The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Cavalry Film  |   Release Date - Jun 12, 1959 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 119 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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John Ford's only film to center around the Civil War, The Horse Soldiers overcomes a number of flaws to emerge as a solid, often exciting, movie that just misses being top-drawer Ford. Of course, even lesser Ford is still better than most movies, and Horse has plenty going for it. It has that distinctive Ford look, and William Clothier's cinematography is nothing short of stunning; several shots practically cry out to be framed and placed upon the wall, and the fluidity of the action sequences adds to the film's energy and drive. John Wayne delivers his usual strong, solid performance; it's not necessarily acting of a high order, but it provides the kind of brawny anchor that the film requires. It also gives William Holden's humane doctor a foil to play off of, which he does quite effectively. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't develop these or any of the characters to the extent necessary, giving the film a superficial quality that blunts its effectiveness. That said, it does contain a number of moving and effective scenes, such as one in which a group of Southern children must go into battle. Constance Towers is another problem; she's attractive, but Ford fails to reign in her excessive and annoying performance. Despite its flaws, Horse manages to be an engrossing and exciting horse opera.