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Ground-breaking revisionist western and pure seventies gold
gogoschka-117 July 2014
This was one of the first neo- or revisionist-westerns and it really is a bit of a shame younger audiences mostly don't seem to know it: this is classic seventies gold. Arthur Penn, one of the driving forces behind the so called New-Hollywood (he also directed 'Bonnie and Clyde'), delivered a masterpiece - with a fantastic Dustin Hoffman.

It's an epic, tragic tale - but one told with an often very funny voice. Part satire, part honest look at America's dark and untold history, the tone and narrative structure of this film were ground-breaking. And it still looks fresh: the script, the acting, the camera, the music: everything still oozes quality more than 40 years later. A timeless classic. 9 stars out of 10.

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" I Didn't Mean to Kill him, . . . just, distract him a little " "
thinker169121 August 2007
For many years in Hollywood, Native Americans were not allowed to portray themselves in films. One director commented, they neither know how to play Indians, nor can they act. Once this absurd idea was quashed and Native Indians were allowed to portray their own people, not only was the myth crushed, but some of them received the highest tributes the film industry could honor them with. Such was the case with this unusual story which was touted as the most forgotten hero of the southwest. Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) plays a white boy who landed smack dab in the emerging historical west at the start of the colonization period. Through his own fanciful narrative, we journey along as he survives an Indian massacre, adopted into the native culture, then re-acculturated into the White world near emerging townships, and then through several high frontier adventures which culminates with, The Battle of The Little Big Horn. Chief Dan George is Old Lodge Skins a native American who made himself memorable to American Audiences plays tutor and mentor to Jack Krabb. Faye Dunaway plays Mrs. Louise Pendrake who is both step-mother and temptress to the maturing Krabb. Martin Balsam plays Mr. Merriweather who literally goes to pieces throughout the film. Jeff Corey befriends Crabb as Wild Bill Hickok. Finally there is Richard Mulligan who plays Gen. George Armstrong Custer, both as a serious military man and then as a lunatic officer. The entire film is destined for classic status, depending on history's eventual reflection of modern Native Americans. ****
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Sprawling comedy-western with memorable moments.
jckruize14 November 2001
One of the greatest American films of the 70's, a long but enjoyable western epic told with verve and insight. Dustin Hoffman excels in one of his early film roles, throwing himself into its physical demands with obvious enthusiasm and in the process creating one of his most endearing characters.

But he had to be on his toes in the face of much scene-stealing by a host of experts, including Richard Mulligan as the screwiest Custer you'll ever see, Martin Balsam as the eternally optimistic Mr. Merriweather, and Chief Dan George as Old Lodgeskins, a noble, wise and very funny Native American patriarch. This, along with "Bonnie and Clyde," represented the pinnacle of Arthur Penn's directing career: he handles the tonal shifts from comedy to tragedy with unerring control. Beautifully photographed and scored, with a wry, picaresque script by Calder Willingham from Thomas Berger's novel. Memorable images abound, from the rousing stagecoach chase, to an erotic bath delivered by the beauteous Faye Dunaway, to the horrific attack on a snowbound Indian village by the U.S. Cavalry, accompanied by a sprightly fife-and-drums march, to George's dignified ritual of death under threatening skies that doesn't quite turn out the way he planned. A funny, poignant tale, skillfully told, and a reminder of the fragility and randomness of life and love.
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The sodapop kid strikes!
yomistahman17 September 2003
I have to admit... I LOVE THIS MOVIE and have since the first time I saw it as a kid. No other western - if it indeed is a true western? - tells the story of the white man's disrespect for the ORIGINAL Americans, without the tear-teasing guilt or the cheesy wigs chasing the stagecoach.

It is the story of an amazing man and his encounter with the Cheyenne. We follow young Jack Crab through his LONG life, and WHAT a life. Jack is abducted by Indians, raised by the preacher's ultra sexy wife, becomes the fastest gun in the west, sells dodgy "medicine" and joins General Custer at Little Big Horn.

A MUST SEE if you ask me.

And to top it off, the blues great John Hammond provides a fantastic score. A very hard to find album, but worth the effort and money... As is the movie.

