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: The Last Frontier (1955)  ( 423 )

« : June 17, 2017, 11:02:43 AM »

Allegorical awakenings at Fort Shallan.

The Last Frontier (AKA: Savage Wilderness) is directed by Anthony Mann and adapted to screenplay by Philip Yordan and Russell Hughes from the novel, The Gilded Rooster, written by Richard Emery Roberts. It stars Victor Mature, Guy Madison, Robert Preston, James Whitmore and Anne Bancroft. Music is by Leigh Harline and cinematography by William Mellor.

When Chief Red Cloud (Manuel Dondé) - who has had enough of the army's incursions onto his land - evicts three mountain men from the region. Led by untamed Jed Cooper (Mature), the men head to Fort Shallan and take employment as army scouts...

By the time that The Last Frontier appeared on the great Anthony Mann's CV, he had established himself considerably in film noir and Western movie circles. Here he manages to get the best of both worlds incorporated to provide an interesting and entertaining piece.

Filmed on location at Puebla, Mexico, with the Popocatépetl Volcano providing a beautiful and imposing backdrop, the hiring of Mellor is astute, ensuring the CinemaScope/Technicolor aspects boom from the screen. However, it's not just the beauty that demands to be observed, but also the ruggedness - cum - wildness, to which all things that marry up perfectly to the thematic and allegorical beats pulsing away in the story. Of course, nobody who loves Mann's Western work will be surprised by this.

It's a little disappointing that this ultimately isn't a grandiose adventure epic, because all the elements are in place for such, but action exists - with the final battle against Red Cloud's hordes - particularly exciting, but the emotional turmoil, repressed passions and army insanity that resides within Fort Shallan, more than compensates via characterisation weight. Mann throws in some tricksy camera work and neat framing shots to keep the visual experience still further away from the mundane, while Harline provides a compliant and non intrusive musical score.

Cast are doing dandy work. Mature turns in one of his best, blending macho strains with confused sadness, Whitmore is a reassuring presence by being believable, and Preston overcomes his usual woodenness to breathe life into his perf as martinet Colonol Marston. Bonus, and taking the acting honours is Madison, who as Captain Riordan never over does things, ensuring his fulcrum character is the glue holding all together. Bancroft looks wildly out of place, her look and the costuming most strange, yet it's testament to her ability that her key character is no token female role, nailing it without histrionics.

The ending, sadly, is rubbish, completely at odds with all before it, so it's no surprise to find that it was studio imposed and against Mann's wishes (vision). Still, forgive them for they know not what they do eh... 7/10

UK cable viewing.

« : June 21, 2017, 10:40:43 AM Spikeopath »
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