May 7, 2014

Review: Journey to Shiloh (1968)

Journey to Shiloh is interesting in the sense that it shows two great Hollywood stars early on in their respective careers. James Caan is given the main character role of the movie. He does well enough as Buck Burnett but nothing earth shattering. He's cool, calm and collected and plays a father type character to all those who follow his leadership. Harrison Ford also has a role, albeit a very minor one where he doesn't deliver too many lines. As Willie Bill Bearden, he plays one of the underlings of Burnett. Even with seven heroes, it's still the Caan show.

The movie starts off with a pretty goofy singing introduction of all the characters. The song is a recurring theme that shows up several times and I actually like it. We know exactly who each character is and how they are without any further information needed. Journey to Shiloh is all about these seven characters and their mission to join up with the Confederate army during the American Civil War.


Genre: drama, war, western
Directed by: William Hale
Produced by: Howard Christie, Frederick Shorr
Written by: Gene L. Coon
Music by: David Gates
Running time: 101 minutes
Production company: Universal Pictures
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, National Broadcasting Company
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Brenda Scott, Don Stroud, Paul Petersen, Michael Burns, Jan-Michael Vincent, Harrison Ford, John Doucette, Noah Beery Jr., Tisha Sterling, James Gammon, Brian Avery, Clarke Gordon, Robert Pine



Buck (James Caan) and his men all hail from Texas. The honest truth is that they're ignorant as to why there's a war going on between the North and the South. They simply believe that it's their duty to join up and the right thing to do. However, the more they approach their destination, the more they question if joining up is really the best thing to do.


One thing that drags Journey to Shiloh down is the framing of the action scenes. There are several brawls that break out that aren't well filmed at all. Action is poorly captured and it makes the movie look pretty cheap unfortunately. Brawls are a western movie staple so it's a shame that JtS doesn't get it right.

There is also what is meant to be a grand battle between the North and the South that comes off as very low budget as well. The camera focuses on the North and South sides individually without any sort of mixing of the two armies. Explosions far away from anyone make men flail off their horses with the same thing repeating as the camera cuts to the other army. It's not very exciting or grand in scale when really it could be.

The strongest part of Journey to Shiloh is the story itself. Our heroes are very easy to root for. Their country boy roots makes them question a lot of what's wrong in society at the time like slavery and barriers between the rich and poor. They're good men who slowly wake up to the ugliness around them. It's hard to get attached to all of them though because there's so many of them. All the same, you want all of them to be OK.

It's also hard not to be disappointed slightly that Harrison Ford doesn't have a larger role. Judging from his performance in Journey to Shiloh, he didn't really deserve much more though. This is only his fourth role in a movie, third being actually credited. He's a little awkward but we all know how awesome he'll eventually become so it was still pretty cool seeing him in a movie so early on in his career. He's come a long way since.

Journey to Shiloh has a good story but the production values are a let down. It has good intentions, a goofy intro song and its heroes are likable. James Caan does steady work as Buck Burnett and gives early hints towards his later greatness. Harrison Ford on the other hand has some growing to do but we all know how that ends. Despite its problems, Journey to Shiloh is worth a watch.



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