Have to rate it 10 folks!
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A magnificent film
mrush31 January 2007
This is one of those movies you have to see if you like great films.This is a long movie but it is so good you'll never want it to end.I rated this movie a 10 but only cause the scale doesn't go any higher.

This is the story of Jack Crabb who begins the movie as a 121 year old man in a nursing home recounting his life.And what a life it was.He bounces back and forth in the Old west between the world of the white man and the world of the Native American.Crabb sees and does just about everything possible in both worlds.The joy and sadness and fun he has along the way makes for one helluva movie.

Dustin Hoffman is brilliant in this film.It may be his best performance ever yet it is somehow overlooked when many people think of his movies.It is a tour de force for Hoffman who plays an Indian and gunslinger and drunkard and muleskinner and many other things in this movie. Chief Dan George is nothing short of amazing in this movie.But yet one critic said he wasn't acting,he was just an Indian playing an Indian.Bah! Richard Mulligan was so perfect as General George Custer in this movie that he is who I see whenever I hear the name of Custer mentioned.Faye Dunaway and Martin Balsam create memorable characters too.

This movie makes one of the strongest statements I've ever seen about the treatment of the Native Americans yet you probably won't even realize it at the time.This is a movie that you'll replay in your head and then it hits you that there was even more there than met the eye.

The humor,tragedy and lush characters will stay with you long after you see this movie.This movie is based on the fine book by Thomas Berger and is very faithful to it.I recommend the book wholeheartedly, too.
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Excellent Western
Jason Forestein8 November 2004
My parents purchased a VHS copy of Little Big Man for me when I was 14 and, because it was a western, I didn't touch it for two years, in spite of their belief in its greatness. When I finally watched the film, I was astounded to find a film that was funny, angry, violent, and moving simultaneously. It turned out that my parents were, in fact, correct. Little Big Man was great.

I've gone back to the movie several times since that first viewing and it continues to entertain and affect; for me, a film that has emotional resonance well after the first viewing is rare and, though it does not always point to greatness, it often does.

Every element of the film is fantastic. The acting, by Hoffman and Dan George in particular, is amazing, as is Penn's direction. The story picaresque and always fascinating. There simply is no weak component to this movie.

I must also commend the film as a literary adaptation. I am not the most supportive critic of the Thomas Berger novel upon which the film is based. I find its thematics confused; it cannot decide whether or not it wants to revise western mythology or further it and, in that way, it fails for me. Calder Willingham's adaptation removes the ambivalence inherent in the novel and thereby writes one of the first and greatest revisionist Hollywood Westerns.

Little Big Man is a great movie, as I have said, and it deserves much more notoriety than it receives. This is, I fear, a film that too few people of my generation know. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it as an excellent and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.
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A Western with a Sense of Humor
Hitchcoc3 May 1999
This will always be one of my favorite movies. I love long, episodic plots such as this. The character of Jack Crabb has such dimension and so grows from one incarnation to another, that he is worth watching from beginning to end. This was Dustin Hoffman in his pre-pretentious "I'm such a big star I won't listen to anyone" period and he is an absolute joy because he just plays the character as it should be played. I love that he can be cowardly one moment, confused the next, heroic the next. He goes through phases in his life. Of course, the neatest part of the whole movie is the portrayal of the Indians. They are multi-dimensional and wonderful in their acceptance and joy with their world. Maybe everyone should see this movie to see how these "human beings" have been driven from what they were to what they are now. I have a top ten list of movie moments and on it is the scene where old Lodge Skins goes off to die because it "is a good day." As he lies there a drop of rain hits him in the eye and he decides that "sometimes the magic doesn't work."

The death of Sunshine is also so sad. I visited the Custer Battlefields a few years after seeing the movie, and while the place is interesting historically, I just couldn't look at it in the same way. The narration of the ancient Jack to the overmatched reporter is a delight. I know that this is a novel, not pure history, but Thomas Berger must have known these people and this delicate, beautiful movie is certainly his legacy.
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The oxymoron that prepares us for a tragi-comedy
Jugu Abraham1 February 2004
`Little big' is an oxymoron. `Little big man' the film is another cinematic oxymoron: a tragi-comedy.

