Last of the Mohicans/B+,B

Fox/1992/117m/WS 2.35

        This lush adaptation of Last of the Mohicans follows the screenplay for the 1936 film very closely. Working in a rich color palette in the hills of North Carolina, the production value of this Mohicans features extensive attention to period detail, as well as sumptuous and exciting Widescreen photography.
        The newest treatment of Hawkeye and his Mohican comrades focuses more closely on the dynamics of an erupting love between the longhaired woodsman and the eldest daughter of Colonel Munro, commander of the besieged Fort William Henry, than the earlier leaner version did. Nevertheless, director Michael Mann packs the screen with an abundance of martial action, some of it casually graphic in its depiction. 

Hawkeye tot he rescue. ©Fox

     The chase scenes are clearly the most successful. Mann's grasp of movement through the woods and mountains is nothing short of spectacular. The cutting of these scenes builds the action to an accelerating coda, echoed by the strong Scottish strains of the pounding musical score by Trevor Jones.
       Daniel Day Lewis gives Hawkeye a modern and natural interpretation, which well suits Mannís take on the Fennimore Cooper classic hero. Madelaine Stowe is a lovely Cora Munro and she and Lewis play well together. The first couple of times I watched Last of the Mohicans, I questioned the sudden eruption of passion between Hawkeye and Cora Munro. This time out I could taste the sensuality between these two appealing actors. Maybe The Last of the Mohicans gets better with each viewing. I know the almost two hours was over before I knew it, leaving me breathless as if I was doing the running.
       The traditional villain in the piece, Magua, is given an outstanding turn by Wes Studi. Studi seethes venom consistently and practically steals every scene in which he appears. Indian activist Russell Means handles the role of Chingachgook with strength and dignity, and although his lines are limited, his confidence of bearing speaks powerfully and eloquently.
       Oddly, I found the major battle sequences lacking in the power they should have generated. The editing did not seem to provide a central point of view through which the action could expand. The night photography was marginal, at best, in the theaters, and a number of these dimly lit scenes did not transfer well onto video.
       Thereís lots of low light material in Last of the Mohicans and while it is delivered smoothly, there is some loss of detail. If ever, this is a title that cries out for an anamorphic transfer in order to extract every pixel of detail from the source material. Alas, this is the best we will have for a while. The film elements are excellent, but include a few jumps caused by Mannís reedit of the film, making this DVD a definitive directorís cut. (An insert in the DVD box responsibly makes mention of the jumps.) Color is bright and rich in the day scenes. The sound is truly outstanding, and while I had difficulty with the clarity of some of the dialogue in a Manhattan modern  movie "palace," the details of sound are all startlingly clear on this Dolby Digital 5:1 mix. Bass adds lots of power to the canon blasts and the pounding score of Trevor Jones sounds terrific.




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