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Ulzana's Raid

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 21, 2020
Ulzana's Raid

Robert Aldrich was one of the greatest film directors to ever live. His career spanned genres and decades, and so many of his films are only strengthened by the passage of time. The matter of fact way in which he shot brutal depictions of violence struck this writer at an early age. Take "The Dirty Dozen" for instance. It's a team up movie, for sure, but Aldrich really revels in the filth of the gang of mercenaries. In a similar way that Scorsese condemns his terrible male characters while also portraying them in such an immediate manner, Aldrich believed in cinema as a tool of instruction without pretension. His 1972 anti-western "Ulzana's Raid" may be the best argument in defense of that fact.

Available for Blu-ray for the first time in the United States with a stunning HD transfer, Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label give this underrated gem the time of day it deserves. This release comes highly recommended, as it also includes an interview with actor Bruce Davison that really gives incredible context to Aldrich's relationship with his performers and the difficult production of the film.

The year is 1885 and the American military has wiped out countless Native Americans in one of the biggest bloodbaths in history. Ulzana (Joaquín Martínez), an Apache chief who knew his reign was ending soon, and a war party of angry cohorts tear across the Arizona desert and kill whoever comes upon them. An Army scout named McIntosh (Burt Lancaster) is tasked with escorting cavalry soldiers led by an experienced lieutenant named Garnett DeBuin (Davison) on a hunt to find Ulzana and kill him. But in territory that Ulzana knows much better than the US military, McIntosh and company are fighting a losing battle.

Heralded by many as maybe one of the best films to allude to Vietnam war, it's actually interesting to this writer that the comparisons haven't been made to George W. Bush Jr. and the war in the Middle East. Here was a needless war that forced American soldiers to adapt quickly to an unknown land with a no endgame in sight. "Ulzana's Raid" confronts the viewer with the ignorance of the American military institution in such a nihilistic and unrelentingly brutal way. While Calvary members are playing a game of baseball, Ulzana's team is scalping their victims and playing catch with them. But that doesn't draw away from the fact that the film itself is thrilling and one of the great anti-westerns. Pick this Blu-ray up if you're a fan of Aldrich, as this is one of his best. Other special features include:

• Trailers from Hell with John Landis
• Audio Commentary by film critic Nick Pinkerton
• Theatrical trailer

"Ulzana's Raid"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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