Most of Penn's movies are double-edged swords presenting serious subjects with a twinkle in the eye--`The Miracle Worker' seems to be an exception to the rule. Penn seem to have a strange knack of picking subjects that seem to be governed by forces greater than themselves-leading to alienated situations. My favorite Penn film is the 1975 film `Night Moves' which ends with the boat going round in circles in the sea.

This work of Penn and novelist Thomas Berger follows the same pattern. The main character Crabb is buffeted between the Red Indians and the whites by forces beyond his control. Only once is he able to control his destiny--to lead Custer to his doom, because Custer in his impetuosity has decided to act contrary to any advice from Crabb. The religious and social values of both seem vacuous. The priest's wife may seem religious but is not. The adopted grandfather cannot die on the hilltop but has to carry on living. The gunslinger is a cartoon. Historical heroes like Wild Bill Hickok are demystified into individuals with down-to-earth worries.

It is surprising to me that many viewers have taken the facts of the film and novel as accurate--when it is obviously a work of fiction based on history. The charm of the film is the point of view taken by the author and director. The comic strain begins from the time Jim Crabb's sister is not raped by the Indians right up to the comic last stand of Custer. The film is hilarious as it presents a quirky look at every conceivable notion presented by Hollywood cinema: the brilliant acumen of army Generals, the Red Indian satisfying several squaws, the priest's wife turned prostitute who likes to have sex twice a week but not on all days, the quack who has turned to selling buffalo hides as he sees it as a better profession even if he has lost several limbs, etc.

The film is a tragedy--a tragic presentation of the Red Indian communities decimated by a more powerful enemy, tragic soldiers led by megalomaniac Generals, heroes reduced to fallible individuals, all heroes (including the Red Indians) whittled down to dwarfs.

The film is a satire of a dwarf who claims to have achieved a great revenge on Custer, a dwarf who could not assassinate Custer, the dwarf in many of us. It is a great film, but often misunderstood. Penn is a great director, whose greatness cannot be evaluated by this one film but by the entire body of his films. What he achieved in this film outclasses films like Tonka (1958) and Soldier Blue (1970), two notable films on similar themes. Chief Dan George, Dustin Hoffman, and cinematographer Harry Stradling Jr have considerably contributed to this fine cinematic achievement, but ultimate giant behind the film is Arthur Penn.

He has presented yet another example of looking at a subject and seeing two sides of the coin that appear as contradictions but together enhances our entertainment.
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Cult Movies 53
Carlos Xavier2 February 2002
53. LITTLE BIG MAN (western, 1970) From his Hospital bedside 121-year old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) recounts his exploits to a reporter: Captured by Cheyenne Indians at the age of 10 he's integrated into their 'alien' society and made the son of Indian 'Old Lodge Skies' (Chief Dan George). Proving his courage despite his short stature he's given the name of 'Little Big Man'. During the Indian Wars Jack is returned to white society. There he works as a shopkeeper, gunfighter, and finally used as an Indian Scout. The latter landing him under the command of General Custer (Richard Mulligan), who's putting together an army to fight the Indians at Little Big Horn.

Critique: Extremely enjoyable, epic western directed by Arthur Penn. Praised for its depiction of Native Americans, it has biting satirical (and political) touches, saddled with farcical historical accounts of the Indian Wars. The once controversial aspects were meant to represent the ideologies of the time, but it has not lost any of its grit.

What I like the most is its unique interpretation of Indians. Never in the long cycles of American westerns were Indians presented as almost alien, coming across as a mythical people whose ignorance of political maneuvers and technology proved their downfall. A very bitter and sad farewell swansong to what war and genocide has taken away.

Atypical cast delivers strong passages but you won't forget the 2-standout roles of General Custer as portrayed by the maniacal Richard Mulligan and 'Old Lodge Skies' played by the philosophical Chief Dan George.

QUOTES: Old Lodge Skies: "There is an endless supply of white men. But there has always been a limited number of 'human beings'. We won today, we won't win tomorrow."
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What a pleasant surprise...
JohnT-322 September 1998
One night while channel flipping, I thought I saw a familiar face but too young to be recognized without a second look. I double check my vision and was convinced that the young boy in the movie was Dustin Hoffman prehaps in his early twenties or late teens. I saw him at the Academy Awards (98) this year and his complexion has changed a bit given the thirty years difference. From Little Big Man to Rain Man, Hoffman will be forever be immortalized as a Hollywood legend. Little Big Man is an exceptionally well done movie (the cast, the direction, and the great acting of Hoffman, chief Dan, and of course the sexy Faye). This is more than a movie, it was an adventure of a lifetime. You are pitched into his world and feel his every joy and every agony as he progresses through every stages of his life. Some say cats have nine lives but I think Little Big Man must have at least a hundred. This movie centers around the hostilities between the White Men and the Indians with climatic event "The Last Stand". Without giving away the movie, I must say the line "Run Sunshine run!! Run!!" captivated my soul. The movie is like a good book you just can't put it down. I recommend this movie to everyone.
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Definitely a top 100 film of all time
marktheo820 April 2003
Not to long ago a "best 100 American movies of all time" list was released. To my surprise there were a very small number films on that list did not belong on it. A much bigger surprise was as to why LBM was not on that list. I first saw it 30 years ago when I was 20 and I thought it was the greatest. I rarely see a movie a second time because most of the time I am disappointed when I do so. They don't age well. Not this one, it gets better with time. I have seen it over 25 times these past years and it still fascinates me. It has it all, pathos, wit, satire, comedy, sex, drama, irony, and horror. Basically, it deals with mans inhumanity to man, no matter on whose "side" you are on. It's one of those films that long after you've seen it, it really gets you to thinking about us as human beings and even wonder if we will ever get along. Great acting, great characters, great story, great script, and just a great tremendous movie!
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One of the best indian-western ever!
steffan-34 December 2002
I love western, and Little Big Man is one of the best. Like many other westerns from those ages, it has aged well. It`s funny, dramatic, exciting and sad at once. Many don`t like the comedian element in this movie, but I think it`s great and it works well (Like Forrest Gump and Terms of Endearment, who also are great). Check it out, I sure didn`t regret!

My rating: 10/10
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Simply great
Ilya Mauter4 June 2003
Little Big Man represents the highest point in Arthur Penn's career. The film was made soon after his masterpiece Bonnie and Clyde and stands, in my opinion, right beside it as one of the most significant achievements not only of Arthur Penn's work, but also of the world cinema in general. Unfortunately the chain of remarkable movies began with this two wasn't destined to continue, with director's following films proving to be quite disappointing. But nevertheless Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man remain as the two fine notables for which Arthur Penn will always be fondly remembered.

Also mustn't be discarded the role of the time when the Little Big Man was made, the turbulent era of the Vietnam War, which most certainly found its reflection on the film, critically paralleled in portrayal of the ruthless and mindless slaughter of the Indians by the American troops.

The film's story is told by Jack Crabb, a very old man of more than 100 years old, the only remaining witness of the events he is telling to an oral histories collector.

We follow his life story as he is kidnapped and raised by the Indians, after a few years escaping from them only to return back again to witness the brutal death of his friends and loved ones from the hands of the American soldiers under the command of vicious and eccentric General George Armstrong Custer who finally has to pay for his inhuman deeds in the battle of the Little Big Horn that is shown in the end of the film and which might be considered as the natural consequence of the brutal tactics employed by the American troops in conquering the Indian territories, and finally represents a significant lightening of the karmic burden for them, achieved by the purificatory and relieving death in the fight with the Indians whose victory symbolize only a temporarily successful culmination of destined-not-to-last-long struggle.

Though in Jack Crabb's life story we basically revisit a number of very familiar for a Western genre fan fields, one of them being the battlefield of the Little Big Horn, the masterful way in which revisiting is done turn it into an unforgettable viewing experience during which you'll most certainly find yourself moved from laughing at the perfect comic moments of parody on some of the most used Western clichés to shedding tears when tragic happenings unveil on the screen, always remaining absorbed by it, mesmerized by the superb acting delivered by all of the actors involved and the film's visually vast beauty. 10/10
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My favorite movie.
fuldamobil16 December 2000
The story of Jack Crabb, "last of the old timers" is the funniest, most moving, and enlightening history lessons you'll ever experience. This is a beautiful, sometimes tragic story of the west as told by Little Big Man, who managed to see some of the most important moments in America's history, most notably Custer's Last Stand. Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance. Chief Dan George as his grandfather will make you cry. And Richard Mulligan pulls off an incredible performance as General Custer.

