The Last Wagon (1956) Poster

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Beautiful Western!
jpdoherty24 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
THE LAST WAGON is one of those splendid unforgettable Cinemascope/Colour westerns Fox was so good at producing in the fifties. "Garden Of Evil", "Broken Lance", "The Tall Men","Warlock" and "The Bravados" etc. were all part of "Fox's Fifties Cinemascope Western Cycle" but THE LAST WAGON stands out in front as being arguably the most beautiful looking among them! Directed by the stalwart yet somewhat underrated Delmer Daves whose movies always had a certain glossy and radiant look to them. Particularly striking about his films was the rich location photography i.e. "Broken Arrow", "Jubal", "The Hanging Tree", "Susan Slade", "Spencer's Mountain" etc. THE LAST WAGON is no exception with the beautiful Arizona locations looking even more spectacular than usual.

Lionel Newman's strident Indian theme over the titles immediately sets the tone for the adventure that is to follow. Richard Widmark - sporting the colourful name of Comanche Todd - plays a wrongly accused outlaw guiding a group of teenagers across hostile Indian country after their folks have been massacred by Apaches. Widmark is terrific in the part, bringing to his role a palpable authenticity and hard bitten realism. It is one of his great he-man outdoor action roles and not unlike the part he played the same year in "Run For The Sun" (itself a splendid reworking of "The Most Dangerous Game"). The supporting cast are excellent. George Mathews as the unsavoury and brutish sheriff, Douglas Kennedy as the upright Wagonmaster, the beautiful Susan Kohner (whatever happened to?),as his half breed daughter, Stephenie Griffin as her bigoted sister, Ray Stricklyn, the ill-fated Nick Adams and Tommy Rettig as the young brother of the film's leading lady the lovely Felicia Farr. Trivia fans will no doubt remember the ill-fated Rettig played Widmark's eight year old son in Kazan's brilliant "Panic In The Streets" six years earlier. Also in the cast is a young James Drury as a cavalry officer in one of his early Pre "Virginian" roles.

The DVD looks gorgeous! With glowing colour, well defined sharp as a button images and the Cinemascope camera of Wilfrid Cline taking full advantage of those eye-catching backdrops (the incredible red rock locations at Sedona, Arizona). And not forgetting the wonderful score by Lionel Newman which is probably the best thing this younger brother of the great Alfred Newman ever did. Extras include a good trailer and a couple of photo galleries. A must for the collection of every western and every Widmark fan.

Typical line from Widmark - referring to the Nick Adams character.... "We've got six bullets and that idiot uses up three of them on a stinkin' rattler you could kill with a stick". Great Stuff!
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Beautifully filmed though little known
Nicholas Rhodes22 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you watch this film with care, you will see that every shot has been perfectly crafted. The deep blue skies and reddish rock colour go perfectly with the steely blue eyes and yellowish skin of Richard Widmark. Even the colour of his tunic blends in with the rest. The cameraman here must have been a real genius as every shot is perfect.Great attention seems to have been paid to the color of the sky, the position of the sun and even the shots in "contre-jour" come out perfectly - in short, a real FEAST for the eyes. This film has only recently been made available on DVD in the USA and is of course absent from Europe, though we have plenty of other, and many inferior quality Westerns available on DVD....this should have been one of the first to come out...but this was not to be the case. Plot-wise the film is quite enthralling, and it's interesting to note the change in attitude of the people with time towards Widmark, from suspicion and hate towards gratitude and love by the end. The other actors give reasonable performances but of course in this film, Widmark steals the show, just as he did in "No Way Out". The scenes with the Indians, smoke signals etc are awesome and very colourful. Also the soundtrack is very good, I even thought it was Dimitri Tiomkin who had composed it, but I was wrong. When I saw the film initially, I was fearing some ghastly sad ending, thinking that Widmark would inevitably come a cropper, but fortunately, love rules OK and all turns out right ! Phew ! This is a film that every true Western-lover should have on the shelves of his/her DVDthèque.
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A fine western adventure
NewEnglandPat15 August 2003
This story chronicles the trials of a fugitive half-breed and the survivors of an Indian attack on a wagon train. Richard Widmark is the tough, steely hero who aims to guide the survivors to safety through the desert and clear his name in a murder case. The plot is basically one of survival and redemption and the picture fleshes out Widmark's character in dramatic fashion, first as an abused prisoner, then as a trail savvy outsider who must bring to safety folks who dislike him because of his reputation. The film has fine action scenes but tends to dwell on the attitudes of the young whites who resent being dependent on Widmark, yet realize they need him to pull them out of harm's way. Felicia Farr is good as the woman who falls for Widmark in spite of his troubled past, as are Susan Kohner and Stephanie Griffin, the latter as a high-strung lass with a quick temper. Nick Adams and Tommy Rettig do fine in their roles and round out the survival party. The cinematography and music are top notch.
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Thankfully, this western is a bit different and a bit more to offer...
MartinHafer27 October 2009
This film begins with Richard Widmark being chased by a posse. In the process, Widmark kills several of the deputies until he is ultimately captured. The sheriff (along with Widmark) soon meets up with a wagon train and tags along with them until he can get his prisoner back to town for a proper hanging. As for why Widmark did all these nasty murders, he is supposedly part Comanche (he sure doesn't look it--that's because he was a white orphan raised by the tribe) and has a total disregard for society--and somehow this entitles him to kill with abandon.

