Review: Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson
Blu-ray: Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians is one of the most ‘Robert Altman’ films I’ve seen. A revisionist western by Altman with a barrage of stars and snappy dialogue that Quentin Tarantino would die for.
Based on the play ‘Indians’ by Arthur Kopit, Paul Newman is William F. Cody, also known as Buffalo Bill, along with Geraldine Chaplin (Annie Oakley), Will Sampson, Joel Grey, a very young Harvey Keitel and Burt Lancaster as Bill’s biographer, Ned Buntline.
Altman has always had this knack of making ensemble films about America and Amercian’s, and given them a chatty almost realistic feel while being satirical in a non offensive way.
Apparently very poorly received at the time of release, Buffalo Bill is a real delight, grand in scale we see these once ‘noble’ white men and cowboys vanquishing the savages (Indigenous Indians) and saving the West, as daily entertainment for the masses.
The story concerns the arrival of the captured Chief Sitting Bull of General Custer and Little Big Horn fame, and he is going to join the show rather than be incarcerated. But much to Cody’s annoyance, Sitting Bull isn’t a murdering savage, but a sort of mystical shaman, who is the genuine embodiment of what the whites believe about their own history out West. He is quietly heroic and morally pure and he refuses to reenact the Custer episode (he wasn’t even there).
Paul Newman plays Cody beautifully as an alcoholic shagger of VERY annoyingly loud opera singers, who claims to be a true frontiersman but actually lives in comfort. He wears a wig, can’t shoot anymore and is desperate that his legend not be tarnished.
I did laugh out loud several times at this film and really enjoyed the vibe of the piece, despite being made in the 70s it has the ‘feel’ of a revisionist western, it was also forward thinking in its portrayal of Indians and their ‘masters’. Great satire.
The special features are superb, with the footage of Buffalo Bill from over 100 years ago being a complete jaw dropper.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
- High Definition remaster
- Two presentations of the film with its original ‘antique’ colour timing: the 124-minute director’s cut; and the shorter, 105-minute producer’s cut
- Original stereo audio
- From the Prairie to the Palace (1976, 5 mins): archival on-set documentary featuring rare footage of Altman and Paul Newman
- Jim Webb on Robert Altman (2007, 22 mins): audio extracts from a presentation by the veteran sound mixer
- Alternative French opening titles and closing credits (1976, 7 mins)
- Seven silent films featuring Buffalo Bill and the stars of his Wild West shows, with musical accompaniment by Bernard Wrigley: Annie Oakley (1894, 14 secs); Parade of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, No. 1 (1898, 43 secs); Parade of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, No. 2 (1898, 2 mins); Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Parade(1902, 2 mins); Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East (1910, 13 mins); The Life of Buffalo Bill (1912, 27 mins); and Ford Animated Weekly (1916, 10 mins)
- Original theatrical trailer
- TV spot
- Image galleries: publicity and promotional materials; and a selection of original Buffalo Bill posters and photographs
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Richard Combs, extracts from Altman on Altman, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Peter Stanfield on the silent films of Buffalo Bill, and film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies
- All extras subject to change
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson is released 14th December by Powerhouse Films under their Indicator series.
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.