The book is often taught in High School; I hope teachers also show the film because it is a rare example of a movie doing a classic justice.
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Great movie.
suzy q1233 June 2001
I love this film, and think it's a classic. More than just a western, more than history, it's an epic but it also has humour, which epics rarely have. Beautifully directed, amazingly acted (Dustin Hoffmans best work, I think) and shot with panache, this movie deserves to come out again on the big screen. If you see it, do the widescreen thing and treat yourself. I cannot say enough about this movie, it's politics and grace. My whole family loved it.
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Remarkable movie then and still.
wtrman3 October 2001
A movie set along a historical period that was made before it's time. I consider it a western that has not been equalled since it's release. Though some historical characters in this movie are flavored with outlandish license it excels in invoking a range of emotions. From happy, sad and disbelief to a silent resignation that it may have generally touched events closer than most would want to acknowledge.
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Lightly funny, wry, and with doses of American odd, long, decent film
secondtake1 December 2011
Little Big Man (1970)

Well, this was destined to be a headliner--Arthur Penn directing (after "Bonnie and Clyde") and Dustin Hoffman (after "The Graduate" and "Midnight Cowboy"). And it's a comedy in the wackiest way. Hoffman is a survivor from Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand) and this is an invented life up to that point, told from memory to man with a tape recorder at the age of 123.

And the old (old!) Hoffman is pretty terrific, mostly in the narration, but including some pretty caked on make-up, too. Most of the movie is a young Hoffman as both Indian and White Man (alternating, depending on how he gets miraculously saved from one disaster after another). It's a farce, yes, but there are overtones of tragedy throughout (the annihilation of a race can only be so funny for so long) and there are some truly violent scenes, mostly of Indians being slaughtered by the Army.

It might help to know this is a metaphor of sorts about the brutality of the Army in Vietnam, which was raging at the time. It does make it all less frivolous. But it's also just fine as a crazy retelling of the last great famous Indian War, and the events (more or less) leading up to it. Hoffman is terrific in his usual way, and the support around him funny, especially the old Indian Chief, played by Chief Dan George. The two other big stars appear only briefly, Faye Dunaway in a couple scenes, and Martin Balsam in one. It's really Hoffman's film, and Penn's, too, with a grand and complex range of scenes inside and out, night and day, city and wide open country.

It didn't strike me as a brilliant film, or even as funny as it could have been, but it's endlessly engaging and there are some witty and funny moments sprinkled all through. It is long, and I might not call it slow even though it feels like it drags here and there, for sure.
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A Far Superior Film To "Dances With Wolves"
2004RedSox6 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This masterpiece of Arthur Penn (who also did "Bonnie and Clyde") is a far superior film to "Dances With Wolves" but probably a lot less known.

There are several truly heartbreaking scenes in this film that made me almost completely break down. *Spoilers ahead!* One is is the reservation slaughter sequence. And another is the ending in which the Chief was awaiting his death but it didn't come; pretty soon his kind would "die" since it would be nearly wiped out.

I personally don't know why this film wasn't more popular especially after "Dances With Wolves" was released. Also, there doesn't seem to be much talk among modern critics (it was rarely reviewed in or rarely talked about in IMDb's messages.) This is one of the greatest films of the 70s that should get the attention it deserves.
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Indians are still a delicate subject...
daelomin20 May 2003
I have a short comment to make about this amazing masterpiece: why is it that most people give it an 8 leading to a 7.7??

I cannot see any major flaw that would deserve such treatment. Thus the only explication that pops to mind is that Indians and their treatment in US history is still seen as a delicate subject by most US IMDB voters...

This movie is a sheer masterpiece and deserves nothing less than a 8.5+ rating!

My personal rating is obviously 10.
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nprata by name, prat by nature
bazzzzzz19 June 2004
I am astounded by the petty quibblings I have read about alleged historical 'inaccuracies' when the film was meant to be part satire. What was accurate was the slaughter of Native Americans (especially women and children ) on lands allocated to them in perpetuity by the government as part of legally binding treaties. This film is nearly 35 years old and has not dated one jot. 35 years old. Imagine. I watched it when I was 13 and before that, having been brought up on a diet of John Wayne and such like, I thought all 'Red Indians' were savages. But the film educated me and I did a lot of reading.

