The Lincoln Conspiracy (1977) Poster

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interesting speculation
dtucker863 July 2002
I saw this film as a kid. It was one of the several great Sunn Classic Documentaries. The best one is The Mysterious Monsters. Its a good film that raises a lot of questions. Why wasn't Lincoln given better protection at Ford's Theater that night. Contrary to popular belief, he was one of our most hated Presidents. Why did they so quickly bury the body of the man killed at Garret's farm? Why didn't they even take a picture of it? How was Booth able to escape so easily? Stanton was a tyrant, but was he really part of the conspiracy to kill the President? People have often pointed out there are a lot of coincidences in the lives (and deaths) of President Lincoln and President Kennedy one of them is there is still so much unresolved about their assassinations and whether there was a conspiracy. These are great tragedies for our nation and the fact we will never know all of the pertinent facts makes them even more tragic. Bradford Dillman made a good Booth. I best think of him though as Dirty Harry's dumb captain.
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Quite Entertaining!
Squonkamatic17 December 2011
The scintillating aura of intrigue infusing Sunn Classic's THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is intoxicating & addictive. Easily the company's most respectable golden era production, Bradford Dillman overacts and hams his way through the film in the role of John Wilkes Booth portrayed as a wild-eyed fanatic willing to go to any lengths to save the war for the south. He's equal part revolutionary, fall guy, idealist crackpot and stooge. Who was responsible for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? According to this movie everyone but Booth, though it politely concedes that he did pull the trigger.

In fact the assassination itself gets very little screen time, just a minute or two really, as the film breathlessly writes an alternate version of the history leading up to & immediately after the event. Along the way we meet Booth's motley crew of would-be Presidential kidnappers turned would-be assassins (only Booth succeeded in what is depicted as a hair brained scheme for glory with the war soundly over) who seem to spend a lot of time decorating the interiors of pubs and taverns as they drink themselves into revolutionary frenzy. Not a scene goes by without Booth or one of his cronies quaffing a brandy or two, probably likely for the time but so pervasive as to suggest that Booth likely had a good buzz going when he finally decided the time was nigh.

The film is stolen however by character actor John Dehner's hypnotic performance as Colonel Lafayette Baker, an actual character from history & bizarre footnote of real life intrigue who is depicted here as the film's Fletcher Prouty (a fun name to Google if you're ever bored). Baker was an opportunist who found himself with a Union Army commission after fast-talking a general with yet another hair brained scheme to infiltrate Confederate lines as a spy. His plan worked with enough success to bring him to the attention of Lincoln and his cabinet who were looking for someone delighted with violating what we now regard as the civil & Constitutional rights of citizens to further the war effort. Even with such a fascinating genuine tale the film re-writes Baker with an almost supernatural aura to him as he manipulates, intimidates, violates and generally abuses everyone he comes in contact with to further the plot to remove Lincoln from office cooked up by his boss, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, depicted here as a James Bond villain.

In spite of the clunky and uninspired manner in which the story is told it is compulsively watchable, especially as one starts to appreciate the twisted glee in Colonel Baker's character as he unassumingly arranges for his President to be deposed, then reacts with a raised eyebrow & shrug upon learning of his murder. Just one of those things, really, with my favorite moment in the film a question to a character about why he is limping. Baker doesn't care beyond his need for an efficient footman, and the ultimate triple cross which condemns the poor hobbling creep is a brilliant maneuver in roundabout screenplay logic. The film couldn't end any other way than it does with John Wilkes Booth escaping to England where he becomes a cheese farmer.

Not really, but then again the film has a surreal quality to it that belies its ordinariness, highlighted by a droning, sonorous faux-documentary narration provided by Sunn Classic's resident voice of authority, Brad Crandall. Crandall is the bespeckled heavy-set host of their megahits BEYOND AND BACK, THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, and my favorite, IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK which I had the good fortune to see as a nine year old on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The film stuck with me for thirty five years and so did this, specifically a scene where John Anderson's foghorn voiced Lincoln hands out slices of apple on screen to a startled Union solder aide, a little aside that also stuck with me for 30 years after seeing it on television.

