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Author Topic: Sacred Ground (1983) Super 8 optical feature!
Osi Osgood
Film God

Posts: 10204
From: Mountian Home, ID.
Registered: Jul 2005

 - posted November 25, 2017 12:27 PM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have a strange affinity for the “lost film’. These “lost’ films are largely due to, no doubt having a very weak or short distribution, were rarely seen theatrically and back in the late 70’s, early 80’s either disappeared entirely or quickly had a short life on VHS.

It wasn’t, however always due to them being bad films. In the case of the western, by the late 70’s, the western had largely disappeared from the big screen.

“Sacred Ground’ was directed by Charles B Pierce, who’s main claim to fame was “The Legend of Boggy Creek’ (which became a low budget classic of the 70’s), but Charles Pierce “cut his teeth” directing TV westerns, most notably being a regular director of the TV series “Little House on the Prairie”, so Pierce was not in unknown territory with the western. Unlike many a western, this film had a very serious drama to it.

A fur trapper, (played by Tim McCintyre in his last role) and his very pregnant wife, an indian woman find a place to build a broken down cabin near a river filled with beaver. He fixes what is left of the cabin that has fallen down. Shortly after he has rebuilt the cabin, he is confronted by an irate Piaute war party. It appears that he has rebuilt a cabin that was erected on sacred Piaute burial grounds. After some posterings and fighting, the Indians pull down the cabin, mortally wounding the Indian woman who shortly thereafter dies, but gives birth before she dies.

The Indian medicine man takes the birth of this child as a good omen (life coming from a place of burial) and at first allow the trapper and child to leave. But without a woman to nurse the child, the trapper comes up with a daring plan and kidnaps a woman from the Indian raiding party to nurse the child. This Indian woman has just lost her own child to the yellow fever. The Indian chief demands not only the woman but the child as well and what follows is a tug of war between the trapper and the Indian party to get the child back.

The Indians mortally wound the trapper (or so they thought), take the woman and the child, but cast out the woman (as she was supposed to kill the trappers horse as he slept, as they left “signs” along the trail to tell her. Now she wanders alone in the wintry forest, longing for the child she had just began to nurse.

The trapper comes up with a plan, he goes back with a fellow trapper “Witcher”, (played by the always reliable Jack Elam) to the burial grounds, light a bonfire and wait for the war party. They intend to burn the burial sites, (as this would not allow the spirits of the dead to reach the “happy hunting grounds”. The war party arrives and battle ensues, the trapper wins the first day (armed with a 15 shot repeating rifle), but when the Indians return the next morning, the remaining warriors threaten to drown the baby in the river unless they surrender. They do but the Indians don’t play fair. Witcher runs up the hill to burn the burial pyres but is killed. The outcast Indian woman appears on the scene, picking up the torch and threatens to burn the bodies unless the baby ands the trapper are unharmed.

The Indians realize that they can’t allow this to happen to their dead, so they let the trapper and Indian woman go. They part their ways, the trapper and woman leaving the burial grounds, (with the baby), the war party leaving, back to their lands. The End.

Most certainly, an intense film. Though intense and with a goodly amount of action, it’s not an intensely bloody film like many modern westerns, but I highly appreciated the very good attention to period detail, as well as the lovely winter scenery (largely shot in the state where the action takes place, Oregon). Neither sides are stereotyped and both have their motivations for their actions and are justified. There are no ridiculous subplots either, it’s straight forward action and drama and certainly kept my attention.

The film also hosts another of my favorite western actors, L.Q. Jones (as the shady owner of a trading post) and there were no actors appearing to phone in their parts. It was well done. In the case of jack Elam, he must have been a favorite or friend of director Pierce, as he was in nearly every theatrical film that Pierce made

This is an optical sound theatrical feature. I could tell, (as with quite a few of these optical sound features), that this was an original 35MM print used for this, as you can just slightly see little bits of stuff on the top and bottom which would have been unseen when it was letterboxed for theatrical distribution, but in my opinion, I just get to see more of the overall frame that wouldn’t have been enjoyed in the theater. This was also a very sharp print as we’ll, it looks like 16MM. The optical sound was very loud and sharp, sharper than most that I have heard.