Dee Brown's 'Bury my heart at Wounded Knee' says it all.
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Too cartoonish
laursene5 July 2007
Little Big Man is a fun, picaresque western with some fine visual sequences and plenty of good acting. But it's a major step down from the book, one of the finest American novels of the '60s. The difference is in the handling of the characters. The movie presents Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Rev. Pendergast and his wife, the patent medicine seller, and the rest as comic "turns," not as full-fledged people in their own right. Maybe this is how Penn, with his theatrical background, instinctively saw the material, and it gives the movie too much of a Blazing Saddles feel. The script (or perhaps what Penn uses of it) boils much of the dialog down into one-liners (doubtless, the task of condensing such a sprawling story into a movie of less than three hours didn't help). Even Chief Dan George, as Old Lodge Skins, the best developed character here, often comes across as merely a lovable schlemiel. Much of it's funny, but it doesn't cut very deep.

The book is more human, giving each character Jack encounters three dimensions and avoiding the trap of rendering any of them either all good or all bad. The moment in Penn's film that best evoke the book is the scene where Custer catches Jack approaching to kill him and instead of killing his stalker, lets him go. Throughout this wonderful novel, characters do unexpected things that seem at first to be totally out of character, and thus serve to remind us of the complexity of human beings. As someone suggests here, the film may intend to say something about the random, unpredictable nature of the universe. The novel does something a lot more difficult and down-to-earth: It reminds us that it takes a lifetime to know even a few of our fellow humans. And especially for Jack, who has to navigate two distinct cultures.

So if you liked the movie, by all means read the book. You'll finish it loving this tall tale way more.
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Entertaining, but uneven
BoomerDT6 February 2014
I've probably seen this at least 6 times since it came out some 40 years ago, so obviously I enjoy it. But LBM is all over the map, sometimes it's satire, sometimes tragic, has quite a bit of silliness and at other times is quite violent. I think it is way too long, at least .30 minutes could have been edited without affecting the story line as we follow Jack Crabb and his various lives as an Indian brave, religious zealot, gunfighter, town drunk, medicine show con man, hermit, cavalry scout, etc.

The best part of this was Chief Dan George as the Cherokee chief. He is superb as he plays his character with the perfect blend of sly humor and enough seriousness that doesn't make him a cartoon caricature as most of the cast of LBM are portrayed.
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"Well, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't."
classicsoncall6 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
One of the great films of the early Seventies, one I saw when it first came out and a number of times since. I remember how horrified I was to see the massacre at Washita Creek the first time; one hears of events like that or reads about them, but actually watching an event like that the way it might have happened had a lasting impact on me. Another film of the era that also dramatized the sheer horror of men at war and senseless killing was "Patton", which also came out the same year as "Little Big Man". These were among the first films I saw that de-sanitized the inhumane aspects of war and genocide and showed them for what they were, truly brutal and insane sides of the human condition.

There's another holdover as well; I've used my summary line above quite often over the years, and had forgotten the origin of it until watching the film again yesterday. Chief Dan George was simply magnificent in the picture, he conveyed the Indian philosophy perfectly in scene after scene and is probably my favorite Native American actor. I'm always intrigued by Indian names, and along with Old Lodge Skins, my favorites from this story include Shadow That Comes in Sight (Ruben Moreno) and Burns Red in the Sun (Steve Shemayne). The one very unique idea presented in this picture had to do with the notion of a homosexual Indian as portrayed by the character Little Horse (Robert Little Star). I'm sure I would never have given that a thought after watching hundreds of Westerns, it just never came up before. The other trait that I'd never encountered was the idea of a 'Contrary', the Cheyenne Younger Bear (Cal Bellini) who did everything backwards, sort of the Bizarro version of the Red Man. This was one Western that made you think outside the stereotypes.

