16 May 2007 | Squonkamatic
Relaxingly Stupid & Offbeat Enough To Be Notable
Just TWO (2) stars as an average rating?? OK, I think I know what's going on here. The people who have actually seen this incredibly obscure movie & registered a ratings vote are most likely devotees of the source material and were understandably disappointed. I think I read James Fenimore Cooper's LAST OF THE MOHICANS when I was about 11 and skipped to the action scenes. Which once you get down to it is what the Italians have done here. Gone are any sense of character development, exposition, plot nuances, etc. Of the film's 400 or so lines of dialog maybe 100 of them are directly from Cooper's novel, and most of those delivered by Paul Muller as an implacable British commander of a frontier outpost during the French and Indian War. He always gets the good lines because he was an actual actor.
But you see, an even vaguely faithful adaptation of the book was not the point of this production, which is actually an early era Spaghetti Western with guys dressed up as Mohicans or 18th century soldiers instead of cowboys & Pistoleros. It's a potboiler entertainment intended to wile away rainy Saturday afternoons for 10 - 14 year old boys and their fathers rather than a stirring rendition of classic literature. The costumes and weaponry are likely inaccurate, the military traditions on display far from historically adept, and yes the Italian and Spanish supporting actors made up with boot polish to portray a Native American fighting force look ridiculous. Bugs Bunny had more credibility when he tunneled into Napoleon's castle and started playing boogie-woogie on the harpsichord while wearing a hoop dress, though the French are correctly portrayed as foppishly effete even when firing cannons at people.
So fans and history buffs looking for a detailed visage of LAST OF THE MOHICANS and its fascinating events would be well served to look elsewhere, which is why Michael Mann made his version in 1992. There you go, see ya later. But for students of B grade European genre cinema this will prove a indispensable study in the kitsch entertainment the Italians always seemed to do best. Euro Horror gods Jack Taylor & Paul Muller headline the cast of Redcoats, with Barbara Loy and Sara Lezana providing the eye candy women who become the focus of the plot since Italian genre cinema always ends up being about sex. Daniel Martín and José Marco ham it up as the local friendly Injun guides who help to escort them through the hostile Spanish wilderness substituting for 18th century New England (at least I am assuming the film was made in Spain: It looks like Andalucía at any rate) under the expert guide of Hawkeye, played by familiar genre actor Luis Induni who looks like he wandered onto the set from a cocktail party. And José Manuel Martín gets to act appropriately noble + savage as the great Huron Chief Cunning Fox, who wears a wristwatch in one scene unless my eyes deceived me.
I know that Cunning Fox is a great Huron Chief because the script made a point to mention that a few times to dutifully remind viewers like myself that could care less just who the different players are & what is motivating their actions. To tell the truth the whole LAST OF THE MOHICANS thing is just a series of reference points by which audience members can navigate the film's action, which is impressive at times. There are pitched battles galore, various people get tied up to trees and threatened while awaiting last minute salvation, and of course Jack Taylor is a much better Indian fighter than the Indians themselves. Which makes sense once you think about it, because if his character was not a better Indian fighter than the Indians they would have killed him early on and the movie would be over.
A special note must be made of the direction by Mateo Cano, who's stylistic approach has as much in common with Sergio Leone as an episode of MORK & MINDY does. It's interesting to see an Italian genre film made before the style factor which made Spaghetti Westerns so distinctive. The direction and camera work are artlessly straight-forward, and the musical score by Bruno Canfora and the usually brilliant Angelo Francesco Lavagnino is more evocative of a 1960s Italian horror film -- which is indeed the case, as some of Lavagnino's themes from CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD are replayed, albeit at a different tempo. They even reused the fort set from Amando de Ossorio's "Three From Colorado" and probably the same mishmash Injun brave costumes previously seen in Jose Elorietta's FURY OF THE APACHES; Both films made at about the same time as this one, and just as adorably square once you get down to it. I love it when they play this stuff straight, it sort of heightens the absurdity of the proceedings.
After 1966 Italian made Westerns became self-consciously arty, filled with the glib humor, hip asides and hypnotic atmospherics that made the derivative plotting, wooden acting, familiar landscapes & identical architecture less of an issue. This one earns points for being novel as far as Spaghetti Cinema though it's service to Mr. Cooper's novel is minimal. After watching it I'm not really any more compelled to read the book again, though I could sure go for another Spaghetti Western.
5/10, since the film is immune to conventional criticism. Look for a gloriously widescreened Greek subtitled version, the color is magnificent even if the aspect ratio isn't quite right.