Friday, December 03, 2004

"To The Last Man"

(This was previously posted on 8/7/03.)

Not that anyone is keeping count but, since I do this blog to amuse myself anyway, I'm going to review another Randolph Scott western.

TO THE LAST MAN (1933) adapts a Zane Grey novel by the same name. The story was filmed previously in 1923, that silent starred Richard Dix in the role of the returning son, played later by Scott. The basic plot concerns a long-time feud between southern families who take their hatred out west and end up poisoning another generation. Of course, you can't have this type of thing without the Romeo and Juliet scenario cropping up, can you?

The Scott film takes liberties with Grey's novel, chiefly the names of the characters and the opening of the film which sets up the history of the main characters, whereas in the novel two of the books main characters meet and everything is explained in their conversation. Where the feuding families in the original story are the Isbel and Colter clans (as they are in the '23 film), Scott is a member of the Hayden family while his romantic interest Ellen (played by Esther Ralston)is the daughter of his father's sworn enemy, the head of the Colby clan(Ned, played by Noah Berry).

Just as an aside: I notice that in several of Scott’s films the names of characters are changed (for no reason I can understand) from those in the novels and stories from which they are adapted. I wonder it this was something the studio heads demanded, once they had the rights to particular properties.

The movie is predictable, but it sort of funny seeing Buster Crabbe and Fuzzy Knight together, as they both appeared in the TV show "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion" more than twenty years later. The film is also notable as being the first feature film in which a young Shirley Temple appears, as one of the Hayden children. She doesn't sing or dance, but does slap & punch a pony (rather viciously, I thought) in one scene, before having her doll's head shot off by one of the bad guys.

Coincidentally, when I noted the film’s title I went to my comics and discovered that I had a reprint of the Dell Four Color adaptation of the same Zane Grey story. The comic (published in b&w by ACG several years ago) takes some liberties with the story as well, which is understandable, since it had to pass the Comics Code and the novel ends with the near rape of Colby's daughter by the villainous Jim Coulter. In the Scott film Berry's chief henchman (who leers at the very, lovely Miss Ralston through the entire film) is called Jim Daggs (played by Jack La Rue, who made his career playing villains and shady characters). Now I don't know a lot about the Hayes Code, but Daggs sleazy advances towards Ellen (including one as Ralston goes skinny-dipping, and she certainly seems nude or nearly so in the film) are pretty obvious and even young kids in the theatre would not have been unsure of his desires. The camera also seems to love focusing in on Ralston's posterior, as often as possible. It has almost as many close-ups as some of the major characters.

Not one of your classic films, but certainly enjoyable and with enough action during its 70 min. running time as director Henry Hathaway (who went on to direct the John Wayne films, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER & TRUE GRIT, as well as Marilyn Monroe's NIAGRA) could cram in.
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