Now I have to admit, some of the scenes done for comedic effect seemed to go way against the grain of the movie as a historical drama. Perhaps most representative of that was Jack Crabb's 'Soda-Pop Kid' characterization. In fact, Jack's life went through so many highs and lows that it's almost impossible to imagine that all of it could have happened to one person in a single lifetime. Given a choice, I think mine would be getting my back washed by Faye Dunaway. You know, by some strange cosmic serendipity, another 1970 Western I recently watched featured a similar scene. In "The Ballad of Cable Hogue", the roles are reversed and Jason Robards gets to wash the back of Stella Stevens in what must have been an extreme exercise of sheer will power. I wonder which film maker thought of it first.

You know, I've seen a few treatments of Custer's Last Stand, and read with interest some of the other postings for this film regarding General George Armstrong Custer. Some were heated in their denunciation of Richard Mulligan's portrayal, but from what I've read about Custer, he was fairly ego-centric to the point of being megalomaniacal. I thought Mulligan brought the kind of audacity to the role that Emilio Estevez brought to his portrayal of Billy the Kid in "Young Guns". He oozed a supreme self confidence that totally fogged his judgment leading to one of the great military disasters of American History. Along with 'Sometimes the magic works', Custer's 'poison up from the goo-nads speech' is one of the most memorable scenes in the picture for me.

It would be tough to come up with another movie that raises so many conflicting emotions in the viewer, and I think that's a particular skill of a good director. Arthur Penn did a superb job of blending dramatic and comedic elements together in a story that's as thought provoking as it is entertaining. I'd recommend "Little Big Man" to anyone who would like a different kind of movie, one that takes the stereotypes and stands them on their head in support of an intriguing and downright offbeat Western.
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"He is little in body, but his heart is big"
ackstasis1 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you've ever felt that American-Westerns always took themselves a bit too seriously, then 'Little Big Man (1970)' serves as a breath of fresh air. Arthur Penn's sweeping Revisionist Western tells an outrageously-entertaining tall-tale of Cheyenne Indians and "white men," Old Lodge Skins and Gen. Custer, the Battle of Washita River and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Dustin Hoffman, once again proving his versatility after legendary performances in 'The Graduate (1967)' and 'Midnight Cowboy (1969),' plays the 121-year-old Jack Crabb, who recounts his fanciful life story to a gullible historian. 'Little Big Man,' despite being set in the late 19th century, is very much of its time: the clever mixture of satire, comedy and tragedy is something that only the 1970s could have produced, and there is a not-so-subtle allusion to the Vietnam War, which was being fought at the time of the film's release {the film's depiction of the Battle of Washita River – which, in actually, more closely resembles the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 – is a clear allegory for Vietnam's infamous My Lai Massacre}.

It's often been observed that the narrative style of 'Little Big Man' is comparable to that of 'Forrest Gump (1994),' and this is a fair assessment: the two films share episodic storytelling told through recollection, unexpectedly-reoccurring minor characters, meetings with famous historical figures and a humble hero quietly shaping the course of history. 'Forrest Gump' being one of my all-time favourite movies, these similarities certainly didn't go unnoticed, and it's interesting to consider where director Robert Zemeckis might have acquired some of his inspiration. With Jack Crabb's enthusiastic narration, all the components of the film combine to produce a glorious mosaic of his life. We experience his highs and lows, his triumphs and defeats, his friendships and antagonisms; his lifestyle is never the same for any extended period of time, and this, coupled with the film's quirky sense of humour, keeps the film moving at a roaring pace.

I really enjoyed how Arthur Penn successfully twisted the usual conventions of Western cinema, approaching serious subject matter with a mischievously tongue-in-cheek mentality: not long after Jack vows to fight bravely for the Cheyenne Indians, he finds himself exclaiming "God bless George Washington!" at the first sign of danger; Jack's enthusiastic bid to become a gunfighter fall flat when he discovers he hasn't the heart to actually kill a man; Gen. Custer is revealed to be a cocky, arrogant fool who blunders his own army into disaster; Jack's blind mentor, believing himself to be invisible, leads him through a horrific massacre scene, arriving at the river completely untouched. In any other film, Old Lodge Skins (played with astonishing warmth by Chief Dan George) would have died on top of the hillside. Instead, Penn knowingly goes through the usual motions, culminating towards a devastating climax that never arrives. It starts to rain, and Old Lodge Skins rises disappointedly to his feet, declaring "Well, sometimes the magic works, sometimes it does not."
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