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Plot: Crude and uncivilized backwoods trapper Jed Cooper and his two partners sign up as scouts in a remote Oregon army fort, manned chiefly by untrained rookie soldiers. Jed, flirting with the idea of leading a more settled life, decides he needs a woman to start the process, and selects Corinna… Runtime: 98 min Release Date: 07 Dec 1955
Anthony Mann's "The Last Frontier" qualifies as a terrific U.S. Calvary versus the Indians western that is reminiscent of John Ford's "Fort Apache." Victor Mature of "My Darling Clementine" plays the leading character, Jed Cooper, a frontiersman who can get the drop on a Sioux Indian. Jed, his illiterate, surrogate father Gus James Whitmore , and their Native American friend Mungo Pat Hogan are three frontiersmen who almost die when Sioux Chief Red Cloud demands not only their firearms but also their animal pelts. The trio discusses their predicament, <more>
and Gus convinces them that their lives are worth far more than their guns and their pelts. They surrender everything, and Red Cloud and his army of Indians allow them to go. Red Cloud warns them that they cannot return least he kill them. Our heroes learn that Red Cloud is agitated because the U.S. Calvary has cut down lots of trees to construct a fortress in the middle of nowhere near Laramie. Captain Glenn Riordan Guy Madison of "Payment in Blood" and his army engineers have established the fort and have orders to hold it. Our heroic trio marches into Fort Shallan and Captain Riordan hires them as scouts. Deep down inside, Jed wants to become a blue coat, but Riordan refuses to let him enlist because he feels that Jed isn't civilized enough. Riordan explains the concept of civilization. He specifies that a civilized man has a wife, children, and knows and works with many people. Jed is just the opposite. He has no wife, no children, and no sense of responsibility.During the first evening, Jed, Gus, and Mungo get roaring drunk. Jed wanders noisily around the fort and stumbles into a woman's quarters, and Corinna Marston Anne Bancroft of "The Graduate" tolerates his intrusion, and he notices a photograph of her husband. Corinna's martinet husband, Colonel Frank Marston Robert Preston of "Best of the Badmen" , reminded me of Henry Fonda's ramrod-stiff, Custer style officer Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday. Marston has a reputation for sacrificing men. He fought in the historic battle of Shiloh and his men were slaughtered in a barrage of cannon. When he arrives as Fort Shallan, Marston orders that Riordan's men must be trained to be soldiers. Odious Sergeant Major Decker Peter Whitney of "The Big Heat" whips these engineers into shape, but he doesn't cotton to Jed. Eventually, Jed and Decker engage in a knockdown drag-out fistfight. Marston intends to use the soldiers to launch an attack on Red Cloud. Jed warns everybody that Marston will get them killed. One day, Jed and Marston ride out of the fort and spy on Red Cloud's village. Jed explains that the village is only one of many that Red Cloud has established around the fort. Meantime, Jed admires Corinna from afar and she senses his lust. During their surveillance of the Indian camp, Jed warns Marston that they risk their own exposure if they remain too long. On the way back to their horses, Marston plunges into a bear pit. Audaciously, Jed refuses to help Marston out of the pit unless he promises not to attack Red Cloud. Marston refuses and Jed leaves him there for a day or two. Reluctantly, he returns and helps Marston out of the bear trap.Inevitably, Marston attacks Red Cloud, and Gus dies during the battle. Jed warns the infantry that they must retreat to Fort Shallan, while Marston and his horse-mounted troopers are massacred. The ending with Jed ultimately becoming a sergeant is rather to good to be true. Nevertheless, everything about this western looks beautiful, including the massively built fort, and nobody gives a bad performance. This is one of Victor Mature's best performances, and Peter Whitney plays against type as a sadistic sergeant who will perform any task that Marston assigns him no matter how beyond the pale it is. Nothing about this wonderful western seems contrived. "The Last Frontier" is nothing like Mann's westerns with James Stewart.
