Ken Tucker
February 23, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST


TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Frederic Forrest, Jan Triska, Jarrod Emick
TV Movie

We gave it a C-

Impressive as spectacle, weak as drama, Andersonville tells the tale of the infamous Civil War prison where the Confederate army held many of its prisoners of war. Built to hold 8,000, Andersonville at times swelled to contain 32,000 luckless Union fighters. In the script by writer-producer David W. Rintels (World War II: When Lions Roared), the men are starved, denied sanitary conditions, and shot for minor infractions, prompting one Confederate government inspector (ER‘s William H. Macy) to call Andersonville a ”disgrace to civilization.”

We see all this through the eyes of a young Massachusetts corporal, played with subtle intensity by Broadway actor Jarrod Emick. Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now) provides squinty-eyed support as a crusty old sergeant. On the Confederate side, Jan Triska (Reds) is creepily convincing as Captain Wirz, the squirrelly commandant of the prison camp. Veteran film director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) is good at depicting the suffering and at marshalling the troops on a grand scale — there’s an amazingly filmed prison riot on the second night, with huge numbers of extras massed to create a vividly chaotic scene — but he’s also locked into Rintels’ melodramatic life-in-prison scenarios. Since the action rarely moves outside the confines of Andersonville, it was a curious decision to stretch these anecdotes about deprivation and torture over two nights. A viewer ends up feeling uncomfortable and guilty for being bored. C-

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