I caught a surprisingly good movie a few days ago on my favorite channel, Encore Westerns. Journey to Shiloh first caught my attention because of the cast. The lead is a 27 year old James Caan, along with a cast of future stars including Harrison Ford, Jan Michael Vincent, Don Stroud, and Michael Sarrazin, as well as former child actors Paul Peterson (The Donna Reed Show) and Michael Burns (Wagon Train). They form a group of West Texas toughs called the Cochise County Killer Comanches, and head off to join the Texas cavalry in defense of Richmond during the Civil War. So far, so good, until you get to the opening song.
Groan. To my surprise, things picked up pretty quickly after that. The seven long haired Texans (or actors in bad wigs) make their way from their Indian fighting frontier eastward, ready to join the Confederate States Army. Along the way, they realize that they had never seen a slave before, much less owned one; never met a Yankee, much less fought one; weren’t really sure that they were Southerners; and, finally, that most people in these here civilized lands were ornery liars.
They never do make it to Richmond, and end up in a Florida infantry unit marching to go fight Grant at a place call Shiloh. By the time the battle ends, only single, now one-armed, long haired Texan survives to ride back home. By my count, more of his compadres were killed by Johnny Rebs than by Bluebellies.
Pro-Texas? Anti-war? Extolling the virtues of long haired, buckskin wearing ruffians over dandified easterners? There are a lot of messages in Journey to Shiloh, and some good acting as well. A nice find in the sea of B movies.