VCI Home Video // 1932 // 224 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 3rd, 2009
A complete bore in twelve chapters!
Done even reasonably well, old serials can be a lot of fun. As a short with a cliffhanger to finish it off, it's a great compliment to a main feature film. Fifteen minutes with Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers holds a lot of fond memories for me (not in the theater; I'm not that old), but not everything can be so great. Though created from a literary classic, one whose adaptations have received great acclaim, this version of The Last of the Mohicans is dull and lifeless with little in the way of cliffhanging.
After generations of war, the violent Huron Tribe, led by Chingachgook (Hobart Bosworth, General Spanky), have finally defeated the peaceful Mohicans, leaving only two of their population alive. They now travel with the famed scout Hawkeye (Harry Carey, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as he helps the British Soldiers in their war with France over American land. Meanwhile, the leader of the French forces kidnaps the daughters of the British leader and wants to use their safe return as cause for British surrender.
You don't get too far into The Last of the Mohicans serial to realize that these twelve chapters will feel like an eternity. While there were a number of silent adaptations before and a very good version starring Randolph Scott a few years later, this version sits in the middle as pure disappointment as it draws all the lifeblood from James Fennimore Cooper's classic novel. The original story is full of cliffhangers naturally, but the producers of this seem to have forgotten the importance of including these scenes at the ends of the episodes, leading people to want to see what happens. The first episode, oddly of double length of the rest, does have a good one to finish, but the second episode resolves it in such lame fashion that it's easy to forget that there ever was danger in the first place. Aside from that, be ready for some of the most yawn-inducing "shockers" you'll ever see. The serial follows the original novel closely enough but, with the extended time afforded to this format over a normal film, it gets bogged down in repetitive details that could have been skimmed over to give room for more action.
The performances are as dull as the story, with star Harry Carey making the least of his time as Hawkeye. Sounding like he's reading from a card, Carey struggles even to do that. The Native American roles, exclusively (but not surprisingly) played by whites, are demeaning, trivial, and of two kinds: the savage and the son of the land. Both are caricature and neither does anything to further the plot. The Mohicans are in the story so little that their presence nearly skipped my mind. Luckily, the writers manage to drop the title of the film into the dialog enough to remind me that, oh yeah, the last of the Mohicans is around here somebody. Who knows where, though, because he isn't on screen. The two daughters are worthless, simpering idiots who serve no purpose but as rescue fodder. All tolled, the performances, story, and execution are all at the bottom of the barrel.
VCI's release of The Last of the Mohicans doesn't fare a whole lot better than the film itself. It may have had a little restoration work done to it, but if so, it only makes me wonder how bad the picture looked beforehand. As it is, there's plenty of damage to the print and, while there doesn't seem to be much in the way of transfer error, the black and white image suffers greatly in clarity. The mono sound is no better, with near constant background noise and often difficult to hear dialog. There are no extras.
There is something to be said for...oh, wait; no there isn't. This serial is terrible.
First and foremost, serials should entice the viewer to keep watching, waiting for the next chapter to make sure their beloved heroes are okay. The only thing I was waiting for here was Chapter Thirteen, and that's because it doesn't exist, meaning it was over and I was done. The Last of the Mohicans is the worst serial I've ever seen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: VCI Home Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 224 Minutes
Release Year: 1932
MPAA Rating: Not Rated