The Last of the Mohicans (1992 film)
|The Last of the Mohicans|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Mann|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox
(USA & Canada)
|Box office||$75.5 million (North America)|
The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 American epic historical drama, set in 1757 during the French and Indian War. It was directed by Michael Mann and based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name and George B. Seitz's 1936 film adaptation, owing more to the latter than the novel. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, and Jodhi May, with Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington in supporting roles. It was produced by Morgan Creek Pictures.
The soundtrack features music by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, and the song "I Will Find You" by Clannad. The main theme of the film is taken from the tune "The Gael" by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean. Released on September 25, 1992, in the United States, The Last of the Mohicans was met with nearly universal praise from critics and commercial success during its box-office run.
The story takes place in 1757 during the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years' War) in the Adirondack Mountains in what was then the British colony of New York. Three frontiersmen are traveling west to find a new home. The oldest is Chingachgook, the last chief of the Mohican tribe. With him are his son, Uncas, and an adopted son, a white man named Nathaniel Poe, who also goes by the name “Nathaniel Hawkeye”.
Meanwhile, British Army Major Duncan Heyward has arrived in Albany. He has been sent to serve under Colonel Edmund Munro, the commander of Fort William Henry, along Lake George, an important point in the defense of New York against the French in Canada. Heyward has also been given the assignment of escorting the colonel’s two daughters, Cora and Alice, to the fort to join their father. He is a family friend, and in love with Cora, and proposes to her before they leave. She does not give him an answer.
Major Heyward, the two women, and a troop of British soldiers march through the rugged countryside to reach the fort. They are led by a single guide, Magua, a warrior of the Huron tribe. Suddenly, Magua leads the party into an ambush, where many of the soldiers are killed, but Heyward and the women survive. The fight is interrupted by the arrival of Chingachgook and his sons, who kill the enemy warriors while Magua escapes. The major and the women are now stranded and the Mohicans and Hawkeye agree to accompany them the rest of the way. Hawkeye observes that Magua attempted to kill Cora, and asks Duncan about any ties to the Huron. During this trek, Cora begins to form a bond with Hawkeye, and Heyward notices.
When they arrive near the fort, they find it under siege by the French. They enter the fort during the bombardment, and are greeted by Colonel Munro, who asks Major Heyward about the reinforcements. The Colonel admits to Heyward and the others that the fort is about to fall. While there, Cora and Hawkeye share a passionate kiss. Heyward begins to suspect Cora’s attraction to Hawkeye, and erupts in jealousy. In response, Cora finally tells him she will not marry him.
The fort falls, but the French general, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, paroles the remaining British troops and allows them to return to Albany safely. It is revealed that Magua and his Huron army are allies of the French. In a secret meeting, Magua reveals his hatred for Colonel Munro, and his desire for revenge for the murder of his family.
The following day, Colonel Munro and everyone else march with the British garrison from the fort. In the countryside, Magua and his Huron warriors ambush the British, and Magua kills Colonel Munro. Hawkeye and the Mohicans fight their way through, leading Cora, Alice, and Heyward from the battle, though Magua later captures the Major and the women, and takes them prisoner.
At a Huron village, Magua presents the women and the officer to a sachem, a chief, in hopes of gaining recognition as a war leader. His appeals are interrupted by Hawkeye, who has come to plead for the lives of the prisoners. The sachem rules that while Heyward is to return to the British and Alice is to be given to Magua, Cora is to be burned alive. Hawkeye asks Heyward, who is serving as translator between Hawkeye and the sachem, to take his life in Cora's place. In a final gesture of affection and redemption, Heyward arranges to be executed in Cora’s place. Once Cora and Hawkeye escape, Hawkeye shoots Heyward in the head just as he is about to be engulfed by the flames. Later, along steep mountain trails, Chingachgook, Uncas, and Hawkeye track and ambush Magua’s war party to free Alice. Uncas is killed by Magua and thrown down the mountain. Alice chooses to calmly step off the cliff to her death rather than go to the beckoning Magua. In single combat with Chingachgook, Magua is defeated and killed.
In the end, during a funeral ritual with Hawkeye and Cora, Chingachgook prays to the Great Spirit in honor of Uncas, calling himself "the last of the Mohicans".
Much care was taken with recreating accurate costumes and props. American Bladesmith Society master bladesmith Daniel Winkler made the tomahawks used in the film and knifemaker Randall King made the knives. Wayne Watson is the maker of Hawkeye's "Killdeer" rifle used in the film. The gunstock war club made for Chingachgook was created by Jim Yellow Eagle. Magua's tomahawk was made by Fred A. Mitchell of Odin Forge & Fabrication.
Costumes were originally designed by multiple Academy Award winner James Acheson, but he left the film and had his name removed because of artistic differences with Mann. Designer Elsa Zamparelli was brought in to finish.
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Despite the film taking place in upstate New York, according to the film credits, it was filmed mostly in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Locations used include Lake James, Chimney Rock Park and The Biltmore Estate. Some of the waterfalls that were used in the movie include Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and High Falls, all located in the DuPont State Recreational Forest. Another of these falls was Linville Falls, in the mountains of North Carolina. Scenes of Albany were shot in Asheville, NC at The Manor on Charlotte St.
Reception and honors
The Last of the Mohicans opened to general acclaim, with critics praising the film for its cinematography and music. Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars and called it "quite an improvement on Cooper's all but unreadable book, and a worthy successor to the Randolph Scott version," going on to say that "The Last of the Mohicans is not as authentic and uncompromised as it claims to be — more of a matinee fantasy than it wants to admit — but it is probably more entertaining as a result."
Desson Howe of The Washington Post classified the film as "glam-opera" and "the MTV version of gothic romance". Rita Kempley of the Post recognized the "heavy drama," writing that the film "sets new standards when it comes to pent-up passion", but commented positively on the "spectacular scenery".
American Film Institute recognition:
The film opened in the United States on September 25, 1992, in 1,856 theaters. It was the number 1 movie on its opening weekend. By the end of its first weekend, The Last of the Mohicans had generated $10,976,661, and by the end of its domestic run, the film had made $75,505,856. It was ranked the 17th highest-grossing film of 1992 in the United States.
The film was released theatrically in 1992 at a length of 112 minutes. It was released at this length on VHS in the U.S. It was re-edited to a length of 117 minutes for its U.S. DVD release on November 23, 1999, which was billed as the "Director's Expanded Edition". It was again re-edited for its U.S. Blu-ray release on October 5, 2010, this time billed as the "Director's Definitive Cut", with a length of 114 mins.
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