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Author Topic: Review on The Conspirator  (Read 12997 times)
angels0618
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« on: April 15, 2011, 09:07:08 PM »

I just came back from seeing The Conspirator and I guess I was a little disappointed. Mcavoy and Wright were really good. The guy who played Lewis Powell looked nothing like him at all. Lewis Powell was very good looking and quite opposite from this actor. I feel there were alot of innacuracies and things left out. I know it's a movie and time is limited, but I thought it could have been done differently. Kevin Kline was pretty good as Stanton but his beard was not long enough anf he wasn't really in the movie that much. Mcavoy was brilliant as Aiken and Robin Wright was brilliant as well. At the end of the movie I still don't know if Mary Surratt was innocent or guilty but I don't believe she deserved to die or any of the other three conspirators. I am against the death penalty and to watch that scene where they were hung was very disturbing and sad. I can't imagine how any of the four must have felt and what was going through their minds. Just awful. They were all so young and had their whole lives ahead of them. What did everyone else think of the movie?
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kharv
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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2011, 10:01:10 PM »

I felt the movie served its purpose well.  I now want to learn more about Mary Surratt and the actual trial.

I noticed the things/inaccuracies that I had already heard about, so it was sort of nice knowing that I wouldn't be so distracted by seeing them.

I loved it when my wife turned to me during a few scenes of the prison and asked if it was the same place we toured while in Savannah a few years back.

Overall, very well done.
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Roger Norton
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2011, 03:06:06 AM »

Gloria, I am not good with either book or movie reviews, so I will leave that for others.

One unusual thing happened yesterday as my wife and I sat in the theater. It was right at the end when a few lines of text crossed the screen. The theater was totally silent as people read the lines on screen. When the information about what happened with John Surratt came on the screen, the silence was interrupted by a woman's loud gasp. She was obviously not expecting that after just watching what happened to John's mother.
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angels0618
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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2011, 06:30:08 AM »

Hi Roger. I think seeing the texts at the end with John Surratt was quite eerie as his mother hung for what he was let go for. I guess the woman who gasped didn't know the whole story. But then again, do any of us REALLY know it?
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Richard Petersen
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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2011, 06:49:10 AM »

On 4/15 went to the 4.30 showing in the Chicago area and was pleasantly surprised on how many were in attendance. There were so many things that an amateur like myself noticed BUT the movie did get the public's interest. On the assassination subject if I were to give myself a grade it would be a C- were individuals like Laurie Verge, Randall, Roger (and others that are to numerous to list) an A+.

One of the first things I noticed they had Booth go through door 7; not door 8. They had Davy Herold surrender after the barn was on fire ; not before.  It would take time but it would be interesting if a dossier could be put together on the mistakes made in the film.

 What was interesting was my wife asked the question, "What happened to Anna Surratt.  It enabled me to do more research.

I trust this is ok to mention. The Surratt Society has great research resources including a 3 volume set " The Lincoln Assassination" The set has articles that go back to 1986 including some from James Hall. NOTE: I am not an employee.

To wrap this up, I got an email from my sister in Colorado asking, "what do you know about this conspirator movie?

The movie has gotten the nations attention.

 
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midnitelamp
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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2011, 07:28:46 AM »

i was loafing around the lobby asking the two young men at the concession stand about the other movies playing. they did'nt know Anything about our movie,and both of them even the formerly aloof one listened in rapt attention as i ran the story by them. they wished i could go on,but the movie was starting.

if they were any guide,there should be much interest in the film.

stanton and r. johnson sure acted the way old successful lawyers act in my experience.

the crowd was very small,all as old or older than myself.

so much is known about what occured on the gallows it was unfortunate more detail was not included.
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Civil Warrior
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« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2011, 07:55:13 AM »

Thanks to this movie, maybe perhaps, the phrase "Beware The People Weeping" can be replaced by "Be Aware Of  The People Weeping".