Problems soon develop with the settlers. They are devout people and can't stand the way the sheriff takes pleasure in tormenting Widmark (who is now handcuffed to a wagon wheel). What happens next with Widmark and the sheriff is something you'll need to see for yourself.

Soon another parallel story begins as well. One of the ladies in the wagon train is angry because her father was previously married to an American-Indian and she has a half-sister as a result. There is obviously much hatred of the 'half-breed' sister and the racist feelings the white sister feels is a parallel to the story of Widmark. Occasionally this tension seems a bit overdone--especially since you'd think the angry white sister would have come to terms with her half-sister and the white settlers would get tired of using words like 'savage' so much. Subtle its message ain't and the one young lady in particular plays a character too unlikable and annoying to be real--the one and only real deficit in an otherwise good film.

Unfortunately for the wagon train, the land they eventually enter is Indian land. Soon, it appears that the Indians are angry about their land being invaded and it appears that all of the settlers' lives are about to be snuffed. At this point, the tables are turned and it's up to the cold-blooded killer, Widmark, to save the day--escorting the survivors to safety and teaching them to live off the land like natives.

By the way, as you watch Widmark chained to the wagon wheel and doing some stunts as well while connected to the wheel, you are impressed by how much he was willing to do for this role. Occasionally, you assume it's a stuntman doing some of the scenes but in many cases it is clearly Widmark being tossed about in this very uncomfortable manner. What a guy...and what a good film.

Overall, a very good film that is worth watching for its fine performance by Richard Widmark as well as an interesting and thought-provoking script. As I already said, the story isn't always subtle nor are a few of the characters, but it still is an earnest and enjoyable flick.
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The film that made a movie fan out of me
jeffhill19 March 2002
"The Last Wagon" is the very first movie I ever went nuts over; and I've been a movie fan ever since. I was nine and I didn't even want to go to the movies that Saturday night. But my parents wanted to see "Bus Stop" and they didn't want to get a baby sitter for me and my three year old brother, so they dragged us along. But they had made a mistake when reading the starting times of the films and when we got to the theater, "The Last Wagon", not "Bus Stop" was starting. From the moment Richard Widmark shot the first bad guy even before the opening credits and the enveloping overture, I was hooked on him, the western scenery, the action, the anthropological dramatization of Comanche vs. Apache tribal hostilities at the same time that all Native American cultures were being wiped out by encroaching white "civilization", and the enthralling background music. When the co-feature of "Bus Stop" concluded, I wanted to stay to see "The Last Wagon" again. My parents had to drag me out.
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One the most exciting Westerns!
Nazi_Fighter_David25 July 1999
Warning: Spoilers
After he is tracked, caught and chained to a wagon train for killing, in cold blood, three brothers in revenge for the murder of three people closest to him, his wife and his two boys, Comanche Todd (Richard Widmark), leads a wagon to safety through Apache country...

It is an intense drama because Col. Normand's train was massacred by the savages and six young survivors were left on his hands, putting their trust in a renegade murderer to bring them out of the wilderness…

Delmer Daves tries to paint the West as a perfect artist proving himself as a talented director of the Western movies... As in "Broken Arrow," "Drum Beat," "3:l0 to Yuma," and "The Hanging Tree," this great director gives us, in his exciting Western, a study of several characters as individuals and as representatives of virtues, vices, and other abstract qualities...

Richard Widmark gives a great performance as a man who took the Comanche law to avenge his people… For him there was no "white man's law" for hundreds of miles!

