Thursday, February 4, 2010

Drums Along the Mohawk

Drums Along the Mohawk, 1939
Dir: John Ford

Not a Western. Maybe a proto-Western or something, but it just wasn't what I was expecting. Not that this is bad, in fact it is kind of interesting in that the main star of the film, Henry Fonda, isn't really the star. Fonda doesn't really have any of the key Western male lead attributes here, yet his character can be strange and vague despite his all-American hokey-ness (I think I've been trying to put that into words over the last couple of Ford reviews. I would understand why someone would be turned off by a lot of the performances in any Ford film, but they would be wrong to misinterpret that as something bad and not something deeper, and inherently American). Fonda has sort of a low-key charm about him anyway. After a wedding in Albany in 1776, Gil (Fonda) take his prim wife Lana (Claudette Colbert) make their way to a cabin that he built out in Mohawk Valley. Together, they must face their fears of the Frontier, Indians, and British Loyalists, embodied in one of the shadiest and subtle characters in the movie, Caldwell (John Carradine). There's a lot of stuff in this about community, American values, men and women co-habitating; stuff like that that either bores you or adds to the dynamic of the film. It's really tough to say for sure what Ford's thoughts were on Indians at this point. By The Searchers (1956) he had had plenty of time to meditate on his portrayal of them for film and how he really wanted them to be shown. So, maybe it is a little interesting that here they are either vicious, drunks, or converts. Blue Back (Chief John Big Tree) is an ally and friend of Gil, and is Praying Indian who is used for comedy (his penchant for yelling out "Hallelujah!") and as a reference point to white settlers (Fonda does not beat his wife with a stick to calm her hysterics, as Blue Back suggests). Whether there are subtler undertones is hard to figure out, but I guess that's what makes them subtle. Or maybe I'm reaching. Who knows? All I know is that there is enough here to make you think, and that is what I like. Besides, how many good Revolutionary War movies can you name? The Patriot (2000) (I know the awesomeness of Mel G. has been brought up recently, but the Patriot was Braveheart pt 2 and completely uninteresting apart from action/history stuff)? Naw dude. This is worth it if you are into Ford or Revolutionary War stuff.


1 comment:

Glacier said...

I really should have elaborated. "The Patriot" sucks huge ass. As does "What Women Want" and many many others. The guy isn't perfect, but when he gets it right, as he has on a few occasions, I think he's sweet.

Gah, just thinking about "The Patriot" is pissing me off.