The Horse Soldiers (1959) - Adventure, Romance, War

Hohum Score

11

Watchable

In 1863, a Union outfit is sent behind Confederate lines in Mississippi to destroy enemy railroads but a captive southern belle and the unit's doctor cause frictions within ranks.

IMDB: 7.2
Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, William Holden
Length: 120 Minutes
PG Rating: N/A
Reviews: 7 out of 74 found boring (9.45%)

One-line Reviews (49)

When a military school's cadets are brought into the field to try to catch or slow down John Wayne's men, Ford is really picking up on an incident in the war in Virginia, when the young cadets at the Virginia Military Institute came out to fight the Union troops under Sheridan in 1864.

And The Horse Soldiers is still a fascinating, exciting and expertly told war film.

My initial impression is that the screenplay was poorly written in that we were presented with a number of disjointed events.

"Based on an actual Civil War incident, 'The Horse Soldiers' tells the rousing tale of a troop of Union soldiers who force their way deep into Southern territory to destroy a rebel stronghold at Newton Station.

John Ford directs a stirring cavalry Western of marvellous set pieces and stunning use of landscape.

The battle scenes are excellent and in the case of the battle fought on the main street in one town, quite compelling and sad.

It plainly shows the horrors of war but, somehow, it ultimately manages to be enjoyable and even uplifting.

Although the term "road movie" to categorise films based on journeys was not then in general usage, this fascinating work, with horses replacing cars, stands as one of the genres finest examples.

Compelling civil war drama based on a true event .

Never reaching the lofty heights of Ford's memorable triptych of cavalry epics "Fort Apache", "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" and "Rio Grande" THE HORSE SOLDIERS is nevertheless an engaging Civil War adventure.

She has to be there, because in a formula movie such as this, the fighting is meant for the young male cinema audience and the love interest is built-in so that the girls taken along on dates will keep from getting bored.

" Only in "The Horse Soldiers," Marlowe's tough tone gets tiresome too fast.

But once you start to listen, and just an hour ago, you start to realize that she's frivolous, cranky, repetitive, dull...

Very unrealistic and contrived.

As she leans over, threatening to divulge her engaging décolletage, she says: 'Oh come now, Colonel, a man with a great big frame like yours can't just nibble away like a little titmouse.

I was surprised to learn that John Ford somehow rued the work, as the movie is really very enjoyable, a good and healthy combination of war and romance, espionage and cowardice, hate and compassion.

A very intelligent Confederate Commander, Johnston was nervous at unexpected difficulties.

Ford reduces slaves to just another humorous Southern archetype, dim witted, slow, and only loosly connected to the war and it's outcome.

Some parts of the film are action-packed and exciting, with the men-on-a-mission aspect of the story working well, and the emphasis on pain and injury gives it a grittier edge than usual.

A shrew is tamed, there is a measure of drunken knockabout and the soundtrack pulsates with rousing cavalry tunes and bugle calls.

Not without a few flaws, it's still very interesting and compelling .

And it was Jones also who, three years earlier, had written "The Song Of The Searchers" the stunning ballad sung by The Sons Of The Pioneers over the titles of the Ford/Wayne classic "The Searchers".

The movie might be enjoyable enough for old movie buffs who like John Wayne and the American Civil War.

I have high praise for THE HORSE SOLDIERS, an absorbing, excellent Civil War movie about the Union cavalry during combat and based on some actual battles according to historians.

Enticing and intimate Constance Towers in an enjoyable role , giving a sensational acting .

Beautifully photographed in widescreen and colour by William Clothier the picture also benefited from an atmospheric score by David Buttolph which was made up from an array of rousing cavalry songs.

David Buttolph's music score couldn't have been more superbly fitting, and it is an absolutely outstanding music score in its own right with rousing and affecting use of army choruses that capture the film's mood wonderfully.

Unfortunately, THE HORSE SOLDIERS is poorly served by the R2 MGM DVD I watched – bearing prominent damage marks, dull colors, and defaults to an open-matte presentation to boot!

The doctor who doesn't seem to realise there is a war on, the irritating Southern woman who is just there as a very contrived love interest (and who should have been shot as a spy), the successful attack by a regiment of kids.

It's the sort of Ford film that must have been hard on the actors, riding through swamps on horseback and engaging in fierce battles when pursued by Rebel forces.

A good Civil War western combining magnificent photography, good performances and some rousing battle scenes.

But the antipathy between the two men makes for some engaging confrontations (the usually reticent Holden throwing a drink in Wayne's face, squaring up to him and yelling "OK section hand - I've had it - strip your blouse").

Many of the scenes involving her were so cliché they bordered on the ridiculous.

The lead song is a rousing one as Stan Jones warbles 'I Left My Love,' and the piece is chocked full of interesting characters fleshed with Ford thematics.

Plainly past his conventionality, the Marlowe character gives breathtaking short shrift to the unending pettiness and fallibility he encounters; Kirby, Kendall, congressional wannabes, reb deserters et.

Unfortunately there's a love interest and a war going on that Ford somehow makes dull.

(And it is fascinating to watch some of the same actors in both films.

During the lull in the action, we learn the source of Marlowe's rage against Kendall because two surgeons cut into Marlowe's wife in search of a tumor that they never found.

Throughout there is stunning use of landscape and even more stunning cinematography that make for so many striking, rousing and sometimes poetic images.

The picture ends with an exciting battle between the two sides - the Union army routing the Confederates and making their escape to Baton Rouze.

The biggest error though was the replacement of the fascinating Colonel Ben Grierson with Wayne's railroad man character.

The rest is to see the larger-surgeon Kendall (a bland William Holden) to attend one, two, three, four...

It's one of the only movies John Ford made about the civil war, and he delivers a very entertaining product.

It contains Ford's usual themes as good feeling , a little bit of enjoyable humor , friendship and and sense of comradeship among people .

This was confusing to me because you can't have it both ways.

There is also a compelling sequence, pure John Ford, in which a group of teenage cadets march out from a Southern military academy to take on the enemy, which makes manifest to battle boys and pulls a retreat, leaving the kids cheering...

Even I must admit that Constance Towers's dress which she wore while entertaining the the union officers at her plantation was sensual for this time.

Ford even takes time to vent his spleen at cowards, courtesy of an engrossing sequence involving Strother Martin, while a running theme of surgery, particularly the legs, gives the piece a dramatic and honest historical core.

We get a rousing, manly marching song ("I Left My Love") and Ford's brand of endearing macho humour (bashing heads on the tent lamp, and such).