Mature western for Mature audiences (by weezeralfalfa)
Hope you caught the pun in my title! I much enjoyed this film, which offers a variety of interesting subplots and complex love-hate relationships, along with interspersed action sequences and some lighthearted moments in which the free-spirited mountain men counter regimented army discipline. All the main characters are well cast. Some reviewers question the wisdom of choosing middle-aged Victor Mature as the lead character, Jed Cooper. Yes, he was getting a bit puffy-eyed for a Tarzan-like western hillbilly. Others simply don't go for his personality or acting style. But, overall, I <more>
found him quite suitable for his wild man desiring to become marginally civilized role. Robert Mitchum would perhaps have been equally at home in this rile. Several reviewers would have preferred Burt Lancaster. Burt would have his chance as a loner trapper some years later in the eccentric western "The Scalphunters", worth checking out if you like mountain men tales.At first, I thought this story was taking place in Oregon, with the high dome-shaped volcanic cone often in the background and one of the forts named Medford. But, I soon realized that these were false clues. Fort Laramie was repeatedly mentioned as not too far away. Also, Red Cloud was repeatedly mentioned as the war chief of the recently belligerent Sioux. Well, these are strong clues that the story relates to the well-known Powder River War in northern Wyoming, between the US government and an alliance of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho. Guy Madison's Captain Riordan and Robert Preston's Colonel Marston can be seen as modified versions of the historical Colonel Carrington and Captain Fetterman, respectively. As in the film, the Civil War-experienced, but Sioux -inexperienced overconfident Fetterman led his men into an ambush. As in the film, Fetterman's entire 81-man party was annihilated, considered the worst US cavalry disaster at the hands of Native Americans until Custer's much better remembered debacle. During the battle, Cooper Mature takes on the historic role of Captain Ten Eyck, sent to investigate the gunplay heard and deciding it was prudent to retreat.Incidentally, the army did build 3 forts in this area in the late Civil War years, but their names were changed in the film and, by treaty, they were soon abandoned, later burned by the Sioux. The main reason for all this sudden animosity was the discovery of rich placer gold deposits in Montana Territory, just northwest of the present Yellowstone Park. Swarms of draft-dodging prospectors and other sorts had been negotiating the newly established Bozeman Trail across Wyoming to these goldfields, right through the currently favorite hunting grounds of the relevant tribes. The classic Clark Gable-starring western "The Tall Men", released the same year as this film, also relates to this gold fever and he also had to deal with Red Cloud, in a semi-historical script.The main problem I find with the plot is the historical anachronism of the 3 buddy trappers. The era of pure trapper mountain men had pretty much ended 25 years before the end of the Civil War with the collapse of western beaver populations and the simultaneous collapse of a market for such. Thus, these trappers were limited to much less valuable furs and hides. As others have pointed out, the plot bears a striking resemblance to the previous John Ford "Fort Apache", save for the location. In both cases, we have a commander arriving from the east to a frontier post with Native American problems. He underestimates the military prowess of his adversaries, regarding them as little more than easy cannon fodder to promote his career. He pays dearly dies for his inexperience and brashness. Also, this commander resents a subordinate who has long experience with the local Native Americans and warns him what is wise and unwise to do. In both films, we have a budding romantic relationship between a woman dear to the commander's heart and a subordinate, which the commander tries to squelch. Clearly, the commander must be eliminated to allow these romances to proceed to completion. In common with director Mann's film "The Far Country", the loner star's long-time partner must be eliminated to allow room for a woman to take his place. In the present film, Cooper has two partners, who independently die or disappear. James Whitmore plays one of them. Yes, he much reminds you of Spencer Tracy. This was Whitmore's second subsidiary role as a mountain man, also being in the Clark Gable-starring "Across the Wide Missouri"I found the verbal confrontation between Cooper and Marsden while the latter was trapped in a bear pit fall, along with the fallout from this incident, the most interesting aspect on this film. Anne Bancroft, as Marsen's conflicted wife, has a most interesting role, especially as it relates to this incident. The theme of most everyone associated with this fort being a misfit surfaces repeatedly. Most of the soldiers, including the commander, were sent here because they have 'problems' or are raw recruits. The trappers are misfits personality-wise with army discipline. Bancroft, as one of the few woman in this fort, is inherently a misfit, and hates it.
