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MarsRobert
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American Civil War Films

Tue May 17, 2011 7:41 am

I thought it would be cool as an aside to post my take on the Civil War movies I've seen; both the ones I liked and the ones I thought, if not always bad films, were questionable as Civil War movies. Please by all means share your thoughts, especially on Civil War films I may not have seen. Also, it seemed appropriate to post this in the AGEOD Civil War forum, though I would understand if the admin decided to put it in the General Discussion Forum since it is only indirectly related to AEGOD's great Civil War game.

Ted Turner's 'Gettysburg' - This was an amazing movie; probably the best film ever done on the American Civil War. The battle scenes were riveting and the cast was amazing; especially Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, Tom Berenger as Longstreet, and Sam Elliot as Buford. I found myself not liking Jeff Daniels (Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain) as much, as he seemed a bit too much of a politically correct goody two-shoes for my liking. This is a very minor complaint though. A solid A+ movie not to be missed.

'Glory' – There were so many great things about this film that it would be too much to list them all here. As with the 'Gettysburg' film, the battle scenes were great and the cast was amazing. I was totally stunned by the incredible Antietam sequence at the beginning. Tremendous performances by Morgan Freeman, Mathew Broderick, Carey Elwes, and a well-deserved Oscar for Denzel Washington. I loved how Denzel, like Sydney Carton in Dicken's 'Tale of Two Cities', started as a malcontent but through the course of the film rises to social responsibility.

'North and South' miniseries – Don't let the occasional soap opera lapses (can you say Miss Ashton??? lol) fool you, this was a great miniseries. Its breadth and scope were amazing, covering as it did everything from the Antebellum period through Reconstruction. Further, it does so in a surprisingly unbiased manor, showing that there were good and bad people on both sides. Also, the battle scenes were excellent, especially the Union assault at Petersburg. This was probably my favorite miniseries next to Herman Wouk's 'War and Remembrance'.

'The Beguiled' – This cult film was not only a most unusual Clint Eastwood movie, but also the most unusual Civil War film ever. Eastwood plays a soldier in Grant's army during the drive on Vicksburg, and after being wounded and separated from his regiment finds his way to a nearby Southern girls boarding school. The film is very Gothic; sort of Ambrose Bierce meets Edgar Alan Poe, and the webs of deceit and sexual tension woven by Eastwood and the women of the school were intriguing and cerebral. Also, as opposed to many other films that pay lip service to the Civil War, in this film the viewer is given constant reminders of the war. I especially liked how the film was overflowing with early 70's cynicism, much like Dustin Hoffman's 'Little Big Man' released about the same time.

'The Red Badge of Courage' (Audie Murphy) – This film is very short (a little over one hour), but still a great classic. Murphy was excellent in the lead, and you felt when watching him that he was acting from experience, which he was. Also cool was the participation of another American WW2 icon, cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in a supporting roll. And of course the battle scenes were tremendous. I especially liked the part where, just as the Union soldiers were breathing a sigh of relief that they had beaten off the Rebels, much to their chagrin the Rebs came back for more.

'The Red Badge of Courage' (Richard Thomas) – Not quite as good as the Audie Murphy film, but it was close. It's also interesting to note that Thomas did 'All Quiet on the Western Front' at about the same time.

Ted Turner's 'Gods and Generals' – I recall when this film was first released how a film critic stated that it was awful, and probably the most politically incorrect film this side of 'Birth of a Nation'. lol When I finally saw it from Netflix though, I was pleasantly surprised. Not as good as 'Gettysburg', but still a generally good, if not great film, centering as it does on Stonewall Jackson in 1861-63. The Battle of Fredricksburg, especially, was excellent. My only complaints were that they omitted Stonewall in the Valley where Jackson made his reputation, and actor Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain looked much older and fatter than he did in the Gettysburg film, even though the events of 'Gods and Generals' took place before Gettysburg. I also thought the Mary Fahl song at the end was a nice touch.

Gore Vidal's 'Lincoln' – As far as I know this film is maybe the only time we get to see an up close and personal view of Abe, as opposed to the usual iconic performances by actors like Hal Holbrook and Gregory Peck. Sam Waterston was great as Abe, and Mary Tyler Moore was surprisingly good as Mary Todd Lincoln. Many, many, memorable scenes in this film, like McClellan's snubbing of the President when Abe had come to visit him, the political machinations of Salmon Chase, Lincoln's irritation over Meade not pursuing and destroying Lee's defeated army after Gettysburg, and his observation of Jubal Early's probe of the Washington defenses.

