isn't accurate but that doesn't matter. The drama and action are great and there isn't any silly romance to ruin things. Constance Towers' presence helps in the development of John Wayne's character but doesn't slip into any thing that distracts from the main part of the movie.
There are also some great battle scenes. My favorite is the VMI cadet charge. This was also based on a real event that apparently wasn't as big of a deal as in the movie but is still interesting to read about if you get a chance.
I recommend this movie to all John Wayne and Civil War movie buffs.
on May 24, 2003
The Horse Soldiers is a later John Ford cavalry movie in which he joined with John Wayne. Based on a true story, the movie is about a behind the lines mission for Union colonel Marlowe and his cavalry brigade. They are sent deep into enemy territory to destroy an important depot so that the siege of Vicksburg can end sooner. There are well-done action scenes throughout as well as some humor in a few scenes.
John Wayne stars as Colonel Marlowe and is his usual great self. William Holden stars as Major Kendall, a doctor sent along on the mission who cannot get along with the Duke. It is revealed in the movie why Marlowe hates doctors so much. Constance Towers stars as Miss Hannah Hunter, a Southern belle forced to accompany Wayne and his men. Ken Curtis and Hank Worden are excellent as two of Duke's scouts with Denver Pyle and Strother Martin hilarious in a scene as two Confederate hillbillies. The DVD offers a cleaned up version with trailers added on. An excellent and exciting Duke classic well worth the price!
on September 6, 2002
Director, John Ford, seemingly never made a bad movie and the list of his really good ones is long. "The Horse Soldiers" is one of his best. Ford portrayed the cavalry exceptionally well, capturing in near perfect detail the equipment, the formalities and drill, and all of the realities of this long defunct service. His "Cavalry Trilogy", set in the West during the Indian Wars will never, I suspect, be equalled. "The Horse Soldiers", based on a true Civil War event, is very close to the Trilogy in richness of story and characterization. It follows a raid by a large force of Union cavalry deep into the heart of the Confederacy. Wayne plays the role of Col. Marlowe, whose stern dedication to duty and the realities of operating behind enemy lines brings him into conflict with the regiment's idealistic surgeon, played by Willaim Holden. The only negative aspect of this film is the love interest, which was required in films of that time. Constance Towers is a "fifties girl" placed in the middle of a Civil War movie, and it is more than a minor distraction. Modern films like "We Were Soldiers" and "Black Hawk Down" don't have this element because girlfriends don't suddenly appear in the middle of a battle. Be that as it may, this is still a highly entertaining movie. If you like John Ford's work or would like to know why his films are still highly regarded, see this film. Similarly, if you are looking for a good story well told, you will not be disappointed.
on May 6, 2002
I am a Civil War nut, and have seen this film several times, actually. For a Hollywood movie, this is about as authentic as it gets. Yes, the character representing Benjamin Grierson has both a name and civilian occupation difference, and there was neither a commander/doctor conflict nor a romance on the Grierson raid (at least that we know about), but John Ford went a long way to try to make this movie look somewhat accurate, at least. First of all, it was filmed in the approximate areas where the actual events took place. Secondly, it shows the Union commander (Col. Marlowe) splitting his forces and making some of them turn back north to try to deceive rebel forces - which also actually happened. Thirdly, the film uses many black extras who were "local citizens." My only real problems with this movie were its presenting the Grierson raid as having a bit more battle action than it actually did, and that the movie left the "romance" nuts (of which I am also one) wondering whether Col. Marlowe and Hannah Hunter ever did get back together after the war was over. In this sense, I have always wished that John Ford had seen fit to make a sequel, but then I also realize that when it came out, it barely broke even at the box office - so I understand why any director would be reluctant to do a sequel.
on April 14, 2002
To many who look at John Wayne as a one dimentional jingoistic actor this is likely the first film I would show them to change their mind. It is a fine war movie with some great battle scenes, yet it never fails to take away from the viewer the message that war is a terrible thing.
This film adaption of the Grierson's raid during the Vicksburg campaign gives us a close up look at the pain that war causes. Historical license it taken often Grierson the music maker becomes Marloe the engineer. Several battles are added to spice up the script, and the inclusion of the use of the Cadets harkens to a fameous battle a year later in Va.
It also give us pleanty of good subplotting in the roles, both in the ranks particlarly Sergeant Major Kirby who is loads of fun, and among the officers. It also contains some classic lines between Holden as a doctor who is regular army but a doctor first and Wayne a commander who doesn't like war, doesn't like doctors but does what needs to be done. "...the coffee tastes better when the latrines are dug downstream. How do you like your coffee Col?" as usual the actors who I refer to as the "John Wayne Guild" do their usual good supporting jobs.
