When a handful of settlers survive an Apache attack on their wagon train they must put their lives into the hands of Comanche Todd, a white man who has lived with the Comanches most of his ...
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When a handful of settlers survive an Apache attack on their wagon train they must put their lives into the hands of Comanche Todd, a white man who has lived with the Comanches most of his life and is wanted for the murder of three men. Written by
I caught "The Last Wagon" for the first time on TV many moons ago. All I remember is that it kicked axx from beginning to end. Seeing it again last night, I'm happy to report that this 1956 Western holds up well despite the dated score.
THE STORY: Richard Widmark stars as Comanche Todd, a white man raised by Comanches and under arrest for murder. Deep in hostile Apache territory he soon finds himself the leader of a small group of youths from a wagon train. Will they make it out alive? And, even if they do, can Todd escape the sentence of death-by-hanging?
First of all, this film is gorgeous to look at -- shot on location in Sedona, Arizona, at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon.
Secondly, not only is the plot excellent, so are the characters, cast and everything else. The film successfully takes you back to the late 1800s and gives a good glimpse of what it must have been like to travel out West during that time.
Felicia Farr and Susan Kohner stand out in the supporting cast; both are incredibly beautiful. Each youth has his/her issue(s) and grows much as a result of their experiences with Comanche Todd and the dire situation. For instance, Susan (Jolie) is ashamed that she's half-Indian but Todd teaches her to be proud of who and what she is. Others hate Todd for being an "injun lover" but later see the error of their ways. Todd himself is lost in in a fog of bitterness & revenge but a new potential family is thrown in his lap. Can he get over his disillusionment to see the blessing in his current situation? This is just a taste of the character arcs addressed in the story.
Stop the presses! Christianity and Christians are actually portrayed in a positive light -- amazing! Yet so are the beliefs/practices of the Natives. The film does an outstanding job of taking the middle road with the settlers and the natives. Not to mention, the Indians are portrayed realistically, unlike many 50's Westerns where you just roll your eyes at their silly depiction.
Aside from the dated score (which isn't bad, just dated), the only negative I can cite would be the way in which the conflict with the Apaches is concluded. But the film makes up for it with a powerful end-commentary on the nature of universal justice.
The DVD features both the widescreen and fullscreen versions.
MY GRADE: A
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