'Gone with the Wind' – To be honest I've only seen this film once and might need to see it again, but IMHO when I finally saw it about 15 years ago felt it was a tad overrated considering all the hype and adulation the film has received over the years. As Civil War period pieces go, I think it suffered from not having a battle scene, and the famous scenes of the CSA troop staging area and the burning of Atlanta, although good for the day, were poor substitutes.

'Ride With the Devil' – To be fair it was an entertaining movie, directed interesting enough by Ang Lee of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' fame, and it was cool seeing Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The film suffers though from having modern attitudes, a few too many Hollywood pretty boys in the cast, and everyone wore clean clothes and had all their teeth. ;) I would say though that singer Jewel was nice eye candy. lol

'The Blue and the Gray' - This miseries should have been great, based as it was on a Bruce Catton book, but it was far from it and no where near as good as the aforementioned 'North and South' miniseries. The battle reenactments were laughable, and the lead roles were wooden and cardboard. Stacy Keach, especially, was weak as the suave and self-important Union officer who seemed always to be anywhere where anything important was happening. Some nice scenes of the Vicksburg siege and memorable cameos by Sterling Hayden as John Brown and Gregory Peck as Abe Lincoln weren't enough to save this overall weak production.

'The Outlaw Josie Wales' – I've seen one or two people put this Eastwood movie on their favorite Civil War films lists, and I can't understand why? It does no more than pay occasional lip service to the Civil War. Also, as Eastwood movies go, I thought it highly overrated and not nearly as good as 'High Plains Drifter'.

'The Good, Bad, and the Ugly' – Some people are going to disagree with me on this one, but I felt that although it tries hard to tie in to the Civil War, it doesn't quite satisfy in this respect. Although a great film in its own right, the war remained no more than a plot device within which the main characters operated. For one thing although the historically accurate CSA General Sibley made a brief appearance, his exploits were early in the war, not latter as we're made to believe here. Also, although the battle scene had a gritty realism (like everything director Sergio Leone did), the drunken Union commander and the fight over the bridge seemed contrived. Again though, it was a great film, I just don't think it was as effective as a Civil War movie.

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nervouspete
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Tue May 17, 2011 8:27 am

Great list there. Haven't seen North & South though I saw a fragment on it on TV at a friend's house only on Sunday. Jonathan Frakes! Patrick Swayze! Other guy! The 80's actors were lining up so fast I half expected to see Steve Guttenberg as Lincoln. It did look a bit, um, cheesy (it was a big verbal fight at an extended family dinner in the South) but from what you say I might give it a go. Haven't seen The Beguiled either, but sounds good!

There needs to be more Civil War flms. I'm strugling to think of anything to add, though there have been a couple of memorable Twilight Zones. So strange that an era so rich in story is so under-represented in film. There is Cold Mountain too, but that somewhat failed to grab me.

Finally I'd knock Good, Bad and Ugly up into the top box purely for the Andersonville sequence. The prisoner's chorus in that, so sad and longing it's enough to break your heart, really anchors the film emotionally. The bridge battle is tremendous, yes, but I feel this captures the madness, surrealism and giddy cruelty of war that stately (though worthy) films such as Gettysburg neglect.

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John Sedgwick
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Tue May 17, 2011 8:37 am

I liked the battle scene at the beginning of Cold Mountain depicting the Battle of the Crater, but that's probably the best part of the movie. Jude Law did an all right job, but malnourished, over-worked, down-on-their-luck farmers generally do not look like Nicole Kidman.

Glory is one of my favourite Civil War movies, in spite of the fact that Matthew Broderick really bothers me in that role. If he ever does another ACW flick, he would make a really good McClellan though.

I couldn't even finish Gods and Generals. I could care less about political correctness, it was just a generally godawful movie. Absolutely hated it.

I'm a big Clint Eastwood fan, so I like the last two movies on your list, especially TGTB&TU, regardless of how true they are to the Civil War theme. I agree though, they use the ACW pretty transparently as a plot device.
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MarsRobert
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Good points Pete

Tue May 17, 2011 8:39 am

Although I'm reasonably sure that wasn't Andersonville ;) , that POW sequence come to think of it was actually quite poignant. Also, I would agree with you in that whatever the faults in the battle sequence, it did play up the insanity of war.

