They were men. They crept upon their hands and knees. They used their hands only, dragging their legs. They used their knees only, their arms hanging idle at their sides. They strove to rise to their feet, but fell prone in the attempt. They did nothing naturally, and nothing alike, save only to advance foot by foot in the same direction. Singly, in pairs and in little groups, they came on through the gloom, some halting now and again while others crept slowly past them, then resuming their movement. They came by dozens and by hundreds; as far on either hand as one could see in the deepening gloom they extended and the black wood behind them appeared to be inexhaustible. The very ground seemed in motion toward the creek.

Chickamauga (1891) by Ambrose Bierce

Chickamauga (1962) is another of Robert Enrico’s three short films based on the Civil War stories of Ambrose Bierce. The withdrawal of hope at the end of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge may seem bleak but that story is positively cheerful beside the horrors of Chickamauga in which a small deaf boy wanders from home to find a new playground in the aftermath of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The story is grim enough for it to find its way into horror anthologies which is where I first read it. Once again Enrico’s adaptation is very faithful, and the way he uses songs as a commentary makes more sense of the similar use in An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. This copy of the film is another grainy one from VHS but it’s the only one you’ll see for now. The same YouTube channel has the third of the director’s Bierce adaptations, The Mockingbird, a lesser piece than the other two but still worth a watch, not least because these films have been out of circulation for so long. See also: Robert Enrico’s Civil War Trilogy by Justine Smith.

Previously on { feuilleton }
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge


Still with the short films, this is one I’ve known about for years but only recently seen. La Rivière du Hibou was Robert Enrico’s 1962 adaptation of the oft-reprinted Civil War story by Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Enrico made three such films from Bierce’s stories, this being the most celebrated; in addition to gaining awards it was also screened as part of The Twilight Zone series which makes me wonder how I’ve managed to miss it for so long. As an adaptation it’s very faithful if you overlook the awkward interjection of a song halfway through.

This particular tale I now find overly familiar since I adapted it in comic strip form in 2003 for the Ambrose Bierce number of Graphic Classics. That strip was one of the last comics I produced, a somewhat misguided attempt at using 3D software. My adaptation involved a great deal of guess-work at the military and other details so I watched Enrico’s opening scene with a sense of relief that his version isn’t so different from my own. The shots here are from this grainy copy of the film. There’s a better copy here from the Twilight Zone screening with Spanish subtitles added.