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House Made of Dawn (1987)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Larry Littlebird ... Abel
Judith Doty ... Milly
Jay Varela ... Benally
Mesa Bird ... Grandfather
Philip Kenneally ... Martinez
Wright King ... Father Olguin
Skeeter Vaughan ... Albino and Old Man (as Skeeter Vaughn)
Teddy García ... Abelito
... Los Angeles Foreman
George Burdeau ... John
Charlie L. Bird ... Tom
Preston Jefferson ... Cruz
Wilson Peshlakai ... Wilson
Jack Kane ... New Mexico Foreman
James Sargent ... Judge
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A kiva of missed opportunity
19 September 2004 | by See all my reviews

Since as a novel, "House Made of Dawn" was Pulitzer-Prize material, the inspiration must be there, somewhere. But the film adaptation is a clunker in every act, every scene, every frame. "Dawn" is little more than in essay in the depression of a young Native American man who is forced to relocate to Los Angeles after his release from prison for his murder of another Indian suspected of shape-shifting and witchcraft.

Characterization is virtually nil. The main character, Abel, portrays the "strong, silent, frustrated warrior" stereotype, Benally, his friend in the city epitomizes the "meek,Uncle Tom, paying-protection-money-to-survive" stereotype. Of course, there's Millie, playing the "requisite blond girlfriend" stereotype. The only interesting character is Tosamah, a Native American Church priest played by the conspicuously Anglo-Saxon John Saxon. Despite that, Tosamah distinguishes himself by actually being able to articulate thoughts with a non-monosyllabic vocabulary.

The music is singularly bad, an atonal flute score that sounds like it was composed by a first-year composition student a few hours after a lesson on Schoenberg. Pass on this one.


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