Thursday, July 3, 2014

Flick Pick: Gettysburg

(Turner, 1993)

Superb and epic adaptation of Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, detailing with carefully considered precision what 100,000 of our countrymen were up to in the Pennsylvania backcountry 151 years ago this week, for 3 days in particular, culminating on today's date.
Originally it began life as a miniseries until ABC foolishly weinered out. Ted Turner, to his credit, picked up the project, saw it through, and even insisted on releasing it theatrically, despite the 4-plus hour running length on release. While it was a "flop" theatrically, in a very limited release, and hampered by the time length, it actually proved brilliant in that it provided both additional legitimacy to the project, and built up a fan base. When it premiered on cable TV after the theatrical showings, it set a cable TV record for audience, and has been lionized since in DVD release, and as used in classrooms in perpetuity since it came out.
No small part is due to the overwhelming support of a virtual army of historically fanatic re-enactors, and the unprecedented before or since access to the actual Gettysburg Battle Site by the US Park Service for the filming of some scenes.
And if you're still an absolute Ted Turner hater despite that, it's worth watching to see him take one in the chest near the opening of the climactic Pickett's Charge.
The main actors were simply brilliant, in roles large and small, including a pivotal role by Richard Jordan (as Gen. Lew Armistead), who put everything he had on the screen, even as unbeknownst he was dying of a brain tumor, which ultimately took him two months before the film was released.

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