Speaking of Andersonville, one great movie I'd forgotten was the 'Andersonville Trial'. OMG, it was stunning! What an amazing script. Richard Basehart and William Shatner were great as Col. Wirtz and the prosecuting attorney. This 'Playhouse' film was a great example of how a great script can overcome most anything. Also, anyone who thinks Bill Shatner can't act should see this film.

Yes, I'd forgotten about 'Cold Mountain' as well. This is another one I probably need to see again, but if memory serves the only things I remember about it were the Battle of the Crater and the Alison Krauss music. ;)

Yes Pete, those two Twlight Zone episodes were great. The one I recall was a very Gothic story about the ghost of a Southern woman meeting the ghost of Lincoln, and the other was about some rebel soldiers who find a secret weapon on the eve of Gettysburg. Great stuff !

General Sedgwick - You are absolutely right. Broderick would make a great McClellan! lol Also, again, from what some of the critics said I was expecting the worst when I put 'Gods and Generals' in my DVD player, but found that although it wasn't a great film, I did generally enjoy it. I would add though that come to think of it, that bit with Ted Turner as a Confederate general was sort of dumb.

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Tue May 17, 2011 9:13 am

Oops, well - er. Yeah! Sure it was Andersonville! There were hundreds of thousands of extras packed into that scene, I don't know what you're talking about, honestly. And the geography, it all made sense. YEAH! :D

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Ethan
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Tue May 17, 2011 11:49 am

Hi guys! :)

MarsRobert, with respect to "Gone with the Wind", IMHO I think you should see the movie again, because it is a great movie. :w00t:

I think you've forgotten some very good movies in your list: ;)

- The Horse Soldiers (1959)

- Major Dundee (1965)

- Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)

- Alvarez Kelly (1966)

- Springfield Rifle (1952)

- Shenandoah (1965)

- They Died with Their Boots On (with Errol Flynn as General George Custer, 1941)

- Ironclads (TV movie, 1991)

- The General (with Buster Keaton, 1926)

- The Searchers (with John Wayne, 1956)

Regards! :thumbsup:
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MarsRobert
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Wed May 18, 2011 1:39 am

Thanks Ethan for the list. Funny you should mention 'Shenandoah', I just put that one in my Netflix queue the other day. I know Jimmy Stewart can be a great actor when he wants to be.

I was sorely tempted to put 'Died with their Boots On' on my list. It was a great film. The Civil War sequence in the movie was excellent, and I loved Phil Sheridan's quote at West Point: "We don't concern ourselves here with the making of wars, only the fighting of them."

I sort of remembered the made for TV movie 'Ironclads' after the fact. Yes, I thought it was very good. As I recall the great actor Fritz Weaver played the inventor of the Monitor John Erickson. Also of note come to think of it was another made for TV film about the same time about the CSS Hunley. As I recall Donald Sutherland did a great job playing PGT Beauregard.

And yes, I will give 'Gone with the Wind' another try. Also, I vaguely remember Chuck Heston in 'Major Dundee'. In any event I'm going to put several of the movies you mentioned in my Netflix queue. Thanks again. :)

PS.......I still maintain that 'Gods and Generals' was not as bad as many people seem to think. ;)

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Wed May 18, 2011 1:45 am

uh, uh Pete, sorry to say this, but the Andersonville camp was in Georgia. The Good, Bad, and the Ugly takes place in Texas/New Mexico/Arizona. Someone once told me that I'd rather be right than happy. lol

BTW, come to think of it there was a made for TV film in the 90's called 'Andersonville'. As I recall I had high hopes for it, being directed as it was by John Frankenheimer of 'Manchurian Candidate' fame. Alas, I didn't really think the movie was anything special. I liked 'The Andersonville Trial' much better.

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Wed May 18, 2011 11:13 am

MarsRobert wrote:uh, uh Pete, sorry to say this, but the Andersonville camp was in Georgia. The Good, Bad, and the Ugly takes place in Texas/New Mexico/Arizona. Someone once told me that I'd rather be right than happy. lol


Moreover Andersonville was a confederate prison (meaning inmates were from US army...) but in "The Good, Bad, and the Ugly" (:coeurs :) the inmates are CSA soldiers.

