THE BLUE AND THE GRAY, a tele-series by ANDREW V McLAGLEN (Madman DVD)

 |   |  1 min read

THE BLUE AND THE GRAY, a tele-series by ANDREW V McLAGLEN (Madman DVD)

As much reminder of how a television mini-series and historical drama used to look in the Eighties, this six hour epic across three discs is certainly ambitious in attempting to present the American Civil War from a few different perspectives.

Filmed in Arkansas and notable for its historical accuracy and the then-spectacular and graphic battle scenes, it is based on the books by Pulitizer winner Bruce Catton and follows two sides of a family divided by the conflict.

The families are those of two sisters and the children who live just a few days ride from each other but find themselves on different sides of the conflict.

The pivotal figure is young John from Pennsylvania who is an artist and gets a job drawing illustrations for a newspaper, which takes him to the John Brown abolitionist trial and hanging, Gettysburg for Lincoln's speech and on to the various key battles.

Along the way however we see his brothers as young rebel boys joining up for the sheer thrill of the fight and to protect their culture, military figures who are either blind to the chaos or acutely aware of it, innocent civilians caught up in the crossfire and entrepreneurs milking it for all its worth.

There's a very good narrative about the futility of it all and the fickle nature of heroism embedded in it too. And running at your enemies' guns across a wide open space does not, on any level, constitute a "military tactic". Yet both sides did it.

Gregory Peck plays a homespun Abraham Lincoln and among the rest of the cast are Lloyd Bridges, Stacy Keach and Colleen Dewhurst.

The music is appropriate (sometimes played by dour-looking fiddlers) and -- while this can be laboriously slow by contemporary standards and the plot lines a little laboured as they attempt to bring in matters of race, money, regionalism and various characters -- it at least doesn't take sides . . . although there is considerably more sympathy for the Confederates than many such films have allowed in the past.

Some of the "rebs" are cliched wild boys and politicians spend a lot of time nodding sagely while Lincoln tells another homily, but over the long haul -- and it is long -- this is actually much more interesting than perhaps the first 45 minutes suggest.

Oh and yes, a few of there black workers say things like "Lawdy".

But then again, maybe they did. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

BOB DYLAN SPEAKS, SAN FRANCISCO 1965 (Eagle DVD)

BOB DYLAN SPEAKS, SAN FRANCISCO 1965 (Eagle DVD)

In December 1965 Bob Dylan -- with his "protest singer" days behind him, an electric guitar now his weapon of choice, the as-yet unnamed Band as his group and with Like a... > Read more

DIOR AND I, a doco by FREDERIC TCHENG (Madman DVD)

DIOR AND I, a doco by FREDERIC TCHENG (Madman DVD)

Even if by the end of this 90 minute documentary you are no wiser about his personality or even exactly what it is he does, you will perhaps still be persuaded that Raf Simons is a rare visionary... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

FUTURE JAZZ by HOWARD MANDEL

FUTURE JAZZ by HOWARD MANDEL

In a recent column I said that when the histories of jazz last century are written one name will loom unnaturally large, that of trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis. I speculated this... > Read more

Etran Finatawa: Introducing Etran Finatawa (World Music Network) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Etran Finatawa: Introducing Etran Finatawa (World Music Network) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

From the same emotional source and geographical location -- the sub-Sahara around Niger -- as the thrilling and now well-known Tinariwen comes this equally extraordinary band. Their mesmerising... > Read more