Journey to Shiloh (1968) James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Brenda Scott, Don Stroud Movie Review

Journey to Shiloh (1968)   2/52/52/52/52/5

James Caan in Journey to Shiloh (1968)

A Slow Journey

Buck Burnett (James Caan) along with his friends, including Little Bit Lucket (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Willie Bill Bearden (Harrison Ford) are heading across country to join the Confederates in Shiloh, Tennessee where a big battle is expected to take place. As they make their journey they meet various people and encounter various things which leads to some of them realising that their enthusiasm may have been misplaced and joining a battle is not for them.

Maybe back in 1968 when "Journey to Shiloh" was released the opening worked but watching it now where through some changed lyrics to the song "The Yellow Rose of Texas" we get introduced to each of the characters it ends up cheesy for a western. This opening sadly floored my expectations because from the smiling faces of these characters as the camera settled on each of them for their line in the song to introduce them to some surprising choices of actors for a western it just felt wrong. To put it simply no matter how much I like Harrison Ford and Jan-Michael Vincent neither of them seems truly comfortable in cowboy hats.

Harrison Ford in Journey to Shiloh (1968)

Now of course the cheesy grinning of these characters during the opening scene is significant because it is meant to suggest of their youthful naivety as they head off to be part of the battle not really knowing what it is to be in a real battle or why they are doing it. As such over the course of the movie a series of events cause each of these young men to grow up and consider what they are doing, yes we are in coming of age territory of sorts. I say young men loosely because the only one who comes close to convincing of being that young is Jan-Michael Vincent and that is down to his beach blonde hair and flawless skin.

The thing is that I can see how "Journey to Shiloh" would have entertained audiences back in 1968 as 20 years later we had another group of young Hollywood actors doing the western thing with "Young Guns" and as a teen in the 80s I enjoyed that western. As such I reckon if I was a teenager back in 1968 the appeal of Caan, Sarrazin, Ford and Vincent would have been enough to keep me entertained where as now it is the opposite and they seem out of place in this movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Journey to Shiloh" is many a thing from being a vehicle to showcase young Hollywood talent to being an anti-war movie. But sadly for me the one thing it isn't is entertaining and ended up a bit of a chore to watch due to its heavily orchestrated feel as it tried to make its point about war.