General George Armstrong Custer has been portrayed as everything from a vain but ultimately honorable hero (Errol Flynn in They Died with Their Boots On) to an insane, pompous incompetent (Richard Mulligan in the biting Li... more »ttle Big Man), but few have attempted an ambitious look at the man in all his contradictions. Robert Siodmak's Custer of the West, his final American production, attempts the task with fine results, portraying the career soldier as a pragmatist, a disciplinarian with a bullying streak, a loner, and ultimately an Old World romantic in the modern age. Robert Shaw gives the role a regal bearing (though his continental accent keeps drifting in) and a sense of dignity, depicting a man who ironically identifies more with the Indians than with the U.S. Army. Jeffrey Hunter and Ty Hardin costar as his battling junior officers and Robert Ryan is memorable in a brief appearance as a gold-mining deserter. Shooting in handsome widescreen and vivid Technicolor, Siodmak makes his outdoor settings come alive and nimbly handles the many action scenes, most notably a chase that sends an escaping soldier whooshing down a log water chute like a Disney ride. Siodmak's sweeping visuals deliver both grand images and ironic counterpoint, but ultimately Custer of the West eschews the heroism of Hollywood adventures for a portrait of the corrupt state of the American military and one man's hopeless fight against it. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Early on in the pre-production stages CUSTER OF THE WEST was originally supposed to be directed by Akira Kurosawa. It was meant to be a biography of epic proportions combining both story and thrilling action sequences filmed in Cinerama. Eventually it was filmed in Spain in Super Technirama directed by Robert Siodmak. The production is still fairly ambitious but the screenplay by Bernard Gordon and Julian Halevy makes for a rather episodic tale lacking a narrative sweep that would have been very beneficial to this film. Part of this can be attributed to the producers' wishes to insert Cinerama-type effects (a runaway train, a downhill ride in an out-of-control buckboard, a soldier escaping down lumber jammed rapids, etc) into what should have been a straightforward biographical filming of General Custer and the historical events surrounding him. Robert Shaw gives a solid performance as General George Custer and beautifully creates another interpretation into the myth of the man. Shaw demonstrates none of the flamboyancy associated with Custer but instead concentrates on the virility and single-minded duty of his command. Through the entire film Shaw remains introverted and a somewhat enigmatic character. The viewer is never sure if Custer has a single humanitarian bone in his body because every time the question arises Shaw reverts back to his dutiful military facade. This is demonstrated in his scenes with Dull Knife (Kieron Moore) and Sergeant Mulligan (Robert Ryan) the deserter. This film contains other good performances. Jeffrey Hunter plays Lieutenant Benteen as a professional soldier but one who is sensitive to the plight of the Indians yet never lets his sentiments interfere with his duties. On a psychological level Hunter's somber character mirrors the feelings that Custer will never show the viewer. Ty Hardin plays Major Reno a hard drinking officer with a long family military history. Custer distrusts him and Reno will eventually let him down. Lawrence Tierney plays a gruff General Philip Sheridan and a somewhat indifferent Mary Ure plays Elizabeth, Custer's wife. However, Robert Ryan is the only actor that breathes some real life into this film. We all know from history what eventually happens to Custer. Ryan's character represents the uninhibited free spirit of all men. He shows up like a guardian angle to give Custer one last chance to change his destiny. This is one of the best roles of Robert Ryan's career. The photography by Cinematographer Cecilio Paniagua is very good. The frame compositions are well thought out. His camera traverses many landscapes of open plains, rushing rivers and rolling hills very beautifully in Technicolor. The music score composed by Bernardo Segall is very different in approach and sound for a film of this type. The Brazilian composer decided to build his score on an atmosphere of heroism, which he creates and builds upon. Segall essentially puts aside most references to the traditional Western and falls back on Civil War arrangements and orchestrations (especially in the film's opening) and further period influences. Added to this Segall also seems to have been inspired by the Spaghetti Western (in the film's more reflective moments), which was at its zenith at the time this film was made. In fact, much of this film seems to have been inspired by the Spaghetti Western in its look and feel. Even though this is a Spanish-US co-production it looks more akin to a Spaghetti Western. Art designs by Jean d'Eaubonne, Eugène Lourié and Julio Molina, Set designs by Antonio Mateos and Costumes by Laure de Zarate greatly contribute to the `Spaghetti' and European look of this film.This film always intrigued me ever since it was released in 1968. In fact it hardly got released. It only showed at my neighborhood theatre in a 90 minute edited version. I remember reading in a newspaper at the time that the film was going to be released in a drastically cut version in the United States by Cinerama Releasing Corp. That was that! Now, thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment this film has been released at this 141 minute length. Visually Anchor Bay produces the best DVDs. (You have really got to see Anchor Bay's DVD of Disney's ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD to really appreciate how good their product is.) That aside CUSTER OF THE WEST remains a good film and an epic in its own right. The rousing Civil War sequence at the beginning of the film is some of the best work ever put on film. Irving Lerner, not Robert Siodmak, directed this brilliant opening and shows us Custer a man driven by duty. Custer's Last Stand at the Little Big Horn is perhaps not historically accurate but is very impressively staged and filmed and gives the viewer an idea of the scope of Custer's folly. Bernardo Segall's music at the denouement is very poignant. Above all, the brilliant Super Technirama photography effects are like a real roller coaster ride and are crisp and colorful as ever. This is a great DVD."
