johnlink ranks THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1920)

I’m a huge fan of the Daniel Day-Lewis version of the same title. I had heard there were older versions, but they were certainly off my radar. This 1920 edition popped up on Turner Classic Movies and I put it on my DVR. It stayed there awhile before I got to it on a lazy Wednesday afternoon. This version of the film is not to be confused with the 1920 German version with Bela Lugosi.

I watched THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1920) on 6.2.10. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is a more violent film, in many ways, than much of the blockbuster stuff today. A scene where a menacing Huron pulls a baby from his mothers arms and throw him like a discus is particularly disturbing. Children are killed mindlessly, and women are threatened with rape and slavery. While certainly racist towards the Hurons in the depiction of their savagery, this is counter-balanced by the gentle treatment of the Mohicans. In that way, this isn’t the racist film that BIRTH OF A NATION is, though it certainly could not be made today in the same manner.

The ending would make Frank Darabont and his MIST brethren proud. I certainly did not expect this film to conclude the way it did, and it is not the LAST OF THE MOHICANS that I know!

Speaking of which, the hero is Uncas and not Natty Bumppo. This surprised me greatly. In fact, Natty is only named by his Mohican name, Hawkeye, and is merely a secondary character.

If you aren’t a fan of silent film, or are not familiar with its nuance, you may find the acting wooden and artificial. While there is much hamming, these actors are tasked with telling a story with their faces and expressions and body language. In that light they are mostly successful, though the women come off as inept and helpless throughout the film. The younger sister, Alice, is particularly weak.

Much of the imagery is well-crafted. The violence usually looks very real, and the battles are powerfully shot. There are scenes with more creative camera set-ups than you’d expect from this early in the narrative history of film. By the end of the silent era the filmmakers had gotten fairly crafty, but the late teens and early twenties still had mostly stand-still point straight ahead style. This is an impressive pre BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN film.

Really, this is a 75 minute silent film which proved better, and more intense, then I would have imagined. It is certainly worth seeking out as a comparison to the Micahel Mann film, and I’m glad I caught it.





~ by johnlink00 on June 2, 2010.

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