The Last of the Mohicans - a 1992 Film - but Still a Great Gift for the Adventure and History Lover (Review)
The Last of the Mohicans - 1992 - What's not to Love?
My Perfect Movie
The Last of the Mohicans, the 1992 Daniel Day-Lewis version, is my perfect movie to curl up with when I crave for a flight of imagination. Even though my family members consistently tease me with "What? Are you watching that movie again?" I keep returning to it.
How I Discovered the Adirondacks
My son began a job in the Lake George region of the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York state just about the time the movie came out. This Daniel Day-Lewis version was a runaway box-office success. I've been fortunate enough to visit my son in this historically rich area from western Massachusetts and now Virginia over the last 20 years. These visits allow me the luxury of exploring the countryside and achieving an enthusiast's view of both the movie and James Fenimore Cooper's book. I also have the leisure to seek out the small, hidden places that most tourists never have time to find.
The Plus Side of the 1992 Movie
On the plus side of "what's to love" in the movie are:
- the scenery and music are breathtaking;
- there is excellent action, adventure, drama, and romance;
- the action is well-directed and no-nonsense;
- the weapons, costuming, and gear are correct for the times.
The Negative Side of the 1992 Movie
On the negative side is:
- acting that at times is exaggerated and stereotypical;
- it deviates, often in significant ways, from James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 famous novel; and
- the movie was made in North Carolina instead of New York state.
The Locations of Events in the Book and Movie
The adventurous plot of The Last of the Mohicans takes place in an area which now surrounds a newly reconstructed Fort William Henry at the southern end of the Lake.
The thundering waterfall is now below Glenn Street (US#9), Glenn's Falls. The river level is controlled by the power plants and paper mills located north-west of the Falls. Visitors reach a walkway visible from the parking lot to walk to the South-east of the Hudson River. Viewing platforms with explanatory signs jut out from the walkway.
Fort Edward is now an Adirondack village and the only things indicating its part in the book's era are the name, the small but modern Rogers Island Museum Complex, and historical markers throughout the village. Rogers Island Historical Center, on the bank of the Hudson River, maintains trails leading to encampments on Rogers Island in the Hudson River. Rogers Island is directly opposite the Fort Edward location on the other side of the river. Ft. Edward was one of the most extensive British fortifications in North America.
Lake George looking north from the area around Fort William Henry. Typical of the view James Fennimore Cooper would have enjoyed. Oil on canvas (c.1859).
"Last of the Mohicans" Blu-Ray Movie
A Battle during the French and Indian War. This artwork shows how the struggles between Natives and Whites might have looked.
The Film and the Book
Locations and Music
The filming locations and music are spectacular. This movie won an Oscar for the best sound and the musical score is a widely acclaimed work of modern film music. Unfortunately, the area around Fort William Henry is so built up and radically changed that filming for this 1992 movie took place in other areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and around Asheville, NC. The most dramatic film parts were done at Chimney Rock Park and in the DuPont State forest in North Carolina.
"The Last of the Mohicans" is the second of Cooper's five Leatherstocking tales and without a doubt still the most popular. Unfortunately, it is ponderous and a bear to read. The movie cuts to the heart of the book's emotions and adds some of its own. It is, according to movie critic Roger Ebert "...quite an improvement on Cooper's all but unreadable book, and a worthy successor to the Randolph Scott (movie) version." Ebert goes 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."
Traditional sources say that according to Susan Fenimore Cooper, the author's daughter, her father perceived the idea for this book when he was showing the Hudson River caves and falls at Glens Falls in 1825 to visiting Englishmen including Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby. Smith-Stanley suggested to Cooper that "here was the very scene for a romance." Cooper promised Stanley that such a book should and could actually be written. A dam built later in the 1800s now submerges this Glens Falls location.
"The Last of the Mohicans" (1992) was directed by Michael Mann and starred Daniel Day-Lewis (Hawkeye), Madeleine Stowe (Cora), Russell Means (Chingachgook), Eric Schweig (Uncas) and Wes Studi (Magua). It is available in different DVD formats including Blu-Ray. The musical score is also available in different formats and as recordings by different artists.
"The Gael" (theme song from the movie) Performed on Uilleann Pipes
Uilleann pipes are the national instrument of Ireland, not Scotland. They differ from many other forms of bagpipes by their tone and a wide range of notes. This somewhat different musical structure sounds sweeter and quieter than many other bagpipes, such as the Great Irish Warpipes and the Great Highland Bagpipes. The uilleann pipes are often played indoors and are almost always played sitting down.
"The Last of The Mohicans" Dougie MacLean - The Gael (Uilleann Pipes Version)
Adirondack Park and "Last of the Mohicans"
I treasure my moments of poking around the Adirondack Park and imagining what took place in this contested area. Threats today are not Indians, Red Coats or French Regulars, but speedboats and traffic on the Interstate. Portions of the old roads and paths are hidden in the woods. Remains of the old forts are there if one knows where to look. And fortunately for me, my son still works in the neighborhood of the old Fort William Henry.
Montcalm trying to stop Native Americans from attacking British soldiers and civilians as they leave Fort William Henry after the Battle.
Gifts for the Armchair Historian
Three more action-packed movies that are based loosely on history and / or books. They might make great gifts for an armchair historian with a sense of humor. I've enjoyed them all:
- Dances with Wolves, and
- The Patriot.
"The Gael" - "Last of the Mohicans" theme scored by Dougie Maclean.
Music Videos and MP3 Renditions for "The Last of the Mohicans"
Videos and MP3 renditions featuring the musical score of "The Last of the Mohicans" - 1992 version - abound. The musical theme ingrained in the soundtrack is reminiscent of Gaelic folk music which would have been familiar to the times and customs of the British frontier in the 1750s.
"The Gael" originally scored by Scottish folk musician Dougie MacLean is woven throughout the soundtrack and often referred to as "The Last of the Mohicans" theme. The full soundtrack and variations of "The Gael" are easy to find. They feature groups like
- The Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards,
- Caledonia - street drummers - in Edinburgh,
- Other military music groups, and
- Other Traditional Wind Instruments.
Excellent Rendition of "The Gael" - Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
The Buxton (UK) Military Tatto play a tribute to "The Last of the Mohicans." Their yearly charitable performance raises money for a military group.
Clanadonia, a back to the future sidewalk performance group. Their rough sound is a matter of individual taste.
Irish Whistles and Celtic Music
The Irish whistle is also known by many names: tin whistle, penny whistle, English flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, tin flageolet, feadóg stáin (or simply feadóg) and Clarke London Flageolet. It is closely aligned with Celtic music and is another instrument used to play the theme from "The Last of the Mohicans," "The Gael."
"The Gael" performed on Irish whistles - very melodic and moving.
What's your take on making movies from traditional and classical books like "The Last of the Mohicans?"
The final, and for me, most touching scene of the movie.
© 2013 Georgene Moizuk Bramlage