Look around you at your fellow audience members when you see "The Conspirator". Their reactions are worth the price of admission. Robert Redford and company, if nothing else [and I'm not saying there isn't], have grabbed America's attention. No one here could have asked for anything more going in. You know, expect the worst, hope for the best. Have no fear. One thing's certain, The Surratt Society without a doubt about it is going to benefit big time because of the film. Additionally, also virtually guaranteed, there's going to be continuing and/or growing interest due to the one-two punch of the movie and the Sesquicentennial for the next five years at the very least. Who could ask for anything more?

To the movie itself; it is for sure, in every sense, a motion picture - as opposed to the seemingly mass-produced, mindless, run-of-the-mill, special effects, suspense/thriller film fodder which sadly is the state of the art today. It combines the characteristics, in my mind and opinion, of two classics; Gone With The Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird. As a result and as such, to paraphrase the African proverb "it speaks softly and carries a big stick; it will go far." Bravo Mr. Redford, AFC, cast and crew!
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chuckciao
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« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2011, 09:27:19 AM »

I felt that it was generally very well done and thought that the portrayal of Mary Surratt was superb.   The few inaccuracies, i.e Powell wearing a hat instead of a sleeve, etc. would probably be lost of the general public anyway.  I was however struck by the inference that the Catholic Church was somehow involved in John Surratt's escape and had knowledge of his whereabouts.   Is this accurate historically? 
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Steven G. Miller
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« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2011, 09:42:49 AM »

There's an article on William Doster's grave in Pennsylvania:

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/bethlehem/mc-bethlehem-conspirator-movie-lawyer20110415,0,121793.story
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Dave Taylor
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« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2011, 11:24:54 AM »

I, along with two of my friends, saw the movie last night.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was fun to see our story portrayed on the big screen.  To be honest, though, Mary is still one of the individuals that I know little about.  I have Kate Larson's book but have yet to read it.  It seems I must rectify that.  With regards to the movie, the small inaccuracies didn't truly bother me with the exception of Mary's imprisonment.  I was under the impression that she was treated considerably well while imprisoned.  Did she not dine often with General Hartcranft, and wasn't she attended to by Anna fairly regularly?  I guess I need to know more about her conditions in jail.

Also, while I thought the actor who played John Lloyd was great, I guess in my head, I always put more stock in the honesty of Lloyd's testimony than that of Louis Weichmann's.  While the movie did a wonderful job of casting suspicion on Lloyd's character, I would have preferred they delved more into Weichmann's "treachery" then Lloyd's.  But, perhaps my interpretation of these two is in the minority.

My favorite part of the movie is that short bit with Aiken and the judge that gave him the writ of habeas corpus.  Up until then, Aiken's motives didn't seem to peak.  He was adamantly against representing Mary in the beginning and this slowly waned with his experiences in court.  And while there was some character growth as he found it difficult to prove Mary's guilt, he kind of seemed uncommitted to the whole thing.  However, when the judge finally forced him with the question "You think she's innocent?" he eloquently and passionately expressed his motivations.  I would have preferred to have had this happen earlier.  To have him passionately state his condemnation of the military tribunal earlier and then provide us with more examples of their prejudice.  This way I would have felt more supportive of him since he had finally taken a stand. 

Ultimately, I thought the movie did a wonderful job of portraying the history in a truthful and entertaining way.  I hope this piques enough interest to warrant a movie about Booth’s escape which I believe would be very successful with our “action movie” seeking public.
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chuckciao
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2011, 03:06:48 PM »

Chuck,

One of the books that you should put on your list to read is Andrew Jampoler's The Last Lincoln Conspirator.  It will take you along on Surratt's escape route into Canada, where he is sheltered by Confederate exiles first, then moved by April 22 to the protection of Abbe Charles Boucher, the first of a line of Catholic priests from Canada to the Vatican who provided him shelter.  Boucher was a rural priest, but the network of support went as high as the Venerable English College in Rome.  It was a literal underground railroad of Catholic support that Surratt received.

Thanks Laurie,
I will certainly add this book to my reading list.  It was nice to see your name in the credits as well!!!

Dave,

Mary got the usual prisoner treatment until doctors reported that her health was declining due to hemorraghing and also fasting.  They suggested force feeding her, but even beef tea (the equivalent of beef bouillon today) didn't work.  It would not look well to have this lady die during the trial, so Hartranft began sending her tidbits from the officers' mess, such as butter.  I don't recall that she ever ate at his table, however.

