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The Andersonville Trial (1970)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama  |  17 May 1970 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 346 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 2 critic

A dramatization of the 1865 war-crimes trial of Henry Wirz, commandant of the notorious Confederate POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia.

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Title: The Andersonville Trial (TV Movie 1970)

The Andersonville Trial (TV Movie 1970) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
General Wallace
...
Col. Chipman
...
Otis Baker
Wright King ...
Major Hosmer
...
Louis Schade
...
Captain Williams
...
Henry Wirz
...
Doctor Ford
Harry Townes ...
Col. Chandler
...
Dr. John Bates
...
Ambrose Spencer
Lou Frizzell ...
Jasper Culver
Michael Burns ...
James Davidson
...
James Gray
...
First Guard (as Dallas McKennon)
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Storyline

Lt. Col. N.P Chipman is the Army prosecutor, Otis Baker the defense attorney and Gen. Lew Wallace the judge in the trial of Henry Wirz, the Confederate officer who ran a prisoner of war camp in Andersonville, which saw 14,000 Union prisoners die from cruel neglect. Witnesses include Lt. Col. Chandler, who was assigned to inspect the Andersonville prison; Dr. John C. Bates, the physician at the camp horrified by his experience; Ambrose Spencer, a plantation owner who can testify that food offered to the camp by nearby residents was refused; James Davidson, a haunted 19-year-old prisoner who claims a fellow was torn apart by dogs; Jasper Culver, another prisoner who has a story about a man named Chickamauga; Sgt. James Gray, who testifies that Wirtz killed a man with his own hands; and Dr. Ford, the one witness for the defense. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

17 May 1970 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

All of the witnesses as portrayed in the film are the actual witnesses who testified at Wirz's trial, and their dialogue in many cases is taken almost verbatim from the trial transcript. The major change from history is that Wirz did not testify and the whole "moral issue", around which this film revolves, was never raised at the trial. See more »

Goofs

The two provost guards on duty during the trial are seen slouching, lounging about and generally taking the whole thing rather casually. It's not likely that the president of the court would allow that. See more »

Connections

Version of Der Andersonville-Prozess (1972) See more »

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User Reviews

 
fascinating but it has an odd take on historical accuracy.
20 March 2011 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Andersonville was a Confederate prisoner of war camp renowned for its inhumanity to its prisoners. Photos taken of survivors are similar in appearance to survivors of Auschwitz--gaunt skeletons with skin stretched over them. While it was notorious, it was not completely unique, as POW camps on both sides were dreadful places--treating the prisoners like refuse instead of men.

"The Andersonville Trial" is a made for TV recreation of the Broadway play from a decade earlier. It is based on the actual war crimes trial held for the commander of this hellish place following the war. In some ways it is amazingly historically accurate (such as having some of the testimony given almost verbatim from the actual transcripts of the trial). However, in other ways it diverges way from the truth. Some of this divergence I appreciate--such as the prosecutor's looking into himself about the morality of refusing to obey an order that is immoral. Some of it, however, was simply done to make for a more effective and dramatic play--and the history teacher in me balks at this. For example, the defendant never testified during the trial--yet here, a MAJOR portion of the play consists of his testimony. Frankly, I just wished they'd left this out in the spirit of accuracy.

So is the film worth seeing? Well, yes, but I also feel that the dry nature of the play will make it difficult for some viewers with shorter attention spans to stick with it. In addition, the acting, while generally very good, comes off at times as a bit over-wrought. It's interesting to watch but the actual trial could not have been THAT intense. And, surprisingly, William Shatner's performance was not the most overly emotive and he did a good job of playing the 'conscience' of the movie--Basehart, conversely, was just too much--which is odd, because he was a very capable actor. Also, the film is worth seeing because the issues brought up here are also ones that apply to WWII, Vietnam, Rwanda and a bazillion other situations.

By the way, this production was directed by George C. Scott--who was in the original play. In addition, the film is chock full of recognizable character actors such as Richard Basehart, Whit Bissell, Jack Cassidy, Cameron Mitchell, Buddy Ebsen and many other faces that people of my generation would recognize.


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Regarding the morality argument- controlclerk
A great movie, and a great performance by Shatner TheKurgan65
Who said Shatner isn't a great actor? matt359
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