The MOHICAN MUSINGS
... the beginning
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We'll start things off with this:
Many people have mentioned bloopers to us during the past few years. None has ever mentioned this one ...
It's Massacre Valley. The forlorn column of refugees is trudging along sullenly through the beautiful valley. Suddenly, a daring warrior bolts from the forest to strike a blow on an unsuspecting victim ... then another duplicates this feat of bravery.
The camera angle shifts to a rear column view. What's this? Look in the center bottom of the screen. That is definitely not 18th century garb. It's not a British soldier. It's not an American settler ... Why, it's a CREW MEMBER, sporting a blue
baseball cap & carrying a megaphone. Check it out, it's really there!
Screen capture courtesy of Kevin Hyland
Watch for these also:
To lighten the load a bit (and for safety!), the muskets used in battle scenes were made of rubber. You can actually see the guns bend as the combatants swing them ... if you run the film in slow motion.
Then, as Hawkeye runs through the rock, tunnel-like, structure up on the cliffs, he leans on the side of a "rock" which mysteriously gives way and bends.
One of the more frequently mentioned bloopers is strangely visible only in the THX versions of the film (video & laser disk) ... and that is the Silver Bus(es). As the British evacuate Fort William Henry and just as Colonel Munro utters, "The fort
is yours", you can see, for a fleeting moment, a silver bus(es) off in the middle distance. How could a camera man not notice that!?! Oh well, small imperfections in a near-flawless
Michael Mann's talents as a director are quite apparent in The Last of the Mohicans. Equally obvious is his attention to detail (not withstanding the blue hat and megaphone), and his focus on historical accuracy.
The usage of French by the Hurons, as well as the Delaware/Lenape dialogue of the Mohicans, reveals that Mann did his homework. (The film credits include Delaware linguists.) Not only were the Mohicans and the Delaware both of the same
linguistic family, but Cooper had his characters conversing in the Lenape tongue throughout his novel. He even had the Hurons hurling insults at the captive Uncas in Delaware. The multi-lingual dialogue of the film gave greater impact in particular
scenes, such as the sudden departure from French by the Huron sachem. The bewilderment and fear of the "Yangeese" was poignantly conveyed through the abrupt switch of language as the prisoners desperately sought to comprehend their fate.
The depiction of the Huron village with its sachem respectfully seated as judge, the kindling-piles ready to be torched, the piercing taunts of the Huron women, and the assaults on Hawkeye as he bravely made his way through the village is
accurate. The running of the gauntlet was endured by prisoners of the Hurons as well as the Iroquois (not to mention medieval Europeans, though in a different form). The purpose was to challenge and test the strength and bravery of the enemy. Obviously,
it was brutal and failure meant death. However, for those who successfully passed through the lines, having endured clubbing, whipping, and cutting, the results were quite different. They were shown admiration and respect, having proved themselves as
worthy warriors. Very often they were then adopted. Hawkeye would certainly not have been killed.
A further example of Mann's acute awareness of the historical record is the suggestion of Montcalm's possible culpability in the massacre. Though it remains a subtle indictment, hinted at with a glance and an expression of concern that he "may
only have to fight these same men again", Mann does throw it out there. The record is not clear on whether or not Montcalm was responsible in any way for what happened following the departure of the English from Fort William Henry. Cooper seems to
believe he was responsible, but his opinion was based on the position of the English/American victims. There are others who vigorously reject the accusation against Montcalm and who can present a very strong argument in his defense. Ultimately, it is a
point that remains speculative, though it offers the opportunity for lively debate. Either way, Mann was wise to portray it in a vague manner.
A shot of stuntmen testing the impact of the canoe as it goes over the falls.
photo courtesy of Curtis Gaston
During the filming at Massacre Valley, of which much footage hit the cutting room floor, a vulture actually fell upon a "dead" soldier to enjoy a tasty morsel! Filmed, but cut from the final version, were scenes of the victorious Indians running
down & capturing the children, searching for loot, etc. Many extras complained that their one chance for fame never made it to the silver screen.
Chingachgook, a central character in The Last of the Mohicans, had a real counterpart among the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. John G. E. Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary among the Lenape of Ohio, published a study of these Algonquian people
titled "An Account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States" (1819). Heckewelder presents a very different picture of the Lenape than the blood-thirsty creature in the
minds of the colonials. He saw himself as the defender of these forest-dwelling people against the unjust defamation leveled at them by both the colonials and the Iroquois, who were their bitter enemies.
