Let's take a movie journey thru the decades with a likely few more stops in the 1940s/50s/60s. We'll chat up films, people, likes/dislikes, some social commentary, film reviews (current and yesteryear), star sightings and whip up some quizzes. The opinions expressed may be informational, serious, light-hearted, maybe occasionally controversial. More than anything we gotta have fun. I hope you will. New posts coming your way Tuesdays and Fridays.
Tuesday, August 7
The Last of the Mohicans: Favorite Movie #31
1992 Historical Drama From 20th Century Fox Directed by Michael Mann
Daniel Day-Lewis Madeleine Stowe Russell Means Wes Studi Eric Schweig Jodhi May Steven Waddington
I remember betting myself even before seeing this film that it would wind up on my favorite
films list. And I was right. It is another one that at one time was probably
higher on my list but no matter the shifts and adjustments, it's still here.
There were two primary reasons why I knew I would love the film. The first is
James Fenimore Cooper's novel was standard fare in an American literature class and I always see a film based on a book I've read (although they're rarely as good... this one was better than the book). And I was so
crazy about this period of history and there have not been many films covering
it. For years my favorite film from this period of American history was 1939's Drums Along the Mohawk. Y'know, we jumped all over westerns in this country; I wish we had the
same enthusiasm about easterns.
This film is not so much based on
Cooper's novel, however; it owes more to the screenplay of the 1936 film version starring
Randolph Scott. There was another incarnation starring B movie actor Steve Forrest
in 1977. I know there have been other films loosely based on the same story, so
popular it has always been.
It is 1757 in upstate New York and
Hawkeye is a white man who had been raised by the Mohicans. There is a war raging
between the English and French, both of whom claim ownership of the colonies. Each
side has Indian allies. One of those is Magua, who works for the English but
sides with the French. Magua hates the English general and is ruled by that
Meanwhile, Hawkeye and his adopted father and
brother are blazing the trails when they come across the English general's two
daughters and a military escort who are engaged in a fight
with the Indians. Hawkeye and family, swift, agile and capable, come
to the aid of the English contingent, escorting them to an English fort.
Soon they are overtaken by the French
and on a trip through the forest on their way out of the area, they are
savagely attacked by Magua and his band of marauders in one of the film's most
exciting and memorable scenes. The Mohican family manages to escape with an English officer and the general's daughters and a chase ensues that is bloody exciting.
Two technical credits usually mentioned when speaking of The
Last of the Mohicans are the dramatically beautiful
score of Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman and the sensational camerawork by Dante
Spinotti. The camera owes a lot to the beautiful locations in North Carolina,
which subbed for upstate New York. The film has a look of authenticity
from the clothing, weapons, language and more. The fighting scenes are simply
thrilling. Expertly felt was the danger lurking everywhere.
Much credit, of course, must go to
one of the greatest living actors, Daniel Day-Lewis, nothing short of
magnificent. Perhaps I have come to expect that in his work but I respond to it like a newcomer every time I am taken in. But I think at the time
of the filming (and supported by a few after they saw it), some of his large
fan club thought this property was beneath his talents. Oh I hope you folks
have seen the error of your ways because the bloke is right bloody on as
I was aware of Madeleine Stowe
before Mohicans but this is the film where we bonded and
I've caught most of her work ever since. Her Cora appears to be quite proper and
lady-like but it is an illusion for she is of feisty pioneer stock. She comes
off as a true partner. Her romantic scenes with Day-Lewis are lovingly filmed.
I think it is outrageous that Wes
Studi was not nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar as Magua. He is right
in there with the best damned movie villains ever. That face... that voice...
that demeanor... that power. He was scary and disappeared into that part.
When I think about this film, I am
reminded of its thrilling action sequences combined with a quiet, forestial
beauty. When I read items about it during production, there was often something
about director Mann needing to get a handle on the length of time it was taking
before the cameras. I don't know what transpired between then and what we saw
on the screen, but this film is a handsomely-mounted show piece.