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Cromagnonman
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Wed May 18, 2011 11:44 am

Gods 'n' Generals (aka Hangin' wit' Massa Jackson) was abominable. At best, it was a movie about sitting on the porch and drinking lemonade. At worst, it stoked secessionist sentiment and eschewed quality in a mockery of its nominal predecessor. The battle scenes are laughable, largely because they only seem to have about 50 extras.

Gone with the Wind is another outdated, obsolete tribute to the Antebellum South. The war was basically a plot device, though less so than the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.

I personally liked Andersonville, though the opening sequence at Cold Harbor was historically inaccurate.

I still swear by Gettysburg, though its shortcomings were rather more apparent when I re-watched it this past year. You could make a good drinking game out of it based on the phrase "high ground." Especially poignant is the Armistead-Hancock love affair.

I am looking forward to any attempt to take Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to the silver screen.
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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Wed May 18, 2011 7:01 pm

I'm looking forward to this:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/

Daniel Day Lewis should be the perfect casting for Mr Lincoln.

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MarsRobert
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Wed May 18, 2011 8:45 pm

Yes, I'd heard rumors about the Lincoln film. Although I think Spielberg is a very overrated director, he does have one or two gems among the dross. In any event this movie may be good if the cast is any indication. The diminutive Sally Field would probably be perfect as Mary Todd as long as she's not too old. Concerning Daniel Day-Lewis, I loved him in 'Last of the Mohicans', but absolutely hated 'In the Name of the Father'. It should have been the ultimate movie on Irish Republicanism, but it was far from it.

Cromagnon - Yes, I'm going to revisit Gettysburg as soon as I can get it from Netflix. The movie seems to be in big demand these days. It will be interesting to see how well it holds up. If memory serves, Martin Sheen gave one of the best performances of his long career as Robert E. Lee. By comparison, I thought the usually strong Robert Duvall gave a rather stilted performance as Mars Robert in Gods and Generals.

BTW, judging from some of the replies to my post, I'm relearning what a wise man once said about how you should never say anything in a group of people unless you're sure that everyone else is going to be in complete agreement. ;) lol

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Wed May 18, 2011 8:50 pm

So, er, apart from it being a Confederate camp and not Union, and in Georgia and not in Arizona, and being way bigger instead of a dinky little place, and being run with dangerous ineptness rather than the sadistic streak of Lee Van Cleef, I was entirely right, eh?

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MarsRobert
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Wed May 18, 2011 8:54 pm

Good one Pete! :)

nervouspete wrote:So, er, apart from it being a Confederate camp and not Union, and in Georgia and not in Arizona, and being way bigger instead of a dinky little place, and being run with dangerous ineptness rather than the sadistic streak of Lee Van Cleef, I was entirely right, eh?

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Wed May 18, 2011 8:55 pm

nervouspete wrote:So, er, apart from it being a Confederate camp and not Union, and in Georgia and not in Arizona, and being way bigger instead of a dinky little place, and being run with dangerous ineptness rather than the sadistic streak of Lee Van Cleef, I was entirely right, eh?


:mdr: :thumbsup:

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Ethan
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Wed May 18, 2011 9:28 pm

That's what I call full agreement!! ;) :thumbsup:
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Ian Coote
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Fri May 20, 2011 4:55 am

There's a directors cut of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, being released on May 25th. Gettysburg gets about 16 minutes of added footage, while Gods and Generals gets about ninety minutes, which will include the Battle of Antietam.Both will be released in bluray only I believe.

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Fri May 20, 2011 5:10 am

Cromagnonman wrote:Gods 'n' Generals (aka Hangin' wit' Massa Jackson) was abominable. At best, it was a movie about sitting on the porch and drinking lemonade. At worst, it stoked secessionist sentiment and eschewed quality in a mockery of its nominal predecessor. The battle scenes are laughable, largely because they only seem to have about 50 extras.

Gone with the Wind is another outdated, obsolete tribute to the Antebellum South. The war was basically a plot device, though less so than the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.

I personally liked Andersonville, though the opening sequence at Cold Harbor was historically inaccurate.

I still swear by Gettysburg, though its shortcomings were rather more apparent when I re-watched it this past year. You could make a good drinking game out of it based on the phrase "high ground." Especially poignant is the Armistead-Hancock love affair.

I am looking forward to any attempt to take Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to the silver screen.


