Tuesday, July 4, 2017

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2016) by Year - 0210 - LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE (Maurice & Clarence Brown Tourneur, 1920, USA, 75m, BW)



(Maurice & Clarence Brown Tourneur, 1920, USA, 75m, BW)


LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE (Maurice & Clarence Brown Tourneur, 1920, USA, 75m, BW)

Cast: Albert Roscoe, Lillian Hall, James Gordon, Harry Lorraine, Theodore Lorch, Jack McDonald, Sydney Deane, Boris Karloff, Wallace Beery, Barbara Bedford, Henry Woodward, George Hackathorne, Nelson McDowell
Director: Clarence Brown, Maurice Tourneur
Writer: Robert Dillon
Rating: NR
Running Time: 90 min.


While warning the British of an approaching Huron war party, Uncas (Albert Roscoe), son of the last living Mohican chief (Theodore Lorch), catches the eye of Cora Munro (Barbara Bedford), a colonel's (James Gordon) daughter visiting from Fort Henry. When Magua (Wallace Beery), the scout and presumed British ally sent to escort Cora and her sister back to Fort Henry, kidnaps them instead, Uncas, his father and their friend must save the girls from certain doom.


Directors Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown’s exciting, well-made adventure yarn is based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic tale of the French-Native American battles in the 19th century. Barbara Bedford and Lillian Hall play the British colonial sisters Alice and Cora Munro who are rescued by the noble frontiersman scout Hawkeye (Harry Lorraine), and Chingachgook (Theodore Lorch) and his son Uncas (Alan Roscoe), the last of the Mohican tribe, when they attempt to find their British colonel father (James Gordon) in the French and Indian War. The film focuses on the tragic romance of the novel, between Cora Munro and Uncas.

The scenario (by Robert A Dillon), silent film acting, shooting, lighting and editing are all well taken care of in a film that tries to, and succeeds in, staying faithful to the spirit of its author. Boris Karloff has an uncredited role as an Indian. Producer-director Tourneur let his protégé Clarence Brown finish the film when he was injured.

This is truly a magnificent film. It goes way beyond nostalgia in its appeal - it is a sublime work of art. Maurice Tourneur, one of the most neglected geniuses of cinema, directed most of it but, after being injured on set, he gave the great Clarence Brown his first directing assignment. And it's easy to see where Brown learnt a lot of the visual stylings that he became so famous for. This film, in a gorgeously restored print with colour tints, is a visual treat - with its revolutionary use of shadows, changes of light, actors moving into the camera, extreme long shots and even a tracking shot. The camera was still pretty immobile in 1920, but through quick edits and superb shot composition, Tourneur creates a sense of movement.


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