N.C. Wyeth, "Last of the Mohicans" illustration, 1917.

N.C. Wyeth, “Last of the Mohicans” illustration, 1917.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Prompted by catching AMC’s umpteenth re-showing of Braveheart t’other evening, ol’ Robbo started to write a post on the predictability of Mel Gibson movie characters, but after re-reading the draft, I decided that my insights were so bloody obvious that they would insult the collective intelligence of my fellow port swillers.  So consider yourselves spared.

In keeping with the theme of big-budget 90’s historickal beefcake films, however, I will note instead that, following up on my recent re-enjoyment of Francis Parkman’s history of French and British colonial history in North America, I’ve chucked Last of the Mohicans into the ol’ Netflix queue again.

Friends of the decanter might be puzzled by this.  After all,  said movie makes a complete hash of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel – the wrong couples get together, the wrong characters live and die and the movie’s Major Hayward is teleported in from the Bearded-Spock Universe – and we all know what Robbo thinks of movie bowderlizations of cherished books.   (Peter Jackson, for example, is going straight to hell.)

So how can I watch this one?  The key word here is “cherished”.   I’ve never understood why Cooper enjoys the literary status that he does, or anyway did back in the day when more young people still knew how to read.  His books, at least to me, are long-winded, pompous, condescending and heavy-handed.  And, as Mark Twain famously noted, as a limousine liberal of his day, Cooper not only was a poor writer, he also didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to stories of the wild.  Frankly, I struggled through LOTM and I positively gave up on his Wing and Wing after a couple chapters despite the fact that it was a sea-story.  So it simply doesn’t bother me much that his tale of Natty Bumppo is so thoroughly mangled by the film.

Well, there is one part that bothers me:  Col. Munro, the real one, was not killed in the massacre at Fort William-Henry by Magwa or anyone else.  He actually died some months later, apparently from exhaustion.   And I recall that the movie downplays the fact that many of those murdered and carried away by Montcalm’s Indian allies were women and children.

Nonetheless, the movie is gorgeously filmed (although I believe at least some of the scenes were shot in the Blue Ridge near Roanoke instead of the Adirondacks ), there’s plenty of action and a lot of the period (circa 1757) detail is pretty good.   And for some reason, Robbo’s beloved Nationals have adopted its score as the “theme” musick at the beginning of their home games.  Kinda gets to you after  a while.

Oh, may I also note here in reference to the pic above that I absolutely love N.C. Wyeth’s work?  Sure, the man was but an illustrator, but he carried illustration to a sublime level.  I’d take ol’ N.C. over a legion of “abstract” artistes any day.

 

**Spot the reference.

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