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Chingachgook, die grosse Schlange

Chingachgook: The Great Snake

East Germany 1967
produced by
DEFA (Roter Kreis)
directed by Richard Groschopp
starring Gojko Mitic, Rolf Römer, Helmut Schreiber, Jürgen Frohriep, Lilo Grahn, Andrea Drahota, Johannes Knittel, Adolf Peter Hoffmann, Heinz Klevenow jr, Milan Jablonsky, Horst Preusker, Rudolf Ulrich, Karl Zugowski
screenplay by Wolfgang Ebeling, Richard Groschopp, based on the novel The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, music by Wilhelm Neef

Hawkeye, Deerslayer, DEFA Indianerfilm

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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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.

Chingachgook's 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).

Chingachgook 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.

Chingachgook, 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 English.

 


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.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD