The Last Frontier (A. Mann, 1955)

The Last Frontier (Anthony Mann, 1955)

An ex-trader turned Army scout rides his horse slowly into an opening in the woods – the clomping of the hooves on the dusty ground echoing through the trees – while his accompanying forces stay safely tucked behind. The camera gradually pans and scans to reveal an eerily still and quiet group of Indians, ready to begin battle. This made for one of the most tense and technically advanced scenes (both in sight and sound) I’ve ever seen in a classic western. And, quite frankly, it probably helped me to like this movie a lot more than I should. Mostly the film runs the tired path of ‘war leader’s pride leads to unnecessary bloodshed’, and when used as an antagonist device as it is here, it feels cheap. That’s a hard blow to overcome since it’s a central plot point, but the aforementioned standout scene along with Victor Mature’s (who plays one of three ex-traders) hilarious drunken alpha-male foolery, and some key moments between he and his father figure (who happens to be the man sent as bait in my favorite scene) help make up for it. Really, had the central conflict been more original, this would have been fantastic.  7.75/10

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