In closing it is the interaction between Wayne, Towers and Holden, combined with the painting of war as something to be avoided that makes this movie a five stars classis vs just another John Wayne movie.
on December 6, 2001
THE HORSE SOLDIERS is an unusual cavalry movie from director John Ford. Usually Ford gives us an image of the United States Cavalry in all its might and splendor defending the frontier against Indians against the backdrop of Monument Valley. In THE HORSE SOLDIERS the cavalry, again commanded by John Wayne is relegated to a mission during the Civil War deep behind Confederate lines. They are on a mission of mayhem and destruction, which is repugnant to Wayne. This is really contrary to earlier Ford films where the cavalry is a defender of society. William Holden, the doctor assigned to Wayne's staff is there to remind Wayne of just how futile War is and that his own talents as a doctor are being squandered in the conflict. This is actually a great film from Ford and it is a treat because Civil War films have always been too few and far apart. This is a film about duty, loyalties and misconceptions. The images in this film are indelible. The scene where the Confederate military school sends out its young boys to face Wayne's cavalry is unforgettable. The film also asks the viewer through its images some hard questions about the nobility of the Southern society vs. that of the rag tag looking Union cavalry. This is a much deeper film than it appears or has been given credit. As for the DVD, the print is sharp and very attractive looking.
on May 13, 2001
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.
on May 7, 2001
Well, other reviewers have practically said it all, except you can consider that film a ROAD MOVIE by the MASTER JOHN FORD. Loosely based on ACW Grierson's Raid and the novel "The Horse Soldiers" by Harold Sinclair (if interested try to get a copy of them, both the historical record and the novel are good on their own!). I have always found this film much underrated, is a long favorite of mine (and probably has all the battle scenes missing in "Gone with the Wind"), Ford at his usual masterful direction. For me it is the best ACW film ever (the plot uses every excuse to build a resum of the conflict from both sides point of view, not biased at all and without too much clichés). The inclusion of the cadets sequence (without doubt at Ford's sugestion) is based on the famous VMI charge in another historical action. If you liked the Cavalry Trilogy you would like this one (I never understood why with "Sergeant Rutledge" and "Comanche Autumn" we do not consider them the SIX FILMS about the cavalry). I have the chance to have the original soundtrack of the film on an old LP why it is not reissued in CD I will never know... one of the most stirring soundtracks ever!
on April 29, 2001
I first saw THE HORSE SOLDIERS when it was released in theaters in the early 1960s. It's one of those rare films Wayne made where he actually got more emotional about the female lead than his horse. If you like John Wayne in a romantic role this is the film to see (or IN HARM'S WAY with Patricia Neal, or THE QUIET MAN or MCLINTOCK with Maureen O'Hara). Wayne is often labeled as an "action hero" and I suppose he was but he was also funny and a great romantic lead when Hollywood let him be one. Sadly, this film may be overlooked because some fans will think it does not have enough action.
I believe the female lead is Constance Horner, and the chemistry between Horner and Wayne is fabulous. The addition of Holden made the triangle complete.
Wayne an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. He has been assigned to take a calvery unit behind enemy lines to a strategic rail site he is to destroy. The destruction of the rail site will cut off supplies for the enemy and hopefully shorten the war. Wayne is the typical loyal soldier--his is not to question why, his is but to do or die.
Holden is a civilian doctor who has been drafted and he hates the war and everything it stands for. He thinks the carnage is unnecessary and that civilized men should be able to settle things in a more humane way. He is of the school "Rich man's war, poor man's fight." Holden dislikes Wayne and vice versa.
On the way South, the unit stops at a plantation house. Since they are behind enemy lines and traveling fast they are not accompanied by a supply wagon and they must live off the land. The plantation where they stop is occupied by a young woman and her slave Lukie. The plantation mistress (Horner) overhears a discussion amoung the men about their objective, and being discovered, she is forced to accompany the men South. She becomes Holden's helper in the medical sense, but tries at every opportunity to escape so that she can forewarn her breatheren. The tension between the three main actors is fabulous. Over the course of the film it becomes obvious that although they are diametrically opposed in their thinking, Horner and Wayne are falling in love. Of course the good doctor Holden can see what's happening when they can't.
I suppose one thing that makes your heart palpitate a bit, even if you're disabused of the notion that war has it's glorious moments is the beautiful sight of the Union Horse Soldiers. Mounted calvery are one of the most wonderful sights in the world, and when they sing "Round Her Hair She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" well, what can I say. I'm just a romantic at heart.
on April 19, 2001
I remember the advertisement to The Horse Soldiers today as if the movie was just being released. Way back in 1960, the newspaper ads and trailer all bragged of the big showdown between the Duke, and costar, William Holden.Unfortunately, even at 10 years old, the big showdown was more of a letdown, but that is the only negative aspect of this fine, actioner picture, which was directed by the great, John Ford. This was the only Ford picture set during the Civil War, and he did a masterful job. The story line was simple,Union Colonel Wayne leads soldiers deep into Rebel territory, and Holden as the liberal Army Doctor, whose beliefs often conflict with the Duke's. As in many Wayne-Ford pictures, there are many magic little moments in this picture which all combine to a thrilling and heart-stopping conclusion. I firmly recommend the Horse Soldiers,especially on DVD. If you have never seen it in wide-screen format, you are in for a real treat. If you are a John Wayne fan from way back, but have already seen The Horse Soldiers, mount up and join the cavalry ride one more time. And who knows, you may even sing along with them this time.