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Carole Mikita ReportingA movie about the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre will debut this weekend. Some national reporters are asking presidential candidate Mitt Romney about it, and while he says it was "a terrible, awful act committed by members of his faith," he will not be seeing the new film.
Plenty of film critics here and around the country are giving it bad reviews. For months, the controversy has grown, probably because distributors changed release dates at least three times.
Terence Stamp plays Brigham Young. In 'September Dawn' he orders a group of his followers to kill members of a wagon train. One-hundred-twenty men, women and children were murdered in 1857 in the Utah Territory, but even historians disagree about what's known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Some who've seen the movie say it only adds to the 150-year-old controversy.
Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books, says, "They got one thing right, there was a massacre, but they got a lot wrong: problems with the history, problems with the writing, problems with the acting."
Deseret Morning News film critic Jeff Vice says, "It's stunningly bad. I have not seen anything this shoddy, poorly put together, badly acted, badly written, badly shot. I'm stunned that it's getting national release, to be honest."
Vice saw it at a press screening in May. Others in the theater shared his opinion during the movie. He described it, saying, "Critics gesticulating, saying things out loud. It almost turned into Mystery Science 3000 with us making our comments over the film."
Curt Bench saw it in April with descendants of the Fancher party, killed in that massacre. He told KSL, "They said, 'You've got to understand that for 150 years we have been viewed as the bad guys that got what we deserved basically, so they felt now, their side was being told."
For some, even a badly told story is a story told, but nationally, critics are panning it as well.
Newsday Review's Gene Seymour says it's "Bombastic, slow-drying dramatization with lead-weight dialogue..."
The Washington Post calls it "second-rate, made-for-television fare... with "cheesy writing."
You can read Jeff Vice's review Friday in the Deseret Morning News. This September 11 marks the 150th anniversary of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.