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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Last Hunt (1956)

Two buffalo hunters partner for one final last hunt as the buffalo is dying out from massive overkilling by both the white man and Indian. But while one (Stewart Granger) does so with regret, the other (Robert Taylor) relishes the slaughter. When an Indian maiden (Debra Paget) is captured by Taylor, she becomes a bone of contention between the two men. An adult western in the truest sense of the word, this is a superior oater. There's no nostalgia for the Old West here. But a dark and gritty look at the hardships and hate that often played out between "civilized" men and those that lived by their own laws. Taylor is surprisingly good here. His pretty boy good looks that made him a heart throb in the 30s and 40s were gone and in its place, a face that reflected a life which is used to great effect as the hateful cynic who derives pure pleasure out of killing. While the film is sympathetic to the plight of the disappearing buffalo, buffalo are actually killed during the hunting scenes. The film was shot during the annual government approved "thinning" of buffalo herds in the Black Hills of South Dakota and when we see Granger or Taylor shooting a buffalo it's actually a government marksman doing the killing. Still, even if sanctioned, it's an unpleasant sight and the film makers practically rub our face in it. Directed by Richard Brooks and shot in CinemaScope by Russell Harlan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) featuring some spectacular footage of buffalo running. With Russ Tamblyn, Constance Ford, Joe De Santis and a wonderful performance by Lloyd Nolan as a boozed up, one legged buffalo skinner.

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