This Anchor Bay version is the one to buy!
gobirds2 | 01/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Forget the horrible Simitar DVD of this film! Here is a version mastered in the correct aspect ratio with brilliantly rendered colors and a razor sharp focus! Even though this movie is not exactly a masterpiece, a good looking DVD such as this certainly makes it seem better than it is."
Second string telling of the Custer story.
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 03/06/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is an example of what happens when a British film company tackles American history. The Custer story has been told in many films for many years. The various depictions are generally amusing in their fabrications, half-truths, historical inaccuracies, and outright lies. This film is essentially a B movie given a '60s Cinerama treatment that stresses visual presentation over substance. There is one long scene, for example, of a man escaping danger by riding down a miner's sluice. This segment is protracted, and one suspects it's only there to demonstrate Cinerama's camera technique. Custer (Robert Shaw, with Scottish burr intact) is depicted heroically. Reno (Ty Hardin) is disparaged as a drunken coward who failed to come to Custer's aid. The complexities of Custer's personality and the doubtful integrity of his motivations as an Indian fighter are not explored. The only Indians mentioned are the Cheyenne. The scriptwriters didn't add that the Native Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn also included a major contingent of Sioux. Historical problems aside, the movie falters as an action-adventure film. The climactic battle is disappointingly lethargic. As Custer movies go, "Son of the Morning Star" is more accurate, and "They Died With Their Boots On" is better as an action-adventure film. ;-)"
MOST BIZARRE TELLING OF THE CUSTER LEGEND
Randy S. Roth | APO, AP USA | 07/09/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"It was once said that you shouldn't get your history or your religion from the movies, and this is a GREAT example why! It would have you think that ALL the battles of the U.S. Civil War were fought with about a dozen Confederates and a handful of Federal cavalry. There were even scenes of unmanned cannon firing themselves -- not an artilleryman (or anyone else) anywhere in sight! In fact, throughout this movie all cavalry battle sequences were anemic, lethargic and DULL! The Little Big Horn battle is a laughing stock. The warrior's charge is weirdly setup then staged -- probably the biggest historical inaccuracy in the whole sad world of historic inaccuracies. To make matters worse, it was shot mostly from long distance. Any detail of action you get will remind you of a bad-guy-indian raid on a wagon train in some obscure "B" western matinee. The story of Custer between these "battles" is BORING! You couldn't care less about the main characters! To be fair though, Mr. Shaw as Armstrong (very miscast) does his best with this weak script. In a couple of the early scenes he almost "channels" Errol Flynn. Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Ryan (who turns in the BEST performance here -- but brief) and Ty Hardin were all wasted in this project. BUT the MOST glaring fault of the movie: the 7th Cavalry's anthem of "Garry Owen" was never, ever played! Not once! Speaking of tunes, the odd soundtrack lends nothing to the flick at all. The music rarely matches up to what is happening on the screen. All-in-all, it is easy to see why this never made a splash (or dull thud) in the U.S. movie circuit. Vastly better films are: THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (historically off, but the Last Stand battle is probably the closest to the scope and intensity of the real fight); LITTLE BIG MAN (essentially an Old West history lesson that includes the Last Stand, Custer is portrayed as a total nut-case mostly for comedic relief -- but nice overall presentation of the Battle of Little Big Horn); and SON OF THE MORNING STAR (probably the most accurate of the Hollywood Custer stories). After all is said and done, CUSTER OF THE WEST is not worth the purchase, rent or trouble. Who could EVER fall asleep when the command "CHARGE!" is given? You will!"
Good to average spectacle; Terrible pan-scan DVD transfer
Joe NY | 04/24/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Not historically accurate movie. However, the widescreen specatacle is impressive. Often cut, this version is almost complete running 136 minutes. The original Cinerama release version was 140 minutes. The brief US release in 1969 was 120 min. The print utilized for this Simitar DVD is torn and tattered. It is pan/scan, probaly a worn TV print. This movie needs better source materials and a wide screen transfer. Don't waste your money on Simitar junk."