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Thursday, August 21, 2014

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1936)

Missing the romantic sweep & elan of the 1992 Michael Mann/Daniel Day-Lewis version, this earlier adaptation (scripted by Philip Dunne) provided the sturdy construction & refocused storyline both films use. (It’s still two British ladies under threat during the Pre-Revolution British/French/Indian colonial War, and falling for two inappropriate local boys.) Long available in subfusc Public Domain dupes, Hen’s Tooth DVD has the most acceptable picture yet. The film is probably of greatest interest for fans (or foes) of the posh remake, with director George B-list Seitz (later an ANDY HARDY specialist) fileting the story far more clearly than Mann does, and making the Brits even more fatuous fatheads till some last minute face saving. Not much characterization of the treacherous French (wonderfully handled by Mann), but Bruce Cabot is inexplicably effective as deadly Huron warrior Magua (all the leading Indian roles are taken by White actors) while Randolph Scott is handsome, ironic & more stoic than dynamic as Hawkeye.

LINK/DOUBLE-BILL: In many ways, the most interesting version of the story, and the only one that gives first position to the tragic story of older sister Cora & Uncas: Next-to-Last-of-the-Mohicans, is the silent version of 1920. Directed by Maurice Tourneur & Clarence Brown in tableau vivant style, dud Public Domain versions abound. Instead, try this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCc2M-SqQdg for a decent image along with some ill-chosen background music. (Mendelssohn, anyone? Bizet?)

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