A great and original Anthony Mann Western with Victor Mature, Robert Preston and Anne Bancroft (by Wuchakk)
RELEASED IN 1955 and directed by Anthony Mann, "The Last Frontier" aka "Savage Wilderness" stars Victor Mature as an uncivilized mountain man in 1864 who, along with his two trapper buddies James Whitmore & Pat Hogan , seeks succor at a wilderness fort on or near the Bozeman Trail in the Northwest manned by a young captain Guy Madison and a brigade of inexperienced recruits. Jed Cooper Mature can't help but be attracted to a beautiful, but distant woman at the fort Anne Bancroft , who's waiting for her gun-ho husband, a dishonored colonel, to return <more>
from another remote fort Robert Preston . Meanwhile, Red Cloud & his braves threaten Federal advances in the region. Peter Whitney plays a grim, hulking sergeant and Russell Collins a reasonable doctor at the fort. If you can get past the hopelessly hokey opening & closing song, this is a surprisingly great, original Western and one of Anthony Mann's best. The main role was originally intended for Brando, who certainly would've been interesting, but Mature performs with his renowned beaming gusto. While it might not seem like it on paper, the setting and plot are original for a Western and, believe it or not, this is easily the best fort & cavalry Western I've ever seen. No kidding. The characters aren't one-dimensional and are therefore interesting. Take, for instance, Preston's Colonel Marston: He's sort of made out to be the antagonist, but you can't help respect his decisiveness, courage and honorability. A lesser man, for example, would've hated the young Captain Madison for defying him whereas the Colonel actually respects him for his bold actions and even commends him ! . He understandably seeks redemption for his gallant failure at Shiloh, which unnecessarily cost the lives of a thousand men. This would be fine if it were only HIS life on the line rather than an entire brigade of raw recruits.The love affair subplot is handled well and the action-packed climax is unpredictable, although one-element the final one is eye-rolling and tacked-on by the studio NOT approved by Mann . Nevertheless, "The Last Frontier" was a huge hit at the box off. It's akin to a mid-50's version of the remarkable "The Last of the Mohicans" 1992 , albeit taking place a hundred years later in the remote northwest. THE MOVIE RUNS 98 minutes and was shot in Popocatépetl Volcano, Puebla, Mexico SE of Mexico City , which is an acceptable substitute for the Oregon/Wyoming/Montana region. WRITERS: Philyp Yordan & Russell S. Hughes based on Richard Emery Roberts' novel "The Gilded Rooster." GRADE: A
three rugged mountain men take jobs scouting for the army (by dougbrode)
Ordinarily, Anthony Mann made westerns with 'the big guys' - James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda . . . the A list cowboy stars. But in this B+ film, he tackled something notably different and had quite a bit of success with what turned out to be a truly one of a kind western. The main character, played by Victor Mature, is a trapper/ mountain man, and ordinarily they are romanticized in films - Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson, that sort of thing, where the hero is not in fact a typical mountain man but a clean cut heroic figure who hangs out with real mountain men. Not here. <more>
For once, a true mountain man - vulgar, crude, animalistic - is the central figure, and it's something to see, giving Mature one of his better later roles. The real acting chops are provided by Robert Preston, excellent as a self-absorbed Custer type cavalry commander, and James Whitmore, the poor man's Spencer Tracy, as another of those old timers who feel themselves trapped between ever more hostile Indians on the one side and the oncoming force of civilization on the other. Even more impressive is a very young Anne Bancroft as the officer's wife, who is initially repulsed by the very sight of Mature's grisly character, then finds her own veneer of civilization slipping away as she begins to realize, to her own shock, that she's attracted to him. Rarely if ever has a remote frontier fort been so accurately realized on screen, without the romantic allure that John Ford gave such a place in his masterful Fort Apache. The battle sequences are big scale and notably violent, and particularly impressive if you seen them in widescreen format. Good show, and underrated movie, all around.