I have been lurking this forum for quite a while, but I just had to register so I could tell you that even though I disagree with your assessment of Hangin' with Massa Jackson, this is one of the funniest posts I've ever read! Sitting on the porch drinking lemondade, indeed. Perhaps one could also make a drinking game out of the phrase, "it's not too sweet!" :thumbsup: :mdr: :coeurs:

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Ethan
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Fri May 20, 2011 12:24 pm

Hi PA Prof! :)

Welcome to the Ageod Forums. Have fun here. :thumbsup:

... And enjoy playing! ;)
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Ethan
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Fri May 20, 2011 12:36 pm

Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne wrote:I'm looking forward to this:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/

Daniel Day Lewis should be the perfect casting for Mr Lincoln.


Pat, do you know if this film will be released in Spain?

Regards! :wavey:
[color="Navy"][font="Georgia"]"Mi grandeza no reside en no haber caído nunca, sino en haberme levantado siempre". Napoleón Bonaparte.[/font][/color]



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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Fri May 20, 2011 6:03 pm

Ethan wrote:Pat, do you know if this film will be released in Spain?

Regards! :wavey:


I'm not at all familiar with how or why movies are released in other countries. I'm not sure how enthusiastic they will be about releasing an American historical biopic in other countries though. Then again Lincoln might have some international cred. They haven't filmed it yet so I doubt they even know where they'll release it.

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Ethan
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Fri May 20, 2011 6:40 pm

OK, thanks anyway.

It is still early to know that. We will have to wait until 2012... :feu:

:wavey:
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bigus
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Sat May 21, 2011 6:31 am

Has anyone seen "Shanendoah" with Jim Stewart?
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Ethan
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Sat May 21, 2011 1:32 pm

I've seen it, Bigus. It is a charismatic and exceptional interpretation. A nice, educational, anti-war and anti-racist story that shows a huge amount of family values. :)

Technically the film is good. Appealing argument with a well-developed script.

The film's protagonist is a wealthy farmer and widower, head of a large family, which keeps the firm intention to stay out of the Civil War, because he does not like slavery and hates war. The sequence of events that he will be forced to live will affect him more than what he is capable of supporting.

I think it's a movie worth seeing. ;)

Regards! :thumbsup:
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gchristie
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Best in-laws EVER

Fri May 27, 2011 8:40 pm

My in-laws are a hoot. They are lobbying me to join them in Gettysburg next month, and as a way of convincing me just sent me Ted Turner's 'Gettysburg.'

No, I haven't seen it before, and Yes, I can be bought!
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gchristie
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Fri May 27, 2011 8:43 pm

Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne wrote:I'm looking forward to this:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/

Daniel Day Lewis should be the perfect casting for Mr Lincoln.


Ditto.

And I like that Doris Kearns Goodwin is the writer for this one.
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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Fri May 27, 2011 9:33 pm

I always enjoy her appearances on the Daily Show/Colbert Report. She seems to know her stuff.

Also, for those who've watched the history channel lately you've probably seen previews for this:

http://www.history.com/shows/gettysburg?paidlink=1&vid=HIS_SEM_Search&keywords=gettysburg%2Bhistory%2Bchannel&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=gettysburg&utm_term=gettysburg%20history%20channel

It premiers on Monday and looks like it could be pretty good.

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Jorje Vidrio
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Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:01 pm

Agreed that "Shenandoah" was also a very good Civil War movie along with "the Horse Soldiers" with John Wayne as a Union Cavalry commander raiding the South.

Several westerns also start with a Civil War theme then diverges into the meat of the movie including "Rio Bravo", "The Undefeated", and "Dances with Wolves". :cwboy: :indien:

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gchristie
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Wed Jun 01, 2011 3:14 pm

Also, for those who've watched the history channel lately you've probably seen previews for this:

[url wrote:
http://www.history.com/shows/gettysburg?paidlink=1&vid=HIS_SEM_Search&keywords=gettysburg%2Bhistory%2Bchannel&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=gettysburg&utm_term=gettysburg%20history%20channel[/url]

It premiers on Monday and looks like it could be pretty good.


What did folks think of this? I started watching it but got distracted and didn't get beyond Day 1. With Ridley Scott in charge it looked to have high production values, was quite cinematic and explicitley gory I thought.

War is not for the squemish I've heard.
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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Wed Jun 01, 2011 6:16 pm

I was actually kind of disappointed. It seemed like they couldn't figure out if they wanted it to be Gettysburg 2.0 or a normal historical documentary. I only saw a bit of Grant and Lee or whatever last night, but it seemed more interesting.

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