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The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977)

G | | Drama | October 1977 (USA)
Sunn Classics "speculative fiction" film proposing a theory that the killer of Abe Lincoln escaped to Canada instead of being tracked down and killed soon after the assassination.

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Mary Surratt is the lone female charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln. As the whole nation turns against her, she is forced to rely on her reluctant lawyer to uncover the truth and save her life.

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Cast

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Col. Lafayette C. Baker
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James Green ...
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Sen. John Conness
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Michael O'Laughlin
E.J. André ...
Bruce Atkins ...
John Parker
Charlie Briggs ...
Andrew Potter
Paul Brown ...
Thomas Caldwell
Howard Brunner ...
Louis J. Weichmann
Fred Buch ...
Capt. D.H. Gleason
Dick Callinan ...
Sen. Benjamin Wade
John Cooler ...
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Sunn Classics "speculative fiction" film proposing a theory that the killer of Abe Lincoln escaped to Canada instead of being tracked down and killed soon after the assassination. Written by Keath

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You know the story ---- now see the FACTS! The truth behind the assassination of President Lincoln. See more »

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Drama

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G
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October 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La vera storia di Abramo Lincoln  »

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Final film of Robert Middleton. See more »

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Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Hangar 18 (1989) See more »

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Quite Entertaining!
17 December 2011 | by (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

The scintillating aura of intrigue infusing Sunn Classic's THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is intoxicating & addictive. Easily the company's most respectable golden era production, Bradford Dillman overacts and hams his way through the film in the role of John Wilkes Booth portrayed as a wild-eyed fanatic willing to go to any lengths to save the war for the south. He's equal part revolutionary, fall guy, idealist crackpot and stooge. Who was responsible for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? According to this movie everyone but Booth, though it politely concedes that he did pull the trigger.

In fact the assassination itself gets very little screen time, just a minute or two really, as the film breathlessly writes an alternate version of the history leading up to & immediately after the event. Along the way we meet Booth's motley crew of would-be Presidential kidnappers turned would-be assassins (only Booth succeeded in what is depicted as a hair brained scheme for glory with the war soundly over) who seem to spend a lot of time decorating the interiors of pubs and taverns as they drink themselves into revolutionary frenzy. Not a scene goes by without Booth or one of his cronies quaffing a brandy or two, probably likely for the time but so pervasive as to suggest that Booth likely had a good buzz going when he finally decided the time was nigh.

The film is stolen however by character actor John Dehner's hypnotic performance as Colonel Lafayette Baker, an actual character from history & bizarre footnote of real life intrigue who is depicted here as the film's Fletcher Prouty (a fun name to Google if you're ever bored). Baker was an opportunist who found himself with a Union Army commission after fast-talking a general with yet another hair brained scheme to infiltrate Confederate lines as a spy. His plan worked with enough success to bring him to the attention of Lincoln and his cabinet who were looking for someone delighted with violating what we now regard as the civil & Constitutional rights of citizens to further the war effort. Even with such a fascinating genuine tale the film re-writes Baker with an almost supernatural aura to him as he manipulates, intimidates, violates and generally abuses everyone he comes in contact with to further the plot to remove Lincoln from office cooked up by his boss, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, depicted here as a James Bond villain.

In spite of the clunky and uninspired manner in which the story is told it is compulsively watchable, especially as one starts to appreciate the twisted glee in Colonel Baker's character as he unassumingly arranges for his President to be deposed, then reacts with a raised eyebrow & shrug upon learning of his murder. Just one of those things, really, with my favorite moment in the film a question to a character about why he is limping. Baker doesn't care beyond his need for an efficient footman, and the ultimate triple cross which condemns the poor hobbling creep is a brilliant maneuver in roundabout screenplay logic. The film couldn't end any other way than it does with John Wilkes Booth escaping to England where he becomes a cheese farmer.

Not really, but then again the film has a surreal quality to it that belies its ordinariness, highlighted by a droning, sonorous faux-documentary narration provided by Sunn Classic's resident voice of authority, Brad Crandall. Crandall is the bespeckled heavy-set host of their megahits BEYOND AND BACK, THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, and my favorite, IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK which I had the good fortune to see as a nine year old on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The film stuck with me for thirty five years and so did this, specifically a scene where John Anderson's foghorn voiced Lincoln hands out slices of apple on screen to a startled Union solder aide, a little aside that also stuck with me for 30 years after seeing it on television.

Is it good history? No, Booth's guilt is pretty solidly established without a conspiracy amongst members of Congress concerned about a Democrat supermajority upon reuniting north & south. Is it a good film? I doubt it, I've only seen the thing on TV and doubt that a widescreen format would improve much upon the movie's flat-footed cinematography. Episodes of "Barney Miller" were filmed with more panache, though I give it high marks for being so downright odd, like every other Sunn Classics film I've seen now as an adult. And it is a very entertaining little bit of alternate history what if? which must have been screened by Oliver Stone and his associates when preparing JFK. It's just as ridiculous in its overkill but comes off as easier to stomach, less frantic and more content with letting the story tell itself. It's also addictive, I must have watched it about a dozen times. Colonel Baker is a fix!

6/10


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