As her female problems grew worse, a special room was set up for her outside the courtroom so that Anna could attend to her mother's needs (soldiers were not quite the nursemaids of the day!).  A chair was brought from the boardinghouse even.  These are little details, however, that would only extend the movie's length.

Personally, my least favorite portrayals were those of Louis Weichmann (too preppy smug), Lewis Powell (liked nothing about him - even when I had a long conversation with the actor who played him.  Obviously no one coached him on the real Powell), and John Surratt (when he shoved his mother, I thought I would scream.  Unless seriously deranged, no proper young man - let alone one that was Catholic and had a higher degree of education - would have abused his mother in 1865).
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JohnE
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« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2011, 07:57:05 AM »

Dave,

You're right about Mary in that she got preferential treatment.  However, she didn't eat with General Hartranft but rather received the better food from his table.  Weeks before she was executed, she was moved from her cell to a more spacious witness room where she was attended to by her daughter.  She was having "female issues" and the male guards really weren't the best ones to help her.

Bottom line:

Mary had a Senator and two junior attorney's working for her.
Was eventually placed in a bigger holding cell.
Was never kept in Irons as portrayed.
Was allowed a rocking chair, not just a stool in her cell
Thomas Ewing wrote the petition for Habeas Corpus, not Fred Aiken.
The commission was not selected by Holt or Stanton, they were selected by Gen. Townsend.

John Surratt in real life was a very, very smart and calculating young man.  Perhaps the smartest guy in the whole conspiracy.  His story would be fantastic to bring to the  big screen.  Here's a thought, maybe he didn't return to "spare" his mother's life because he knew she was guilty too.  They both would have been hanged.  Just something to think about.

The men who sat on the commission weren't mindless followers.  They were mostly Generals who fought and sacrificed their lives in War.  They weren't one united voice but had separate opinions and feelings.  They listened to the arguments and IN MY OPINION, gave the verdicts and judgements they thought were fair.  They weren't tainted by Holt or Stanton.  They were aware that suggesting death as a punishment for Mary would not be popular and five of them signed a petition suggesting that perhaps THE PRESIDENT show leniency towards Mary.  They weren't bloodthirsty, they just wanted to see justice.

Weichman and Lloyd deserved to be tried as accomplices but the prosecution needed them to help convict the others.  Turning them into states' witnesses wasn't illegal in either a military court or civil court.  However, there was no bargaining for lesser sentences as is done in modern times.  Therefore, they were allowed to walk.  Poor Atzerodt did everything he could to turn in to a State's witness but failed to do so.





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angels0618
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2011, 08:05:52 AM »

Hi John- Great Post!!!! Things are so much clearer now that youv'e stated these facts. Maybe you and Barry should have directed The Conspirator! I think it would have turned out much different and full of facts that the average person never knew. I can't wait to read your new book. When is it coming out?- Gloria
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JohnE
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« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2011, 08:15:34 AM »

Thanks Gloria.  We're aiming for the end of the Summer.  It depends a lot on how we choose to publish.  The writing is going well and is still a work in progress.  Ideally, the book will be released by the time the Conspirator DVD comes out.
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JohnE
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« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2011, 01:39:19 PM »

Thanks Laurie.   I enjoyed the movie and being a part of it (thanks to you).  I understand the need to take artistic license at times for the greater good of the movie but I've heard a little too much from Redford saying he wanted history to speak for itself.  Well, I don't think he's being completely genuine and there's a good chance he doesn't know it.  Sometimes we see what we want to see.  His political views are well known.

At one point in the movie, they show headlines which are implied to be bogus attempts by Stanton at putting fear in the public (Yellow Fever used in a possible plot to kill Lincoln, bombing of the White House).  Those weren't bogus charges if I'm not mistaken.  They were investigated as being very real.

The case against the conspirators was second fiddle to finding a link to the Confederate government.  In the early aftermath of the assassination, few believed (as is still debatable today ) that this collection of conspirators acted on their own. 
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