After directing the flop play "General Seeger" on Broadway in 1962, Scott waited eight years before doing the superior TV adaptation of "The Andersonville Trial" for which he was awarded an Emmy. Two years later he directed himself in this film, but the result was far from satisfying. What began as a good idea turns out to be a boring, verbose, pretentious...read more
After directing the flop play "General Seeger" on Broadway in 1962, Scott waited eight years before doing the superior TV adaptation of "The Andersonville Trial" for which he was awarded an Emmy. Two years later he directed himself in this film, but the result was far from satisfying.
What began as a good idea turns out to be a boring, verbose, pretentious drama that might have been a tight action drama had Scott stepped off his soap box and gotten down to moviemaking. Scott, a widower, and his preteen son, Beauvy, live in Wyoming and have a good relationship that takes them
camping every so often. On one of their overnight excursions an Army chopper flies over them and accidentally sprays the area with some deadly nerve gas, which is being tested. The next day Scott awakens to find many of his sheep dead and Beauvy in a coma with a heavy nosebleed. He takes Beauvy to
the local hospital where the doctor, Basehart, suggests that Scott, too, should be admitted for diagnosis. Scott agrees, then learns that Basehart has been taken off the case and replaced by Sheen, an Army doctor who has given orders to separate Scott from Beauvy in the hospital. Scott is given
drugs to keep him quiet, and Beauvy dies, but Sheen lies and says that the boy is recovering well and that he, Scott, will be up and about soon. Nobody in the small ranching area knows what's happened, as the authorities have clamped a lid on any news. The reasons are twofold. First, the
realization that deadly gas is in the area might create panic on the part of the townspeople, and second, the Army wants to keep a close eye on Scott, as he has somehow managed to survive the lethal gas and they intend to use him now as a "control" to see how the gas affects a human. When Scott
spies Beauvy's clothing being covertly toted out of the hospital in a sterile plastic container, he wises up to what's happened and takes steps. He flees the hospital where he has been kept under tight security, finds Hughes, another doctor, and forces the man to reveal the truth. Beauvy has died
and the doctors have performed an unauthorized autopsy on the lad. Further, Hughes is convinced that Scott is ticking off his final heartbeats and has only a matter of hours before he follows his son to the grave. Scott is in a rage, purchases dynamite and all the accouterments to go with it,
steals a motorcycle, rides to the laboratory that mixed the gas, and blows the place to bits. A state trooper and a night watchman are killed in the blast. Now he takes a truck and heads for the Army base that, he has learned, is being used to develop weapons for biological warfare. It's a race
against the clock as the fatal gas in his system is taking its toll. Hughes has told the Army about Scott, and they are all waiting for him as he approaches the base, fully intending to destroy it. Hundreds of soldiers are guarding the base on the ground, and overhead armed helicopters patrol the
area. Before Scott can unleash his fury (and we can easily see that the moment he raises one hand, he'll be cut down by thousands of bullets), he falls to the ground in pain, shudders, screams, and dies.
This could have been a smash, but Scott must have thought he had something earth-shaking to state, so he filled the movie with countless slow-motion shots for emphasis. But they were out of place and brought an already tedious movie down to a pace set by an arthritic snail. It isn't easy for an
actor to direct himself. A few giants, such as Laurence Olivier, Woody Allen, and Orson Welles, have done it successfully, but more have failed--for example, Paul Newman (HARRY AND SON), Marlon Brando (ONE-EYED JACKS), and Cliff Robertson (J.W. COOP; THE PILOT) and, of course, Scott.