Thursday, January 29, 2015

13 Fighting Men

A movie that was new to me when it started showing pu on FXM Retro recently is 13 Fighting Men. I got to see one of the previous showings, and it's coming up again tomorrow morning (January 30) at 6:00 AM. It's decidedly B material, but if you haven't seen it, it is worth a watch.

Grant Williams plays John Forrest, a captain in the Union Army about a day after the Civil War has officially ended: he and his soldiers meet a spy who informs them of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, but Abraham Lincoln has yet to be assassinated. Unfortunately, the spy has instructions for a member of Forrest's group: deliver a bunch of Union gold to somebody. Forrest wants to take his men north out of the technically former Confederate territory and back home, since all of them are sick of fighting a war that's officially over, but orders are orders, and they're going to have to guard the money. At least it's only a day or two out of their way.

Yeah right. Cut to a scene of the spy, who is waylaid by a group of Confederate soldiers, led by Major Boyd (Brad Dexter). The spy tells them the war is over, but Boyd and his men discover a couple of Union coins on him, which means they know he must have done some sort of work for the North. They get the information about the gold shipment out of him and execute him for spying. But they also decide that even though the war is over, they could use that money to start new lives. Besides, they still harbor understandable resentment towards the North. So they're going to try to ambush the Union soldiers and take the money for themselves.

The Union soldiers, meanwhile, stop at a farmhouse. Carole Prescott (Carole Mathews) was running the farm and barely scraping by while her husband was off fighting the war. Although the war is over and her husband has returned, she wants out. He's a pacificst coward, and she wants a better life than trying to farm when they have no money to buy seed. Needless to say, the Confederates find the Union soldiers, which leads to a cat-and-mouse waiting game over who will end up with the money and whether any outside forces will come to save the day -- remember, the war is officially over.

I said at the beginning that 13 Fighting Men is B material, but simply being a B movie doesn't automatically mean a movie is bad. 13 Fighting Men does a reasonably good job, as there is a surprising number of twists and turns along the way, and people acting with believable motivations. You can forgive the Confederates, who probably didn't have much of a choice in the first place, for wanting that money. Some of the Union soldiers also decide they wouldn't mind having that money, and since they just want to get home with the war over, you can't blame them either. There's nothing groundbreaking here and the production values aren't much better than episodic TV, but for a 70-minute movie, it's passable material. I just wish FXM would show the movie in its original aspect ratio.

Watch for future TV star Ted Knight in a small role as one of the Confederate soldiers.

No comments: