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My first cinematic encounter with James Fenimore Cooper's classic novel THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS was the 1920 silent version of the film starring Wallace Beery. I found the 1920 edition of the story to be such an incredible motion picture that it left me somewhat reluctant to see director Michael Mann's 1992 take on THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS ($30). Although, it is the same basic story, Mann's impressive visuals give Cooper's story new life, thus creating another impressive motion picture from this often-adapted literary work.This version of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS makes the most of a wide screen canvas to convey the natural beauty of  a wild, unspoiled America in the days before it became an independent nation.

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is set in Colonial America during the French and Indian War, and tells the story of Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), the white, adopted son of a noble Mohican Indian. As the film opens, the British forces are trying to enlist the help of the American colonials against an army of the French and their Indian allies. It is during these unsafe times that Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) and her sister Alice (Jodhi May) travel with British troops so that they me be reunited with their father Colonel Edmund Munro (Maurice Roves), who is in command of Fort William-Henry. However, before reaching the fort, the British soldiers are lead into an Indian ambush by the treacherous Huron Magua (Wes Studi), who has a personal score to settle with Colonel Munro. Hawkeye and his adoptive father Chingachgook (Russell Means) and brother Uncas (Eric Schweig) arrive during the final moments of the battle and are able to save the Munro sisters, as well as one British officer from the massacre. With their three saviors acting as guides, the three survivors are able to elude Indians war parties and make their way to Fort William-Henry. Unfortunately, when they finally arrive, the band of weary travelers finds the fort under siege by overwhelming French forces. After sneaking into the fort, Hawkeye and Cora spend more time together and find themselves drawn together. With the realities of the war and vengeful Magua waiting outside the walls of the fort, Hawkeye and Cora could find their budding relationship ripped apart just as quickly as it was formed. The cast of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS also includes Steven Waddington, Patrice Chreau, Edward Blatchford, Terry Kinney, Tracey Ellis, Justin M. Rice, Dennis Banks, Pete Postlethwaite and Colm Meaney.

This is the second time that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS on DVD, with this release correcting the one truly glaring flaw of the first disc. Although originally presented in 4:3 wide screen, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS now features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Framed at 2.35:1, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS truly is a movie of sweeping beauty that takes advantage of some truly incredible scenery. The transfer is wonderfully sharp and finely detailed, which makes Dante Spinotti's impressive cinematography look even better and more dimensional. Colors are beautifully rendered, with the various shades of green from all the foliage having a distinct clarity. Warm glowing hues from firelight and the reds of the British uniforms and blood reds of the carnage are also faithfully rendered. Additionally, flesh tones always appear natural and quite appealing. There are no problems with either chroma noise or bleeding of the strongest hues. Blacks are deep and inky, plus the picture has very good contrast and shadow detail. The film elements used for the transfer are free from any significant flaws, the only thing I can quibble about are a handful of minor blemishes and a tiny bit of grain that crops up from time to time. Digital compression artifacts are tamed by solid dual layer authoring.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is excellent representation of a sound mix from 1992, which just slightly before the era where fully discrete soundtracks became commonplace. Because THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS was produced during the last hurrah of matrixed surround, there is no split activity in the rear channels. However, the audio mix does make good use of the surround speakers during the battle sequences and other intense moments in the film. The forward soundstage has excellent channel separation that creates a sense of a very wide and open space. Directional effects are deployed very convincingly and move from channel to channel cleanly and effortlessly. Dialogue reproduction is natural and maintains intelligibility, even when the sound effects are at their loudest. Bass is very full and deep, which gives the musket and cannon shots a real sense of authority. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS features a beautiful score by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman that is well integrated into the mix and maintains its musical fidelity. In addition to Dolby Digital, a DTS soundtrack is also provided on the DVD. DTS further enhances the sound of the original recordings, thus giving the music a fuller sound and the effects a slightly more lifelike quality. However, if you don't have DTS, don't feel as though you are losing out, because the Dolby Digital track is very, very good. Other soundtrack options include English and French Dolby Surround tracks. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English and Spanish.

The interactive menus are enhanced with full motion video, animation and sound. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features. There are no extras contained on this disc, other than fact that director Michael Mann has alter the film from its original theatrical cut. Since I've never seen the film prior to the release of this DVD, I cannot comment on the changes.

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is an enduring classic that has translated well to the screen on at least two occasions. The 16:9 enhanced DVD looks and sounds great, so don't hesitate in picking up the disc, if you haven't done so before.


The Last of the Mohicans



DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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