Thursday, December 5, 2013

Soul Soldier (1970)

Originally titled The Red, White, and Black—but also marketed under the name Buffalo Soldier—this awful Western seems as if it was conceived to be an ensemble story about the exploits of free black men fighting for the Union Army in the American frontier circa the years immediately preceding the Civil War. Unfortunately, the film’s amateurish storytelling treats this worthwhile subject like grist for the melodramatic mill, substituting clichés and nonsense for meaningful narrative. Much of the picture comprises an uninteresting romantic triangle involving two enlisted men and the beautiful seamstress who is married to one of the men but trysts with another; there’s also a lot of screen time devoted to patrols in Indian country, which generates a few limp action sequences. Characterization is in short supply, because the people in Soul Soldier (or whichever of the film’s many titles one prefers) are all paper-thin contrivances. The basic plot involves ladies’ man Eli (Robert DoQui), who enlists in the Army to avoid the wrath of jealous husbands. Eli’s sent to a fort commanded by Col. Grierson (Cesar Romero), where Eli meets Julie (Janee Michelle), with whom he falls in love. Later, Julie’s dalliance with Eli’s friend and fellow solider, Sgt. Hatch (Lincoln Kilpatrick), causes strife. Yawn. Shot in the flat, ugly style of late ’60s/early ’70s television—and edited so aggressively (and haphazardly) that the whole discombobulated thing runs just 77 minutes—Soul Soldier provides a few fleeting moments of vapid entertainment, mostly owing to the diligence of actors DoQui and Kilpatrick, who try valiantly to surmount the lifeless material. (Athlete/political activist Rafter Johnson appears, inconsequentially, in a supporting role, so his star billing is deceptive.) Despite DoQui’s and Kilpatrick’s endeavors, a few well-delivered lines and some effectively simulated camaraderie are hardly reason enough to romp through this slag heap of random scenes, especially when cheap production values and a horrifically bad score—which wobbles between bleak motifs and inappropriately exuberant horn statements—accentuate the shoddiness of the enterprise.

Soul Soldier: LAME

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