Felicia Farr gives a sweet performance as the girl in love... For her Widmark could have saved himself… He could have gone and she urged him to go…

Susan Kohner tells her sister Valinda (Stephanie Griffin) that she acts so clean but she thinks so dirty… And when she says "Indian-lover" and she makes it sound so filthy…

Tommy Rettig—a lot more man than a boy— is the most effective member of the cast, sincere in his emotional feelings and highly amusing...

Nick Adams saw those falls this morning but refuses to notice that the kid could get swept over them…

George Mathews plays Sheriff Bull Harper with a killer he's bringing to justice… He explained to the Christians 'not to be fooled by the color of his eyes and his skin. He may be white, but inside he's all Comanche.'

Col. William Normand (Douglas Kennedy) asks the Sheriff to secure the prisoner but to stop his brutality…

Filmed in Technicolor and CinemaScope, the picture has plenty of action, good exterior photography including splendid picturesque shots of the "Canyon of death", the rocks, plains and rivers...
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A renegade half-Indian saves the day in the Old West.
paulmoran999 August 2005
The Last Wagon is not in the Premier League of great westerns; but it should be. Delmer Davis has fashioned an exciting, pacey film, which has all the finest ingredients of the American West.The story is never less than interesting and absorbing,and sometimes superlative. Richard Widmark plays Commanche Todd perfectly, displaying ruthlessness, kindness, charm and craggy reliability, in equal measure.The Widmark easy grin trademark is evident, which only he can switch on, lending light relief to a grim story.

But for me the film is notable for a love scene that compares easily with that of the famous train meeting between Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint in North by Northwest. Felicia Farr as Jenny, and Todd, fetch up in the rocks of the wild prairie, and Todd makes his move. Then follows a curiously compelling verbal exchange that is achingly romantic,full of blossoming love and yearning, and charged with heady excitement.You can almost hear Farr's rapid heart beating. For one brief moment Felica Farr makes herself the most desirable women on the planet.When the kiss comes it makes your heart sigh. Then it's back to the action, and the film pulses along to a satisfying conclusion. But it will be Farr's breathlessness, sensuality and desirability that lingers in the mind.There have been countless Screen Goddess's;but only a few like Felicia Farr and Eve Marie Saint, have been able to effortlessly radiate true sex appeal
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Widmark reigns
xredgarnetx10 March 2007
As with the same year's BACKLASH, star Richard Widmark puts his stamp of authority on what otherwise might have been a routine Western. He ends up guiding what's left of a wagon train family to safety from the Apaches. Most of the survivors are not exactly thrilled with this wild and wooly frontiersman leading them anywhere, and it is all Widmark can do to keep them from painting big red targets on each other's chests and backs for the Indians to shoot at. LASSIE's Tommy Rettig is the juvenile in the group. The female leads are great to look at in a 1956 kind of way. With the exception of Nick "Johnny Yuma" Adams, none of the rest of this cast is particularly well known, but veteran director Delmer Daves keeps them in line and believable as a group of frightened tenderfeet. James Drury, who would go on to fame as THE VIRGINIAN on TV, is in the film for bit.
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Widmark was Attached To A Wagon Wheel !
whpratt113 February 2005
It was great viewing this 1956 film and enjoying the great acting of a very young Richard Widmark,(Comanchi Todd), "Garden of Evil",'54, where he plays a very well experienced man who can deal with almost any situation and understands the Native Americans like a book. The film has great photography through out the entire picture and brings you back to the Old West and the troubles that men and women had to face in the wilderness. Susan Kohner,(Jolie Normand), gave a great supporting role along with Nick Adams,(Ridge), both these characters had their own feels toward Comanchi Todd and some doubted if he was man enough to get them out of many death threatening situations. Comanchi Todd had his problems with a Wagon Wheel and I thought he was never going to get himself away from its burden of weight. If you are a fan of Richard Widmark, you will greatly enjoy this film which he made into a great Western Classic.
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Pretty good movie until the end
Hang_All_Drunkdrivers16 September 2004
Widmark plays the anti-hero who comes to the aid of teenagers who survived an Indian attack. As usual widmark is great and i esp loved the hateful sheriff played by george matthews who is gonna turn criminal widmark in for the reward . He treats widdy just awful and eventually widmark cleaves him open with a hatchet!!! You don't get to see the hatchet land, but it's still a great scene cause the slimeball had it comin'. Three teenage girls in the film are very attractive and the scenery is spectacular. I won't tell the ending of course, but lets just say it's pretty sappy and didn't jibe with the rest of the movie which was quite cynical. All in all, surprisingly good for a 50 year old western. I'll give it a B+.
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