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"For all those DVD owners who are Errol Flynn fans or just plain love movies of the 30's and 40's, Santa Fe Trail is a fine film. Never mind political correctness or historical accuracy (none to be found), just smile and emerse yourselves in great entertainment by great stars...Errol Flynn (JEB Stuart), Raymond Massey (an awesome John Brown), Ronald Reagan (Custer), Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale, et al. Solid performances by all.The Roan Group did a good job transferring the movie to DVD...the sound is good and the picture clear. One can only hope that more of Flynn's movies will be transferred to DVD. To date none of his truly great movies, The Adventure's of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, Gentleman Jim, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Dodge City, Captain Blood, and Objective Burma are no where to be seen on the DVD horizon. A real travesty for all fans of Hollywood's Golden Age."
Roger Kennedy | 07/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many people are no doubt thrown off by the odd politics of this film. This never actually bothered me. Today we have become so mired in political correctness outlook that we can't view a film like this objectively anymore. Sure some of the views are a bit dated. But this is a hollywood 1930s film, made around the same time as Gone With the Wind. The views in that film are also strange, but its considered a classic none the less. The main premise of this film is to show the looming storm clouds of Civil War. The historical facts here are certainly off the mark in many places. The film enjoys giving us a popular image of West Point in the Ante-Bellum days before the war. Many famous cadet names are bandied about that we know would be come famous just a few years later. The point here is not how accurate the data is, but to show that all these men did attend the same institution and that many would become famous adversaries on the battlefied. The film does a nice job of showing this even if it does get a lot of details wrong in the process. The bit with John Brown is amusing. Again, its a difference of perspective here. Hollywood was in love with the old South back then. Today we are in love with polotical correctness which is offended by the fanatical views expressed by the character of John Brown, who is beautifully played by Raymond Massey. Its amusing to see Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan playing off each other here. I think the best thing to do is forget their so-called historical roles in the film, and just view them as two newly commissioned officers of the period sent to police Kansas. This way you can forget the JEB Staurt /Custer comparisons! The funny thing about seeing Reagan in a film like this is to compare him with what he would later become. We have just eulogized his recent passing in this country. The fact remains if Reagan had been a better actor he might never have become our president! This film was one of the best roles he ever had in movies! He and Flynn go round and round, and its amusing to see Reagan try and hold his own. He actually does better than one would expect next to the powerhouse Flynn with all his sex appeal back then Still, the best actor in the film is Raymond Massey by far. His portrayal of the fanatic Brown may offend some, but Brown was not unlike this. In fact its easy to compare this religious zeal to that of Bin Laden and other fanatics of his ilk. For the 1850s, Brown was seen as a fanatic by many. Abolitionism was a minority view even in the North. No one was too keen to shed blood over freeing slaves, sorry PC people, but this was so! The final battle scene at Harpers Ferry is exciting, but wildly inaccurate. Colonel Lee actually stormed the place with a company of US Marines, not dis-mounted cavalry! And Brown had only a dozen or so mis-guided follwers by that time. The whole event was quite small compared to what the movie shows us here. Again, try to view this film from the context of both when it was made and the times it is attempting to show. By doing so you can sit back and enjoy a classic adventure romp with a little history thrown in for color."
Action, Romance, Comedy, Politics
James L. | 11/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan star as soldiers out to thwart abolitionist John Brown in this action film set in the years just prior to the start of the Civil War. The U.S. is divided on the issue of slavery, and Brown has managed to stir the pot quite a bit. Flynn's best leading lady Olivia de Havilland is along again, this time as the tomboy that both Flynn and Reagan love. Van Heflin is a former fellow cadet of theirs who works for Brown, and Alan Hale is along for another ride with Flynn, providing the comic relief as usual. The performances are all good, with particular praise going to Raymond Massey as Brown, giving an insane, Jesus-like turn as the man whose motives are right, but whose means are very, very wrong. The script mixes a lot of action with humour and romance, plus a few political speeches. The happy ending seems tacked on, but other than that, it works well enough. A lot of people comment on the historical inaccuracies of this film (it's even mentioned on the video box description!), but my reaction has always been that you don't watch a Hollywood movie for a history lesson. Dramatic necessities will always lead to changing history to suit the film's needs. Instead, just sit back, enjoy the action, the chemistry of Flynn and de Havilland, the humour, the great score, and simply take away the idea of what the time must have been like, rather than the facts."
Two good films, in good condition.
Denis Smith | Norfolk, England | 11/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't very often write reviews (although I enjoy reading those of others), but I must just tell anyone wondering which version of "Santa Fe Trail" to buy that the Marengo version (the one that includes "Abilene Town" as a bonus) is excellent. I was not familiar with either of these movies before - I don't know why, as they are both really good movies, and better than many others that I have bought individually and paid more money for. "Santa Fe Trail" is a really unusual, and interesting movie. The combination of Curtiz and Flynn gives it something - a depth, or thoughtfulness, perhaps - that most movies just don't have. It is also, IMHO, a better movie than Errol Flynn's other cavalry outing, "They Died With Their Boots On", so I don't know why the former is in the public domain, as if nobody cares about it, with numerous versions available (some of which don't sound very good), while the latter is presumably still owned and guarded exclusively by Warner Brothers, who have recently brought out a lavish DVD version of it, with various "extras" on it. As for "Abilene Town", that also is a surprisingly good movie, its plot not unlike that of "Dodge City". On a trivial note: it looks to me as if Gary Cooper's famous, iconic "look" in "High Noon" (reproduced in books and posters so often) was in fact inspired by the outfit that Randolph Scott wears in "Abilene Town"."
Interesting and thought-provoking
Nathan Knight | 06/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many comment upon the historical inaccuracies of this film. I am not going to argue that this movie is historically accurate because many things in it are not, BUT I do believe its portrayal of the TIMES is accurate. Don't let the title or first appearance of this film fool you. This is not just any other western. This movie, in reality, deals with the issues leading up to the American Civil War of which the role of John Brown figures heavily in the movie. The movie also makes significant use of the historical fact that many of the great military leaders--Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart, Sheridan, etc.--all found themselves together at West Point in the years prior to the Civil War. The film is very thought provoking as it follows these people and how the events of the time begins to shape their minds and pull different individuals different directions as they grapple with issues which are beyond their control. The Indian woman soothsayer, mentioned by another reviewer, was a great scene which helped to show just how unprepared EVERYONE was for what was about to happen. And, last but not least--a wonderful cast--Errol Flynn, Olivia de Haviland (Melanie in Gone With The Wind--I just love her!) and Ronald Reagan. It is always enjoyable to see these "greats" in the movies. And, Raymond Massey (who later plays James Dean's father in "East of Eden") is electrifyingly spooky and appropriately plays the infamous John Brown. This movie is well worth the money, time, and some consideration of the mind."