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In British colonial America, Captain Swanson's adherence to the rules results in Trader Callendar's selling to the Indians under cover of a government permit. Jim Smith won't sit still for that. He organizes troopers to dress up as Indians and intercept the shipments which, of course, gets him thrown in jail. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The DVD releases of this film are in black and white only. See more »
The shooting demonstration done in court was described as taking place at twenty paces. Twenty paces is equal to approximately 60 feet; the shots fired in the film were at approximately 20 feet. See more »
Men, we've fought and won. But in winning we have lost something. In defending one law, we've come to despise all law. And if you go on like this, we'll destroy the very thing we fight for.
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Opening credits prologue:
This is a tale, laid in the Allegheny Mountains, of Jim Smith and his black boys, loyal subjects of His Majesty King George III - and their fight against the Delaware Indians in the year 1759. See more »
Music traditional - English origin (ca. 1755)
Sung by the men at MacDougall's tavern
Reprised by the men after the trial
Variations in the score throughout See more »
English Law and Liberties - American and British Style
I watched this film because, after seeing THE PATRIOT (2000), I wanted to see an another perspective on the American Revolution.
The contrast is refreshing. Whereas Mel Gibson and his bunch of cut-throats often sound and act as if they had come straight out of THE TURNER DIARIES, John Wayne and his own band of irregulars live according to the principles of another gospel - that of law and order, western style. The film is indeed a western, in spite of the geographical and historical settings - the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, 15 years before the Boston Tea Party. More specifically, it is a glorified version of the typical B-movie western of the era, which often starred John Wayne, was often shot in exactly the same locations, and always featured the same formulaic story-line and motley collection of stock characters, such as the soft-spoken community leader, the wild mountaineer who talks and acts so funny, the tomboy love interest, who would like so much to be treated like a guy, but cannot, because she is *only* a girl, etc. The main difference, of course, is one of scale and production value : this is not a cheaply mid-length program filler, but a full-blown feature film in which enough talent and production value has been invested to sustain interest from the beginning to the end, even some 60 years later - and this in spite of a few dated scenes and some awkward moments of political incorrectedness (e.g. the questionable philosophical adage Çthe only friendly Indian is a dead IndianÈ is quoted approvingly).
The film, as suggested above, is based on the central classical theme of the western genre : the implementation of law and order on a wild and untamed country. In this case, however, the familiar story is told with a novel twist. The author of the screenplay has remembered that American law is, in fact, English law, but adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the new country. The pre-Revolutionary setting has provided him with an opportunity to oppose the two understandings of the same legal tradition - the new, American, understanding of English law represented by James Smith (John Wayne), a nation-builder and a free spirit who does not always play by the rules, but abides by the spirit of the law in his attempts to curb illegal liquor and arms trading with Indians, and the old, British, view, as represented by Captain Swanson (George Sanders) an upright, but unimaginative and incredibly obtuse military officer of a far-away Crown who does not seem to know of any other way to apply the law, but to the letter, regardless of common sense and consequences. In his own words : ÇI am a soldier, sir. They could have been carrying the murder of my own father if they had a permit for them. I would have defended them with my own life.È The point of the story is both that the clash between the Britain and America was inevitable and that they would eventually be reconciled because of their deep shared faith in the same ideals of justice - ultimately, it will be observed, it is the British General Gage who steps in to resolve the dispute between soldiers and colonials in a remarkably fair and even-handed manner.
We are very far from the exercise in quasi-racist British-bashing characteristic of THE PATRIOT! However, the two films have this in common that they fail to make their British villain credible. In the case of THE PATRIOT, this is due both to Robert RodatÕs script - all in black and white
and the acting, for Jason IsaacsÕ main asset, sad to say, seems to be his
uncongenial face. George Sanders, on the other hand, is one of the greatest character actors specializing in villainy that Hollywood ever had. (Even his stints in BATMAN and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. are very much worth seeing!) He had the face - and so much more : the style (ÇRemove this barbarian from the courtroom!È - Who could have said it more contemptuously?) Unfortunately, there is little that he can do to lend genuine human substance to the cardboard unidimensional character entrusted to his art. The scriptwriter seems to have meant to depict a specimen of obdurate military stupidity (British style) closely patterned on the Captain Bligh of Charles Laughton from four years earlier (MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, Oscar for Best Picture in 1935), but, evidently, he lacked the means of his ambitions. Sanders still makes the best of the uneven material and he has his moments, most notably the scene when, besieged in his fort with his troops, Swanson orders that the soldiers who caught napping be flogged, and yet treats kindly the one man whom he actually finds sleeping on duty.
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