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After young Marty Preston rescued Shiloh from his abusive owner, Judd Travers, he thought his troubles were over. But when Judd starts threatening to take "his" dog back, Marty is afraid of losing the best friend he's ever had. Even after Shiloh's keen senses help save Judd's life, the old man refuses to mend his mean-spirited ways, convincing everyone in town he's just too nasty to change. Now, in a long-short gamble to keep the dog he loves, Marty sets out to prove that just like a mistreated animal, a man filled with hate can be healed by the power of kindness. Written by
A classic. Michael Moriarty and Scott Wilson are superb.
We all have those classic movies about animals that we watched when we were little ones, and hopefully if you've got any senses about you, still revisit as an adult. Well, most people have a few of those... I've got at least like twenty. One couple of movies that are very dear to me are Shiloh, and Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season, two indisputable classics that I was pretty much raised on, and have a burning nostalgia for. Shiloh boils down to one simple, loving archetype: a boy and his dog. Or, rather, a boy who desperately wishes to save a dog from going down the same road of violence and abuse that it's currant owner has. Marty Preston (Blake Heron, and Zachary Browne in the sequel because they just can't stick with one actor) is a young rural lad with a wholesome life and family, wishing for a dog of his own. Local roughneck and hunter Judd Travers (Scott Wilson) owns a whole pack of mutts that he mistreats when drunk, and aims to turn them all into vicious hunting dogs. When one small beagle escapes, it makes its way onto Preston land and suddenly Marty finds he has a new best friend. His stern father Ray (inimitable Michael Moriarty) warns him that the dog is probably Judd's, while his mother (excellent character actress Ann Dowd) urges compassion from her husband. Soon enough Judd comes looking, and conflict arises between the boy and the bitter old hunter. It's a children's story so nothing too messed up ever happens, but there's some touching lessons and surprising gravitas from both Moriarty and Wilson that is nice to see from such a seemingly innocuous, kid oriented franchise. Judd shows beautiful complexity in the sequel, the writing allowing Wilson to illustrate that not all mean people started out that way, and that with a little kindness and a lot of patience, old wounds can be burrowed into and treated. I first became a fan of Scott through the Shiloh films and he will always be Judd Travers to me. Marty finds a friend in Shiloh, getting right to the point of what these movies are about: friendship. New friends, old friends, and letting people in who need someone and don't even know it. It's great stuff, timeless to be sure, and always guaranteed to draw forth a smile. Rod Steiger lends his famous kind streak to the role of Doc Wallace, a convenience store owner with sagely wisdom for Marty and his fellow friends, as well as compassion for Judd. Now, there's a third film, also with Wilson but yet another different actor for Marty, and Moriarty sitting it out as well, which is why I haven't checked it out so far. Maybe it's time.
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