When Benjie, a black man who fought in the Civil War, returns to the southern town of Ironside, his return is not exactly a welcome one. The citizens are already uptight about the color of his skin...but the fact that he fought for the Union Army and still wears his uniform is all that is needed for hatred and violence to be fanned by an ex-Confederate soldier named Colby. Benjie's one true friend turns out to be Neal McMasters, the rancher who raised Benjie and is now offering him a half-share in the McMasters land. As Benjie tries to make his new home, he helps some starving Indians and finds himself the owner of an Indian woman who eventually becomes his wife. He also uses Indians to help with the round-up. But things come to a violent turn when Kolby's hatred launches a reign of anger that brings about an unusual white-black-red triangle in the phenomenon of prejudice.Written by
'The McMasters' is yet another film that stands as a testament to the changing values of North American society: another case of "There's no way that could have been made today".
Brock Peters plays Benji, a former slave and Civil War veteran who is adopted by kindly-old-white-man Burl Ives ('Mcmasters'), and given title to the old man's farm. Conflict with the racist locals, led by the chilling Jack Palance as Kolby, ensues, leading to a violent conclusion.
To me the film was almost painfully riveting, and frank in its depictions of violence and racism.The violence in today's action films is highly stylized, and almost glamorous by comparison: today's post-Star-Wars escapist fare has no place for the smallest depiction or frank discussion of racism. I found myself getting involved with the characters, cheering them on and yelling advice to the screen. I also loved the western/blacksploitation angle of the film, even though the "showdown" plot is pretty standard western fare.
The film seems old-fashioned when viewed today: does that mean that society has progressed, or regressed since 1969? You be the judge.
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