Reviewed byrpvanderlindenVote: 8/10
Victor Mature plays Jed Cooper, a rough-and-tumble mountain man, ostensibly in need of a few social graces, who, along with his two companions, is hired on as a civilian guide at the local army installation, a fort on the edge of nowhere. He wants two things: a soldier's uniform, and commander Col. Frank Marsden's wife, Corinna (a blonde Anne Bancroft). She isn't altogether turned off. Her husband has been shuffled as far west as possible by the Army to escape his quaint reputation as the "butcher of Shiloh". A sizable native army, just beyond the fort, is waiting. Marsden dismisses them as stupid savages with no concept of military strategy, then falls into one of their bear traps.
"The Last Frontier" is about civilization and what it means to be civilized. Jed is an outsider and he wants to belong. For him, to be civilized is to wear a uniform and to attain domesticity. He grapples hard with this civilization thing and learns that there are some confounding complexities. Col. Marsden flaunts the veneer of civilization, but he's a rule-toting bully.
I've probably said too much already, but I love the dry, adult westerns of Anthony Mann. For all his tackling of a complex theme Mann doesn't forget the action scenes. The climactic Indian attack is exciting, with the dust that's whipped up providing a nice visual touch, and Jed's one-on-one fight with a Marsden flunkie is raw and brutal. The fort in this movie appears to be authentic and detailed, and we get to see its layout. Victor Mature's performance as a rough frontiersman is well realized and convincing, a far cry from the oiled-up Samson wrestling a stuffed lion in a certain Cecil B. De Mille soaper. A special nod to Guy Madison for his portrayal of a sane, all-round nice guy. This is hardly a "lesser" Mann picture. It's up there among his best.
Reviewed bydougbrodeVote: 8/10
Ordinarily, Anthony Mann made westerns with 'the big guys' - James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda . . . the A list cowboy stars. But in this B+ film, he tackled something notably different and had quite a bit of success with what turned out to be a truly one of a kind western. The main character, played by Victor Mature, is a trapper/ mountain man, and ordinarily they are romanticized in films - Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson, that sort of thing, where the hero is not in fact a typical mountain man but a clean cut heroic figure who hangs out with real mountain men. Not here. For once, a true mountain man - vulgar, crude, animalistic - is the central figure, and it's something to see, giving Mature one of his better later roles. The real acting chops are provided by Robert Preston, excellent as a self-absorbed Custer type cavalry commander, and James Whitmore, the poor man's Spencer Tracy, as another of those old timers who feel themselves trapped between ever more hostile Indians on the one side and the oncoming force of civilization on the other. Even more impressive is a very young Anne Bancroft as the officer's wife, who is initially repulsed by the very sight of Mature's grisly character, then finds her own veneer of civilization slipping away as she begins to realize, to her own shock, that she's attracted to him. Rarely if ever has a remote frontier fort been so accurately realized on screen, without the romantic allure that John Ford gave such a place in his masterful Fort Apache. The battle sequences are big scale and notably violent, and particularly impressive if you seen them in widescreen format. Good show, and underrated movie, all around.
Reviewed bybkoganbingVote: 7/10
The Last Frontier is a Civil War era west taking place in the Wyoming Territory one of the last refuges of that hardy, but shrinking group of men known as the mountain men. The Civil War has given a temporary stay of execution to their way of life, but the end is most assuredly coming.
The point is graphically brought home to trappers Victor Mature, James Whitmore, and Pat Hogan when the Sioux under Red Cloud relieve them of their possessions and work. The Sioux don't mind the mountain men, but don't like what they see with the army building forts in the territory. Go seek refuge with the white soldiers.
When they do seek it, temporary commander Guy Madison welcomes the trio to the fort even with Pat Hogan being an Indian himself and offers them work as scouts. They accept, but when spit and polish commander Robert Preston shows up they wish they hadn't, especially Mature.
Preston is a glory hunter with a beautiful wife he's also trying to make a big show for in the person of Anne Bancroft. He makes Henry Fonda's colonel in Fort Apache seem warm and fuzzy by comparison. His is the best performance in the film.
Mature unfortunately has had too little experience with civilization in his life. He just sees Anne Bancroft and it's the testosterone taking over at that point. His character is a harbinger of what we would see later on in Clint Eastwood films though Mature is more loquacious.
The Last Frontier boasts some nice location cinematography and a well staged final battle scene. Unfortunately the 180 degree turn in Victor Mature's character proves ultimately a bit much for me to swallow.
Crude and uncivilized backwoods trapper Jed Cooper and his two partners sign up as scouts in a remote Oregon army fort, manned chiefly by untrained rookie soldiers. Jed, flirting with the idea of leading a more settled life, decides he needs a woman to start the process, and selects Corinna Marston, the beautiful young wife of Colonel Marston, commander of the next fort down the line. Marston arrives and announces to commanding officer Captain Riordan that he has lost his fort and most of his men to an Indian attack and that he, as ranking officer, is assuming command. Riordan, a young, but sensible officer, is outraged when he learns that Marston, posted out west for having lost his 1500-man command during a Civil War battle, has ordered the entire fort's complement, totally unprepared for combat and outnumbered, to march out against experienced Indian warriors.