Is it good history? No, Booth's guilt is pretty solidly established without a conspiracy amongst members of Congress concerned about a Democrat supermajority upon reuniting north & south. Is it a good film? I doubt it, I've only seen the thing on TV and doubt that a widescreen format would improve much upon the movie's flat-footed cinematography. Episodes of "Barney Miller" were filmed with more panache, though I give it high marks for being so downright odd, like every other Sunn Classics film I've seen now as an adult. And it is a very entertaining little bit of alternate history what if? which must have been screened by Oliver Stone and his associates when preparing JFK. It's just as ridiculous in its overkill but comes off as easier to stomach, less frantic and more content with letting the story tell itself. It's also addictive, I must have watched it about a dozen times. Colonel Baker is a fix!

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Alternate history
bkoganbing27 September 2018
I remember seeing The Lincoln Conspiracy back when it first came out and then it seems to have faded from sight. Does anyone know if it is to be on television or a DVD to come out?

This film gained a bit of currency when it came out at the time that Frank Church's Committee in the Senate was investigating our CIA and its involvement in foreign assassination plots over the years. In that sense The Lincoln Conspiracy found an audience which gave it more than a skeptical view.

Four reliable character actors and no box office names carried this picture. Robert Middleton as Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Bradford Dillman as John Wilkes Booth and John Anderson as Abraham Lincoln filled these roles out admirably and fitted my conception of these characters.

John Dehner who was always one of the most reliable character actors around plays the elusive and mysterious Union spymaster Lafayette C. Baker. He's the prime mover of the events and alternate history you see portrayed here. Dehner is properly sinister and mysterious as he directs events from behind the scenes. Our best historians of the Civil War era have never really assigned a proper place for Baker, but John Dehner got a career role from him.

