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Friday, May 23, 2008

THE LAST FRONTIER/SAVAGE WILDERNESS (1955)

Typically intelligent Anthony Mann Western doesn’t live up to its potential. Instead of James Stewart, Henry Fonda or Gary Cooper, his usual late ‘50s stars, he’s got . . Victor Mature. (Mature always gets ribbed, but he also has some great credits.) But this uncivilized trapper, who's now turned scout for the Army, is obviously conceived as a young rebel type, a Brando or a James Dean. And Mature didn't look young when he was young. (Hmm, does this explain his last name?)   Better cast is Guy Madison, unexpectedly fine as the easy-going officer who’s swept aside when Robert Preston’s vengeful Colonel recklessly leaves the fort for a needless suicidal attack on the Natives. Yep, it’s Anthony Mann’s FORT APACHE/'48 and the inevitable comparison with that John Ford masterwork doesn't help things. There's some good support from Anne Bancroft, James Whitmore & Pat Hogan (very fine as Mature's Indian companion), but this one feels like a big film that got hacked up and compromised in post-production. The pieces are damn interesting, but it just doesn't come together.

DOUBLE-BILL: Sam Peckinpah's MAJOR DUNDEE/'65 tells a similar tale and had similar compromising productions woes.

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