The print was struck on Kodak SP and it has a very slight fade (I’d say it’s about an 8 out of 10, and apparently a 9 out of 10 in most scenes, pretty good color. Often color in these features will go from very good color in one scene to only passable color in the next), but I’m certainly proud to own this rare film.

… and, as always …


"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Tom Photiou
Film God

Posts: 4837
From: Plymouth U.K
Registered: Dec 2003

 - posted November 25, 2017 01:21 PM      Profile for Tom Photiou   Email Tom Photiou   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Blimy Osi that is a hell of a review. Well done 1st class osi. Thats a title ive never seen on 8 before.

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Osi Osgood
Film God

Posts: 10204
From: Mountian Home, ID.
Registered: Jul 2005

 - posted November 27, 2017 11:27 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks Tom ...

One of the things that I really liked about this film is that it’s not you’re standard John Wayne style “shoot-em-up”. This is a psychological story line, which might also be why this film didn’t do as well as it should have when it came out, as people, when it comes to westerns are basically looking for a big shoot em up. This is a morality tale.

Take the first instance of wrong. The trapper unknowingly erects the cabin that fell down, back up, on a Piaute burial ground. No one told him about this ahead of time, no even the person at the trading post, (L.Q. Jones), and when he realizes it, he says to his Indian wife, “I was a damned fool”, and in fact, he is preparing to leave, attempting to gather a few items they need but the Indians, unknowing to him, have gathered outside of the cabin and are tying ropes to bring the cabin down on top of them.

They in fact do this, killing the Indian wife in the process, (she is capable of delivering their child before she dies, as she was in labor when the Indians start to tear down the cabin on top of them). The trapper, knowing he was wrong is willing to leave, but the fact that she can’t be moved because she is in labor, stops him from immediately leaving with her, and he goes out of the cabin to attempt to reason with the Indians who are beyond reasoning with. To them, he has desecrated their sacred burial land.

One wrong escalates to another wrong. The trapper now has a newborn baby that he can’t personally take care of. He feeds the child berry juice, (quite an ingenious small part of the story, I thought). But with the nearest outpost being 5 days away, he knows that the child will never make it. This therefore leads him to an escalation of hostility with the Paiute, not because he wants to, but he needs a nurse for his child. He therefore kidnaps the Indian woman to nurse the child, who just happens (unknowing to the trapper) to be the woman who has just lost her child to the yellow fever.

Things escalate further. Now the Indian chief wants not only his woman back, but he demands the child as well, which leads to some very interesting back and forth fighting
Between the trapper and the Indians. In one case, an Indian warriors fakes that one of the trappers beaver traps has snapped on his leg, asking for help an when the trapper comes near enough, the warrior shoots the trapper with an arrow, only to find that the trapper is uninjured, (as he has fashioned a tree bark “shield” to put under his furs) and kills him.

When the Piaute do get the woman and child back and leave the trapper for dead, he then, (once he’s recovered enough), escalates further for one last confrontation, at the very sacred burial site where all the escalation happened in the first place. The trapper only wants his child back by now, he’s already lost his wife.

This comes down to a battle of “wills” between the two men, the Indian chief and the trapper.

The trapper loses his friend “Witcher”, in the battle. The chief loses many warriors in the confrontation. After this first confrontation, we even have the very scary scene of the chief threatening to drown the baby in the river if the trapper doesn’t surrender.
He wants his family back, the Indian chief wants his burial untampered with and after all this battle between them, the Indian woman who has been cast out has the “deciding vote”, threatening to destroy the burial site if he doesn’t back off and give the trapper back the child, (which she wants as well). One could well say that this is one of the very few westerns where an Indian woman is stronger in will than the, in this case, arrogant men that are fighting with each other, no matter how right each side feels that they are.

So yes, a most thought provoking film, better in many ways than many higher profile westerns!

"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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