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The 1700s, somewhere upstate New York: Wahtawah (Andrea Darota),
daughter of the Delaware chieftain and bride-to-be of Chingachgook (Gojko
Mitic), the last of the Mohicans, is kidnapped by the Hurons, who, other
than the Delawares, support the French in the French-English colonial
proxy-war. Chingachgook is soon on the warpath to get her back of course.
best friend and white bloodbrother Deerslayer (Rolf Römer) in the
meantime hooks up with his old friend, the trapper Harry Hurry (Jürgen
Frohriep), and with Tom Hutter (Helmut Schreiber), an eccentric living in
a house on a lake that's on the demarcation line between the lands of the
Hurons and the Delawares. Hutter has a lovely daughter, Judith (Lilo
Grahn), whom Deerslayer quickly falls in love with.
At night, Harry and
Hutter go out to scalp a few women and children in the Huron camp, just to
make a bit of extra money, but they are not only captured, they also
prevent Wahtawah's getaway, which was even backed by the Hurons'
chieftain's (Johannes Knittel) son (Heinz Klevenow jr).
meets up with Deerslayer and Judith in the floating house, and they open
Hutter's treasure chest to find two jade elephants, which Chingachgook
trades in for Hutter and Harry, but not Wahtawah, because he claims
Indians make no trades for their women. Neither Hutter nor Harry show much
gratitude for their release, so Chingachgook leaves to monce more try to
free Wahtawah. He runs into the chieftain's son and kills him in an
otherwise fair fight before being captured by the Hurons. The Huron
chieftain promises Chingachgook's freedom though if he betrays Tom Hutter,
which Chingachgook declines to do. Not sure why the Hurons wanted
Chingachgook to betray Hutter though, because later they have no problems
to enter his floating house and scalp and kill him. With his dying breath,
Hutter confesses Judith is not his real daughter and he once has been a
notorious pirate - hence the treasure chest.
Harry has managed to leave
the floating house before the Huron attack, and now he drops by the
neighbouring English fort to persuade the officer-in-command (Horst
Preusker) to attack the Hurons head-on.
The English attack just when
Chingachgook is about to be killed. In the chaos that ensues, he manages
to free not only himself and Wahtawah, but also save the life of the Huron
chieftain, and just before they part, the old chieftain suggest peace
between all Indian tribes to no longer fight the white man's proxy-wars.
Wahtawah, Deerslayer and Judith meet up in the floating house once more,
then the English arrive - but after the attack on the Hurons,
Chingachgook, Wahtawah and Deerslayer are filled with distrust against
them and steal their boat, while Judith, left behind, burns down the
floating house to break with her past for good and agrees to go with the
East German Westerns (or Indianerfilme, as they're called in German)
always tend to tell the stories of the old West from the Indians' point of
view, comparing the exploitation of their lands with the exploitation of
workers under capitalism - which has of course a long tradition in Western
literature, first and foremost probably the Leatherstocking-tales
of James Fenimore Cooper - so it was perhaps inevitable for one of them (Deerslayer)
to get the East German treatment eventually. However, as all
Indianerfilme, this is not an overt message movie of any kind, but a piece
of escapism, just like Westerns from the West, and the emphasis is put on
action in period costumes and beautiful (Yugoslavian) landscapes. And for
the most part, the film, which is a rather free adaptation of Fenimore
Cooper's tale, is a pretty decent Western, too, nothing great maybe, but
competently directed, well-paced and beautifully filmed. And Gojko Mitic,
who has made a name of himself playing Indians in both East and West
German Westerns, makes a good Chingachgook. Same can unfortunately not be
said about Rolf Römer as Deerslayer. Basically, he is not too bad an
actor but lacks charisma or stature to convince as a movie hero. He should
have been one of the lead characters, but Deerslayer, I'm afraid to say,
comes off as rather pale. The bigger problem of the film though is that
the script, which has taken many liberties with his literary source, is
full of inconsistencies and a few times too often seems to not really lead
anywhere in particular.
Still, if you're in for a Western and have grown
tired of American or Italian run-of-the-mill stuff, why not watch this
one? Sure it's no masterpiece, but an ok distraction at least.