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  • The stage curtains open ...

    This one really takes me back to my youth. Back in the days when we only had CBS, NBC and ABC for television stations, no VCR's (much less DVD players), no iPods, no Internet ... I think you get the picture. We had TV and radio back then and that was pretty much it. Once in a great while, there would be a movie that my parents would let me stay up late to watch, and this was one of them. Aired on NBC back in 1977, this made-for-TV movie was one of my childhood favorites.

    It is the classic story by James Fenimore Cooper for a new generation. Hawkeye (Steve Forrest), Chingachgook (Ned Romero), and his son, Uncas (Don Shanks) find themselves guiding and protecting a British officer, two women, and a singing master after they are misled by their indian guide, Magua. Hawkeye informs the small party that Magua is actually a Huron warleader and not to be trusted. With Huron warriors all around them, it is up to the Hawkeye and his two Mohican brothers to get them through safely to the fort.

    This was such a fun movie. Steve Forrest was perfect for the role of the all-knowing and wise Hawkeye. Ned Romero as the Mohican father and Don Shanks as Uncas were also both perfectly cast. Don Shanks was also Grizzly Adams indian friend, Nakoma on the TV series, and would go on to play the part of Michael Myers in Halloween 5 - The Revenge Of Michael Myers.

    In 1992, the latest version of Last of the Mohicans would come out on the big screen with Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe starring. And though that was also very, very good, this 1977 version is still my personal favorite. Hard to find, but if you do ... give it a go. You'll enjoy it.
  • Do you remember those comic books that brought classic literature to life? No? Too young I guess. Well, I do. Between the 1940s, and the '70s, there was series of comic books that brought classic literature to life. It was called Classics Illustrated. It brought books like Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea to life, and it also did the same to James Fennimore Cooper's The Last Of The Mohicans. Fifteen years before the big-screen Daniel Day- Lewis movie, this was the movie. It was on for two nights and starred Steve Forest as Hawkeye, Ned Romero as Chingcashnook, and Don Shanks, (of The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams,) as Uncas. The movie's about three scouts guiding a British officer and a couple of women through the wilderness of Upstate New York during the French and Indian War. (Hey, PC Speech Police, arrest me, if you can.) They have to contend with French soldiers and hostile Indians. The movie was based on the Classics Illustrated comic book but it was good. I hope it's on DVD. Watch this first and then watch the 1992 version.
  • Only a handful of films made for television, by my standards, can be ranked among the most important, artistic and influential of films. "The Last of the Mohicans", 1977, directed by James L. Conway from a Stephen Lord screenplay of James Fenimore Cooper's novel I assert is one of these. It is among the best-acted of all TV films, and was filmed entirely on location using cinematography from Henning Schellerup. The familiar background is a period when those loyal to England and those to France were recruiting Amerind all,ies to battle for possession of the North American continent. Already British settlers were overrunning Indian-claimed territory; and at the time of the tale, the French had persuaded the Hurons to help them make war upon the British colonists everywhere. Regular troops were finding it difficult in the impenetrable North American forests to do battle with wily opponents who knew the territory and its ways; but in this situation, there were men who had taken to the forests, woods rangers, who helped the settlers and made their life as frontier experts, scouts, and warriors--forerunners of the woods-wise colonists who later defeated the unacclimatized British regulars in the War for Independence. With authentic and occasionally inspired Art Direction by Charles C. Bennet and Bob Summers' unobtrusive and helpful score, the film takes on aspects of the best of two genres--an almost documentary feel about events that seem realistic and convincing at all points, I suggest, and still the adventurous pace of a well-made and sometimes exciting physical contest of prowesses. The dialogue is literate and occasionally brillint, I judgeas a writer. The portion of the plot that matters is easily explained. The daughters of a British officer need to be escorted to a Fort; a young Major takes these two sisters and a choirmaster onto the trail, led by an Indian guide, even as an attack is expected. They are rescued when their guide, Magua, betrays them, by Hawkeye "Longrifle", and his blood brother Chingachgook. The duel between the pair and Magua and his Huron helpers goes on for days. The pair are joined by Chingachgook's warrior son, Uncas, and eventually by another chieftain and his tribe who confront the Hurons in a final battle. Complicating the affair is the choirmaster who bursts into religious song whenever frightened, Magua's obsession with the elder daughter, she falling in love with Uncas, the young Major's lack of understanding of the situation plus the overwhelming number of the opponents. As Hawkeye, Steve Forrest explains the Indian's positions memorably. Ned Romero gives an award caliber performance as Chingachgook, while Michele Marsh as the elder daughter, Don Shanks as Uncas, Andrew Prine as the Major, Whit Bissell as the General, Robert Tessier as Magua, Jane Actman as the younger daughter and Dehl Berti as the Chief are all far-above average in their achievements. Robert Easton steals several scenes as the memorable choirmaster. And the wise addition of a narrator, in the form of a settler saved by the hero and his partner, allows us to see the tragic history of Chingachgook as it once happened, which gives the film immense authenticity and flashes of power. This is a serious adult production, unlike the many puerile and thin-spirited versions also available. I find it to be memorable, influential in its use of authentic locations, and very-well done indeed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was made for television, but when I was a child, I saw it like a real western movie. It's an adaptation of the legendary Fenimore Cooper's masterpiece, but it's a very good one, considering the limits for a TV production.

    I watch it regularly on a old video tape, and it is still interesting: a real atmosphere emanate from the show, which had been made with a great will of evasion and adventure ( often avoiding the defaults of a 70's TV product...). A this time, I saw for the first time a western with a real Indian point of view and with "detailed" Indians characters, particularly touching: remember the scene when Chingacook cry when his son Uncas dies to save one of the Munro sister, the scene when the old Delaware chief discovers that there's two Mohicans alive...

    Some others scenes marked me for ever: the first encounter with the Indian world by the Munro sister, the revenge attitude of Magua the Huron, the speech of Hawkeye about the "civilised" people, the final battle between the Delawares and the Hurons, and the unforgettable duel between Chingacook and Magua.

    And finally, all of that had one serious sequel: made me play Cow boy and Indian during all the afternoons.
  • a very good movie that seems to have been written more for children in mind than for adults. This is a great movie to watch with the little kiddies and root for the good guys. Steve Forest is very handsome and likable in the lead and Robert Tessier who played Magua was a really good character actor and villain. He was born in Lowell, Mass., less than a mile from where I am writing this right now. Another person who wrote a review (BCOLQUHO) concentrated only on the 1992 movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. Maybe he didn't see the 1936 movie starring Randolph Scott and Robert Barrat, which I think is the best of the several versions available. For adult entertainment, both the 1936 and 1992 versions are more suitable. Certainly the violence and blood letting of the 1992 version may be too much for some youngsters. There are low-keyed love affairs, but no sex to speak of. One lesson that could be learned from these movies is: don't count on the French to help you. That's as good advice today as it was 250 years ago!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas escort the Monroe sisters through hostile Huron territory.

    This two-part TV movie goes for nice scenery and a cast of several. It is mildly exciting and the cast are OK. For the avoidance of doubt, the visceral thrills, the epic vision, and the superb casting and performances of the Daniel Day-Lewis version are far better.

    Couple that with the fuzzy visuals and lack of definition in sound quality in the version which was recently broadcast, and I can't recommend it.