`The Last Frontier' is a superior western that overcomes numerous deficiencies in weaving its tale of trappers Jed Victor Mature , Gus James Whitmore and Mongo Pat Hogan and their relationships with the army, particularly Captain Riordon Guy Madison , Colonel Marston Robert Preston and Corrina Marston, colonel's wife Anne Bancroft . Hired as scouts after losing their supplies to the Indians, Jed, Gus and Mungo adjust to living the `civilized' life within a fort on the edge of the `last frontier.' Jed, who has been raised by Gus, both inspires and looks up to the <more>
`older' Gus and Mungo, and has an especially difficult time dealing with `civilization.' His real problems start after he becomes strongly attracted to the colonel's wife, Corrina. Colonel Marstonis a reckless man, who endangers every one around him with his dreams of ruthless victory over any opponent. Corrina, a woman repressed by her station and sense of responsibility, loves her husband for what he could be and Jed for what he is. Caught in the middle is Captain Riordon, a brave and likeable man torn among his duty to the army, his strong friendship with Jed and his fear of the likely disastrous consequences of the colonel's recklessness. What makes this movie so interesting as well as entertaining is that, in most cases the weaknesses and the strengths of `The Last Frontier' are EXACTLY the same elements forget the insipid title and dated music First, the screenplay. Almost all of the subplots particularly, the reckless Colonel have been done better elsewhere, but have rarely been assembled with such eccentricity. Just when you THINK you know what is going to happen next, this one takes off in a DIFFERENT direction. POSSIBLE SPOILER: `The Last Frontier' being a `Production Code' movie back in the day the word `virgin' was taboo , it's very surprising that the adultery factor was handled in such a mature, tolerant manner. I expected either Jed or the colonel's wife to reap some retribution for their sin. I was surprised and a little disappointed the movie didn't exploit that expectation to create a less predictable ending.Second, the casting. Mature is at least ten years too old to play the part of Jed, the wild-eyed innocent raised in the woods'. James Whitmore, who plays Gus, `the man who raised Jed' is actually five years younger than Mature. Nevertheless, Mature is very endearing, playing a character who is innocent of civilization but is in no way stupid. Although there were several actors who could have played the role at the time most notably, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas , none could have played Jed better. Preston also Mature's junior plays Colonel Marston, missing the tics and affectations one would expect from such a driven man. However, Preston perfectly captures the sense of honor someone must have seen in Marston to promote such a reckless fool to colonel's rank. Bancroft is an especially shrewd choice as Corrina. Bancroft's dark hair has been died blonde, and this achieves the same effect as it did for Winona Ryder `Edward Scissorhands' and Christina Ricci `Sleepy Hollow' . That is, I felt conflicted about the character without knowing exactly why; I believe the answer is that blondes and brunettes have considerably different skin tones and eye shades. Further, Bancroft has always projected a toughness that borders on hardness here the blonde hair softens her up a bit, though . This enables the 24 year old Bancroft to stand toe to toe with both the 40 year old Mature and the 37 year old Preston; yep, she could be a colonel's wife. Madison walks a careful balancing act as Riordan, handling a complex role and sometimes ackward dialogue.Playing a role similar to that of John Wayne in `Fort Apache' Madison does a more skillful job at it. This movie has a `Silverado' type camaraderie. That alone makes it worth seeing. It also has memorable performances, beautiful scenerary and great action and direction. I just hope a letterbox version is available many have been lost , because this movie takes full advantage of that format.
Civilization and Its Malcontents (by rpvanderlinden)
Victor Mature plays Jed Cooper, a rough-and-tumble mountain man, ostensibly in need of a few social graces, who, along with his two companions, is hired on as a civilian guide at the local army installation, a fort on the edge of nowhere. He wants two things: a soldier's uniform, and commander Col. Frank Marsden's wife, Corinna a blonde Anne Bancroft . She isn't altogether turned off. Her husband has been shuffled as far west as possible by the Army to escape his quaint reputation as the "butcher of Shiloh". A sizable native army, just beyond the fort, is waiting. <more>
Marsden dismisses them as stupid savages with no concept of military strategy, then falls into one of their bear traps."The Last Frontier" is about civilization and what it means to be civilized. Jed is an outsider and he wants to belong. For him, to be civilized is to wear a uniform and to attain domesticity. He grapples hard with this civilization thing and learns that there are some confounding complexities. Col. Marsden flaunts the veneer of civilization, but he's a rule-toting bully.I've probably said too much already, but I love the dry, adult westerns of Anthony Mann. For all his tackling of a complex theme Mann doesn't forget the action scenes. The climactic Indian attack is exciting, with the dust that's whipped up providing a nice visual touch, and Jed's one-on-one fight with a Marsden flunkie is raw and brutal. The fort in this movie appears to be authentic and detailed, and we get to see its layout. Victor Mature's performance as a rough frontiersman is well realized and convincing, a far cry from the oiled-up Samson wrestling a stuffed lion in a certain Cecil B. De Mille soaper. A special nod to Guy Madison for his portrayal of a sane, all-round nice guy. This is hardly a "lesser" Mann picture. It's up there among his best.