If this film ever sees the light of day again, by all means check it out.
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In Search Of John Wilkes Booth...
aesgaard416 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I'm not going to waste my time in a movie review debunking the revisionist history of an American incident that has already been studied and researched properly for all to read for themselves. I will, however, tell you that the whole basis of the Lincoln Conspiracy myth comes almost entirely from the papers of Andrew G. Potter, the name of a nonexistent person who allegedly served in the National Detective Agency and whose existence has never been confirmed anywhere in the archives of the NDP much less in public census records. Just who this man really was will never be solved, but his so-called research is so filled with obvious mistakes, fictional characters and misinformation that its provenance, further muddled by the accusations of Otto Eisenschiml and Finis Bates, can hardly be considered reputable. It is from this slanted alternate history that the "Lincoln Conspiracy" is based. Narrated by Brad Crandall, the authoritative and seemingly omniscient voice of several Sunn Classic films like "In Search of Noah's Ark" and "The Bermuda Triangle," the movie centers on the last years of the Civil War, and Lincoln's optimistic plan to welcome the Confederacy back without malice, something that irks his supporters. Lincoln is played by veteran actor John Anderson, who has played Lincoln several times, but while he looks good in the role, he lacks all of the personality or charisma actors like Daniel Day Lewis or Lance Henriksen have created. Character actor Bradford Dillman plays John Wilkes Booth flatly and wooden, taking moments to play up the role in a stereotypical Snidely Whiplash manner. The plot suggests Stanton has been helping Booth support the South with secret codes and maps with Colonel Lafayette Baker as Booth's handler. If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is. Most of the movie is centered around Baker played by John Dehner, another well-known character actor from the Sixties, and despite the ludicrous plot, he does a fairly straight job of it with an extended cast of the movie includes several well-known actors of the 60s and 70s, such as Whit Bissell from "Time Tunnel," Ben Jones and Sonny Shroyer from "The Dukes of Hazzard," Fred Grandy from "The Love Boat" and Ken Kercheval of "Dallas." Under Stanton's guidance, the motley band intends to help Booth kidnap Lincoln so he'll be out of the way for a hostile take- over of the South, a plan circumvented when Stanton frees a Confederate soldier named James William Boyd. History takes over briefly afterward with important details contradictory to the conspiracy myth either ignored or dropped to shorten the length of the movie, like the fact the assassination is reduced to a gunshot heard behind the scenes and screams of "They shot the President!" Ignored is the attack on Seward, huge emotional sorrow, the huge outcry and the frenzy that followed in the search for Lincoln's assassin we've seen in movies like "Killing Lincoln" and "The Day Lincoln was Shot." Inaccuracies pour outward in this supposedly true account like the fictional Potter brothers searching for Booth. It's bad enough the movie passes off these incidents as true, but the preposterous levels of disbelief happening here are beyond insane. Even Mudd's involvement is insultingly reduced to a mere cameo in a hurry to force this false history down our throats. There is a reason Conspiracists have never found proof of this myth; it doesn't exist. "The Lincoln Conspiracy" is a cheaply made movie with fine actors playing weak to credible characters in less than believable scenes in a preposterous plot that it wants us to believe actually happened, but if anything, it makes the myth look that much more unbelievable. It's better as alternate history than a dramatic recreation, but even then, the level of absurdity and cheapness in this film makes it difficult to accept seriously. This is without a doubt the worst movie about Abraham Lincoln that anyone could see.
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No movie based on outlandish lies can be any good, or worth watching.
midnitehorse8 November 2004
The claim that Lincoln admirer Edwin Stanton and other high government officials had anything to do with the President's murder is based on ludicrous retyped versions of "lost" manuscripts; as history it would be silly if it did not discredit great heroes. To credit such drivel by making a movie based on it is pandering of the worst sort. What next? Something charming on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? The conspiracy to fake a landing on the moon? Its bad enough that history is taught so little; its outlandish that movies of blatantly false reports are made. The far more interesting story is how Lincoln -- widely viewed, by Stanton among others -- as foolish, repulsive looking, and ill-educated -- won over enemies by his wit, intensity, intelligence, and humor.
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I have found a studio copy of this film-10/29/99
Mr Skoooooter31 October 1999
After almost 5 years of looking, I have finally found a VHS copy of this film on e-bay, the auction place, and it only cost $31.00. I also just 2 weeks ago went on a tour of the escape route that Booth took after killing Lincoln, and HIGHLY reccommend that too (Call the Surratt Society)and it re-inforced my 34 year old opinion that Lincoln was murdered in a government conspiracy involving Edwin M. Stanton, and that Booth WAS NOT killed in Garrett's farm, but died a suicide in 1903 in Enid Oklahoma. The man shot at Garrett's farm was a confederate prisoner name Boyd-but I'm rambling-See this movie-It's GREAT!!
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Decent enactment of the book
therica25 March 2000
I saw this movie in 1977 when it aired on television. It's year 2000 now, whether my opinion might be different if I saw it now I don't know. I'd read the book by Jim Bishop (I think that's correct) that the movie is based on, and this seemed a very well-done, interesting enactment and narration of the details of the book regarding the conspiracy of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
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I thoroughly researched Mary Surratt 4 decades ago: Not Guilty IMO
weasl-729-31068227 September 2014
The only woman charged in the alleged conspiracy; she was hanged like most of her male counterparts.

The hoods you see in one of the opening scenes were not made of fabric, however, but leather. The prisoners, of course had no A/C, and their faces swelled up with the contained sweat, so it was not just the shock of newly admitted light that caused pain to their rapidly contracting pupils that we see in this film. Their faces looked like prunes. The hoods restricted their breathing! This was only one of the forms of torture their captors used against them.

Mary Surratt, as a woman in those times, was spared this extreme form of punishment. She still swung in the end.

If anyone knows where to watch "The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd," I'd sure appreciate it. It, too, is supposed to be a fairly authentic account of what happened.
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Speculative Docudrama.
AaronCapenBanner24 August 2013
Another Schick Sunn Classic films presentation, this time about a possible conspiracy involving the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, well played by John Anderson. Bradford Dillman plays his assassin John Wilkes Booth(no doubt about his guilt is there?!)

