Well done film, but underwhelming by today's standards
We tend to forget that in 1972, in the heart of the whole "blaxploitation" movement, that the very idea of casting African-Americans in traditional white roles was daring in and of itself. As such, Buck and the Preacher, starring Sidney Poitier (who also directed) and Harry Belafonte in the titular roles must have created quite a stir upon its release. The story is pretty standard for a western--a wagon train heading west, led by a tough-as-nails trail guide, is harassed by outside forces (usually bandits or American Indians), but in this case, the settlers are all freed slaves, and the "outside forces" are hired guns by the south, bend on stopping every black settler group, destroying their supplies (and murdering a few of their people), thus terrorizing them into returning to the plantations. Former military sergeant Buck (Poitier) will have none of that, and the slick-talking con man "Preacher (Belafonte), whose initial intentions may seem questionable, mans up and does the right thing, joining forces with Buck for a typical final showdown. A fun western, to be sure, but if you're looking for deeper social commentary that what has already been described, you won't find it. A traditional western with an African-American cast is daring as it gets in 1972, but don't let that keep you away. The original score by Benny Carter, heavy on the mouth harp and that weird pig-sounding instrument they use on Green Acres, will annoy the hell out of you yet stay with you for days.
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