From director Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, The Player) comes an uproarious, high-spirited look at "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the legendary Western adventurer. With a fine cast that includes Paul Newman, Harvey Keitel, Burt Lancaster,... more » Joel Grey and Geraldine Chaplin, Buffalo Bill and the Indians is a hilarious yet poignant comedy that shows the Old West as you've never seen it before! Although Buffalo Bill (Newman) has fought Indians and Civil War battles, nothing can prepare him for his newest challenge: show business! His "Wild West Show" is hugely popular, but when he signs a former enemy, Sioux Chief Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts), for a featured role, a hysterical clash of cultures reverberates far beyond the boundaries of their sprawling outdoor theater. And the complications only multiply when the troupe discovers it must put on a special command performancefor none other than the President of the United States!« less
"Robert Altman's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians (or Sitting Bull's History Lession)" has largely been forgotten while his other films from this period have been rediscovered as classics. While maybe its time for this one too.The "Why" of why this film such a critical bomb is not hard to decipher, Altman is continuing his critique of the West that started with "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". Yet this film is even more scathing. Bufflo Bill is an illiterate buffoon and President Cleveland works as a reminder that there were politicians back then. What I think really worked against Altman here, wasn't his treatment of this historical period but the changing of his own. In 1976, audiences were getting tired of these self-conscious films that were popular just five years eariler. "Buffalo Bill" stuck between "Jaws" (in '75) and then "Star Wars" (in '77) was a hard sell as the country was getting more conservative.Beside this, "Buffalo Bill" like a lot Altman films is a great film. He continues his pioneering use of overlapping dialogue and widescreen cinematography. And oh, did I mention it was funny, a second viewing really helps catch all of Altman's wry wit. Newman fooling around with ballet dancers is hilarious. And you can't tell me that the extra "Or Sitting Bull's History Lession" isn't a homage to Kubrick."
A stunning blast against the fraudulence of America.......
Brooke276 | Denver, CO | 06/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While not approaching the level of "Nashville" or "McCabe & Mrs. Miller," this film employs all of the Altman tricks (overlapping dialogue, a cast of thousands) to bring forth a scathing attack on America's reliance on myth and the need to rewrite the past with lies and hypocrisy. At every turn, Altman gives us images of a culture so immersed in show business and deception that it is no longer able to distinguish between reality and fantasy. While that in itself is hardly an original concept (especially for Altman, one of our greatest satirists), it works here because the film was released in 1976, the very year America was congratulating itself for a job well done. The best image remains the last, a reinforcement of America's need to dominate and win at all cost, even though such victories might be tainted by cheap shots and blatant unfairness."
"Truth is Whatever Gets the Most Applause!"
Todd and In Charge | Miami, FL | 02/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Altman has made some very good movies, and some very bad ones, often right next to each other. Viewing this film right after the highs of "Nashville" will surely lead to a serious Altman letdown. Historically, of course, coming out during the Bicentennial and right after that great film, expectations that were very high were mostly dashed, and this film quickly joined other Altman stinkers in the "not good" Altman film repository, right next to "H.E.A.L.T.H."
But time has been very kind to this Altman sleeper. I found Newman's performance exhilarating and comic, and Joel Grey hilarious and knowing. Like many of Altman's films, this one is about the mythmaking of contemporary pop history, and the "necessary illusions" required by the audience to buy into and celebrate these myths. Although the particular target here is western pop history, Altman's aims are much broader: the legacy of Native America abuse, the need of the audience to create and celebrate "hero myths," and the schematic critique of star-worshipping history, written by the "winners." Frank Kaquitts plays the critical role of truth-teller, and is understated and very funny as Sitting Bull, who joins Buffalo Bill's troupe with his interpreter, attempting to add some reality to Cody's wildly distorted (and wildly popular) western shows.
While the script of Altman and Alan Rudolph has some typical Altman flaws, fat, and excess, the benefit of time and careful reflection has served this little gem well."
A History Lesson, Of Sorts.
Kay's Husband | Virginia, U.S.A. | 05/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
I too first saw this film in a theatre in 1976 after its release; I was with a few other people and to this day none of them probably care for this movie.
I read a lot on the west and have several books about Buffalo Bill Cody, so I wanted to see what Mr. Altman had done with this movie. I can not argue with anyone who doesn't care for this picture, would not try to couch my review so that they would.
Though I realize that the film doesn't give a total picture of what was going on at this time in the still unsettled west it does have a quality of those times to it. Buffalo Bill here is not the young, agile Army Indian Scout of old, nor the brazen hero awarded the Medal of Honor, he has been tempered both by age and the bottle; but let no one doubt that he in fact had done many things that were historical. He was notable and respected in his time, and more over he was a capable western man and scout. Later he was bankrupt not only in money but also in spirit; and his final show days with the 101 Wild West show are pitiful to this day.
One needs to remember, too, that shortly after Sitting Bull left Wild Bill's show, he was savagely murdered by his own Indian Police tribesmen at Pine Ridge Reservation. Though the movie doesn't bring this out, and that was not never its intent, the 'west' was yet an unsettled area in some places, with several places being very dangerous. There are some western writers who claim the Apache were still making raids out of the Sierre Madre into the 1930s.
But men like Buffalo Bill and Frederick Remington who realized not only that the western times were changing, saw their 'west' disappearing, being replaced by something alien, with which they were totally unfamiliar. Each man attempted in his own way to keep "their" west alive in order that later people could visually see and understand it as they had experienced it. Today both men have come in for more than their share of disrespect. In the several college history of art courses I took, not a single painting of our American west was ever to be found in either text book or on mid-term exam.
Some of the flux existing in these times has been captured brillantly on film by Mr Altman, whether that was his intent or not. Even Burt Lancaster's character, Ned Buntline, is at odds & ends and seems to be very much adrift in that new west that is replacing the old west. Even his blue G.A.R. uniform of Civil War days harkens back to a more familiar time, and as he rides off for the final time he doesn't have a clue where he is going.
I treasure this movie and watch it not only for its surrealism, symbolism, and realism, but because it does attempt to show the physical being and personalities of the Wild West Show itself. I'm old enough to have heard and read of what this show looked like, but thanks to Altman's sets I can more plainly realize it, and realize it in blazing color.
I think and have always thought that this is a very worthwhile movie.
Best movie about Indians I've ever seen
Kay's Husband | 09/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"well, all I can tell you is having grown up in western oklahoma with lots of real indians this is the best movie about INDIANS i have ever seen. Not only do real Indians play Indians (as opposed to Italians playing Indians) but they actually sound and feel like real Indians. I saw this movie over twenty years ago and it has haunted me ever since. Although I really don't think Buffalo Bill was as big a fraud as he is portrayed here (in fact the Indians in his Wild West show LIKED him and remarked on his generosity and compassion) I think of him (in this movie) as a symbol of how we (whites) view ourselves and of our tendency towards superficiality and phoniness. But above all, I think this movie made a powerful statement about Native American spirituality that rings true. Sitting Bull WAS a profoundly spiritual person. He WAS mistreated and murdered by greedy and shallow people who couldn't appreciate his profound depth. To me, this was a movie about Sitting Bull and the greatness of Native American spirituality and I hope it haunts you the way it has me. I can't believe it's not more well known."