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I wonder if anyone would ever remember this movie today were it not for the presence of a young Bela Lugosi in the role of Chingachgook the Native American pal of the hero. (In a case of Life's Little Ironies this very same year found Boris Karloff also playing a Native American in the American made film LAST OF THE MOHICANS which starred Wallace Beery.)
To give credit where it is due, this German made film is remarkably well photographed with the European countryside subbing nicely for the American Northeast. A great deal of action takes place at "the castle" of Old Tom Hutter. To be safe from Indian attacks he built his home on a raft and anchored in the middle of a lake! While at first this seems like a great idea we later see it has its drawbacks too because if you do get attacked (which happens more than one in this 59 minute movie) there is no place to run. The actors, while quite obviously Teutonic, do their jobs well and are never less than convincing. Emil Mamelok is quite good as Deerslayer and Herta Hayden as the woman he loves . . . well . . . sort of loves anyway, is very good. Bela is remarkably effective in the role of Chingachgook. He is the personification of stoicism as he hardly ever changes his facial expression no matter what is happening around him.
Now about what I said about this movie not being the best. There are some racial slurs against American Indians that are downright insulting. Granted, this novel was written a long time ago and they only reflect the attitudes of people at that time but is that any excuse to perpetuate racial intolerance via the media of film? More than once a character named Hurry Harry remarks "Them Injuns may be men but they ain't hu-men!" And our hero himself remarks to the Iroquois chief, "I am a white man. You cannot know what it means to be a white man. I will marry no Indian." That almost had me turning the movie off. Did I mention that I myself happen to be an American Indian? Well I am, and very proud of it.
For the sake of film history it is a good thing that this movie, even in its current truncated form, still exists. For the sake of Bela Lugosi's fans it is also good that some of his silent films, particularly the ones made in Europe, still exist. It is nothing less than miraculous that they survived 2 world wars while locked away in studio vaults. Should you see this movie? Yes! Will I ever see it again? No.
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