In 1763, felon Abby Hale is sentenced to slavery in America. In Virginia, heroic Capt. Holden buys her, intending to free her, but villain Garth foils this plan, and Abby toils at Dave Bone's tavern. Garth is fomenting an Indian uprising to clear the wilderness of settlers, giving him a monopoly of the fur trade. Holden discovers Garth's treachery, but cannot prove anything against him. Can Holden and Abby save Fort Pitt from the Senecas? Many hairbreadth escapes. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Cecil B. DeMille had been doing a series of films about American History from 1937 (THE PLAINSMAN) to 1940 (THE NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE
although actually it was a film regarding Canadian history instead).
His two film in World War II were THE STORY OF DR. WASSELL, which is a war picture set in the far east - but dealing with an American war hero, and REAP THE WILD WIND (set in the Caribbean, but dealing with pirates attacking our merchant marine in the 1840s). UNCONQUERED dealt with a period that he had not covered - the pre American Revolutionary period. It would turn out to be his last historic film about America (unless one looks at THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH as a view of part of our theatrical and cultural history in 1950).
His choice was curious - he might have done a film on the fall of Quebec and deaths of Generals Wolfe and Montcalm, or a film on the American Revolution. Instead he chose events in 1763, just as the split between England and the colonies began to develop. But the events deal with the situation that led to what is called the "Conspiracy of Pontiac", where an intelligent Indian chief united many of the tribes in the Ohio Valley to revolt against American settlers and British troops, to preserve it for the Indians. The result was that many settlers and Indians were killed before the fighting ended, and Pontiac was killed. That is the story, but most is jettisoned for a fictional account of events in the Ohio Valley. The villain is Howard De Silva, intent on keeping out the colonists by arming the Indians, so that he could have a monopoly of the fur trade. He is also responsible for illegally bringing Paulette Goddard into the colony of Virginia as an indentured servant. Gary Cooper is the man opposing De Silva in his plans regarding the Indians and his plans regarding Goddard.
The film is not DeMille's best, but it's Technicolor, De Silva's performance, the appearance of Boris Karloff as a villainous Indian (he would play an Indian again a few years later in TAP ROOTS), and the two leads make it entertaining enough. But my interest in it deals with two supporting roles. Porter Hall is Mr. Leech, who is bribed (although he is aware it is a hanging offense) to send the pardoned Goddard to the colonies as an indentured servant. He's not in much of the film, but it is a nice performance. But better is Mike Mazurki. The ex-wrestler was not an actor but occasionally turned in first rate performances such as his love-struck thug in MURDER MY SWEET, and Joan Blondell's boy-friend (and moral superior to Tyrone Power) in NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Here he is a minor villain - a thug for De Silva. For most of the film he is doing De Silva's dirty work without a thought. But at the film's conclusion he is faced with a moment of truth. De Silva, Cooper, Goddard, and Mazurki are trapped in a cabin, but have weapons to protect themselves. Cooper knows that troops will be arriving soon to rescue them. But De Silva is deluded into thinking he (and Mazurki) are safe because they have been arming the Indians - he's ignoring that as a white, Englishman/colonial he's as hated as the others. He tells Mazurki to open the door and signal the Indians to let them go. Mazurki, showing a commendable intelligence, refuses. De Silva orders him again, and then he decides to do it himself. He opens the door and an arrow hits him in the center of the chest. Mazurki gets up and closes the door from the back. He then tells Cooper they'll all wait until the troops arrive. The film soon ends, but to me that moment was one to treasure. Rarely has a subordinate have such a satisfactory way of being proved correct over his boss.
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