Film suggests that Booth was used in a bigger conspiracy than history has recorded, and certainly I don't remember this from my history books! Nonetheless, I found this film interesting to a point, and again it has nostalgic value to it, so earnestly is it told, that I couldn't bring myself to have disdain for it, like some reviewers have.

Not in the same league as "JFK"(1991) of course, but I wonder if a young Oliver Stone was inspired by it! Not on DVD yet, but can be currently seen on YouTube.
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A Curiosity. Just Not A Very Good One.
timdalton0078 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Four times in American history, assassins have determined the fate of its chief executive. The first was in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated days after the end of the Civil War by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. That Booth was part of a conspiracy, one that evolved from kidnapping to assassination, is beyond doubt. Just who may or may not have been behind him, acting as his puppetmaster as it were, has led to speculation and conspiracy theories. Helping launch modern debates on the topic was Sunn Classic Films' 1976 release The Lincoln Conspiracy and its purported "true" version of events.

Watching it, it's an odd film. As a historical drama, it's not much up to much. For much of its ninety minutes of running time, The Lincoln Conspiracy moves from one scene with strained dialogue and exposition to another. Never once does any of the film's dialogue feel organic, like a conversation that might occur in reality (even by the standards of the time at which the film's events take place). The acting from the film's cast doesn't help either, even with John Anderson once more playing the role of Lincoln. Also, while a dramatic work, the filmmakers felt a need to employ a narrator quite frequently, breaking one of the cardinal rules of storytelling that it's important to show, not tell. Indeed, that could sum up the film as a whole.

As a production, the film's not much better. In its favor is that it benefits from using surviving Civil War-era locations (including some in Savannah, Georgia judging by the credits) to portray various locations in and around Washington. Beyond the cosmetic, however, it's little more than a competent piece of work. There's an almost 1970s TV movie-of-the-week feel to it from the acting to the direction and cinematography. How much of that is down to a low budget (and the film looks like it had one), it's hard to say. On the other hand, it's clear that the filmmakers didn't have what they needed to bring their theory about Lincoln's death to the screen.

As for the theory it espouses, it's a convoluted one. It involves the historical accepted figures plus not one but THREE separate plots to kidnap Lincoln, with actor and assassin John Wilkes Booth managing to straddle most of them. Indeed, it seems that Booth manages to latch onto one particular plan to carry out the President's murder, leading to a cover-up by others involved in the plot. Things get even murkier when James Williams Boyd, a spy with a striking resemblance to the actor, gets involved. Many of the names involved are familiar ones to those aware of the assassination from Booth and Boyd to Secretary of War Stanton and Lincoln himself. Told well, it could have been intriguing if implausible.

Instead, it's something else entirely. The ultimate problem of the film is that unlike say Oliver Stone's JFK and despite copious amounts of expository dialogue coupled with narration, the film never clearly gets its points across. It's a muddled mixture of revisionist history, conspiracy theories, and clunky dialogue brought to life with cheap production values. And yet, The Lincoln Conspiracy is ground zero for modern conspiracist thinking on America's first Presidential assassination with its theories showcased on Unsolved Mysteries and Brad Meltzer's Decoded among other places.

In the end, the film is a curiosity. Just not a very good one.
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'Fifty Years In The Church Of Rome' by Charles Chiniquy
gods_outlaw4311 May 2013
I found the book 'Fifty Years In The Church Of Rome' by Charles P. Chiniquy a good powerful source of information into the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. the Jesuits of Rome had Lincoln assassinated according to Mr Chiniquys account, Lincoln according to Chiniquy stated that the Civil War would not have been possible without the sinister and clever efforts of the Jesuits... Mr Chiniquy also stated that Mr Lincoln himself knew that the Jesuits would be responsible for his death,after defending Mr Chiniquy a former priest from being framed on bogus charges that then Lawyer Abraham Lincoln was able to expose, Lincoln after being warned by Chiniquy of the Jesuits efforts to assassinate him Mr Lincoln stated that he knew the Jesuits never forgive nor forsake...
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