136. The Last Hunt (1956)

Leonard Maltin's Rating : 
Should be : 

IMDB Rating : 7.1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : not there

In his review Leonard says: "In the Old West, Granger and Taylor form an uneasy partnership to hunt the last remaining herds of buffalo; Granger is sick of killing, Taylor likes it all too well. Complex characters and good dialogue help, but the overlength and slow pace damage this serious Western drama."

               A really good movie (that is somehow not listed on Rotten Tomatoes) by Richard Brooks. Made in the same year as The Searchers, it has some similar themes. But while Ethan Edwards just hated Indians, Charlie Gilson not only hates Indians, he is in love with killing. And he will kill anything; Indian, white man, buffalo; it makes him feel alive. He actually starts giggling after one particularly gruesome scene of him slaughtering buffalo. Charlie actually make Ethan look like a junior league hater.

   Set 1883, in South Dakota, two buffalo hunters, Charlie Gibson and Sandy McKenzie join up. Sandy (Stewart Granger) is tired of killing but Charlie (Robert Taylor) lives for it. They are joined by Woodfoot, a buffalo skinner, and Jimmy O'Brien, who is half Sioux, and has left the reservation. The movie shows real scenes of buffalo's being shot, as herds are culled by the government. Not fun to watch.

Charlie, trying to justify the buffalo slaughter said: "Then how come General Sheridan gave out medals to buffalo hunters, huh? I seen one of them. A dead buffalo on one side and a dead Indian on the other. The army was for the hunter."
Sandy: "Sure, during the Indian wars. Every dead buffalo meant a starving Indian. The army couldn't lick the Injuns so he wanted to starve them back on the reservation."
Charlie: "What's wrong with that?"

Besides being someone who loves killing, Charlie also hates Indians. When some Sioux steal some of their mules, he follows them and slaughters them. He shoots a woman as she runs away, but she survives and he brings her and her baby back to camp to be his squaw. Charlie and Sandy go out hunting and Charlie revels in the slaughter, but Charlie can't stomach it. Hunting for the army was one thing, but killing for profit just doesn't sit well with him. We really see how cruel and twisted Charlie is when he shoots a white buffalo, that is sacred to the Indians. He goes on to say "They ain't even human."  When the Indian girl sees the white buffalo skin she says: "You take away our food and now you kill our religion."When a friend of Jimmy's from the reservation, Spotted Hand, sees the white buffalo skin he tries to buy it so he can have it treated with the proper respect. Charlie won't sell it and they get fight for it. If Spotted Hand wins he gets the buffalo hide, if Charlie wins he gets the pleasure of killing Spotted Hand.

Sandy takes the woman and brings her back to the reservation. When Woodfoot tries to stop Charlie from following, Charlie kills him. At the reservation the people are starving. They have already eaten their horses and dogs. Sandy gives them his mules. The Indians dance, hoping the buffalo will come back. The woman decides she will join Sandy as he goes on to try to get food from the army.

Charlie finds Sandy and the woman, and tells him he is going to kill him in the morning because it is too dark now. It is a cold night, and Charlie wraps himself in a buffalo skin to stay warm, but at night the blood freezes and so does he. When Sandy comes down in the morning he is a frozen stiff.

The movie shows the parallel between the hunters slaughter of the buffaloes, and the US extermination of the Indians. These themes are also tied together as the slaughter of the buffalo helped lead to the extermination of the Indian. Cutting off the Plain Indians' main food source helped lead to their demise.

Robert Taylor was great as the psychotic hunter in love with killing. A very interesting movie that should be seen.

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