Heckewelder's Delaware were friendly, gracious, honorable, just, and harmonious with their environment. Chingachgook, (which means serpent; as in one who winds his way quietly through the forest), appears to be exactly the "noble red-man" Cooper
envisioned. It is known that Cooper, though his knowledge of the Hudson Valley Indians was obtained first-hand, was very influenced by Heckewelder's work. It is no wonder then that he would take the "noble savage" Chingachgook and transfer him directly
into the pages of his novel.
As to Cooper's usage of Mohican, it is meant to encompass or represent a large group of people. The preface of The Last of the Mohicans contains the following: "In these pages, the Lenni-Lenape, Lenope, Delaware, Wapanachki, and the
Mohicans, all mean the same people, or tribes of the same stock." (Cooper had used Mahicanni and Mohegan in his title before deciding upon Mohican.)
Would it then not be fair to say that our heroic Mohican Chingachgook is really a Delaware?
The scene in the cave, behind the torrential waterfall (representing New York's Glens Falls), is the only location one can't visit ... well, you can, if you'd like a nice look at a warehouse! It is a set, built in Asheville, NC. Soldier #1 (see
WHO IS SOLDIER #1?) sheds some light on what happened there during filming:
The cave scene is a little blurry to me now. It was the last day of filming, and I believe we were there for at least 20 hours straight. I do remember being pretty excited, because after stealing a look at the scene's story boards, I noticed
that there were a couple of nice close-ups of me as I lay in Maddy's lap and she tended to my wounds. Of course, due to the frantic shooting pace, these were never filmed.
The interior of the warehouse was pretty amazing. The facade of the cave looked like it had been modeled after a Mapplethorpe photo. That, in combination with the rushing water, created a womb-like atmosphere. So, of course that made Soldier # 1 sleep
through most of the shooting. The waterfall was a pump driven recirculating thing. There was a collecting pool at the front of the cave that measured maybe 30' by 20' (??). Also, to create more of a reflected water/light effect, they set up huge light
blue gels in front of a few spot lights. Over these gels, they let water cascade down. It looked pretty cool.
The rushing water was loud, so I couldn't hear much of the dialogue, except for the "stay alive" part. The cave interior was, well, like the interior of a cave. Misty, musty, wet throughout. My uniform was soaked the whole time, and since it was the
middle of October, there was a chill in the warehouse air that made the day even longer.
The weekend before the cave stuff, we all had to go to the location for a run through with Michael Mann and a few of his lackeys. For about three seconds, I felt like a star. I'm standing at the top of the stairs behind the cave (where we descended from)
with DDL, Russell Means, Madeleine and the lot. We're just standing there hanging out. Madeleine was giving palm readings to us all. I can't remember the specifics of mine, but I think it has proven to be fairly accurate ...
One thing I remember about the end of the work at the cave is that most of the Indians left the location with most, or all, of their props (not that there's anything wrong with that), and in the morning right before we wrapped, they sent a small camera
attachment out next to the parking lot of the warehouse to shoot a quick shot of Uncas. This later proved to be the shot when Alice was climbing up the rocks next to the river and Uncas stops, looks at her ... then looks down. (web author's note: And
that explains, in part, the reverse earring in that shot of Uncas!) Notice in the film just how different the lighting is in those two shots ... what else? ... oh, once during the cave shoot, it must have been right after lunch, I walked past Michael
Mann, who was sitting outside reading the script and crossing out huge chunks of dialogue with a big black pen. He was looking frazzled while saying the "f" word over and over. I guess he was cutting out my closeups with Maddy. Too bad.
Waiting for the sequel ...
You can learn more about the filming of LOTM through THE EYES OF SOLDIER #1.
Scene of the Magua/Montcalm meeting at Lake James.
photo courtesy of Susan V. Houck
Rhododendron ... it's oft been a criticism of LOTM that the flora seen so prominently in the film, rhododendron, is out of place. That is, while native to North Carolina, it is not native to New York, where the movie actually takes place.
Wrong! As someone who has lived in both states (and the Hudson Valley, in fact) I know it grows in both places. In fact, it and its cousin, Mountain Laurel, grow in abundance in New York's Hudson River Valley. Perhaps not the Catawba
variety found nearly everywhere in western NC, but close enough.
The following is an exchange between Tony Hinde (who has an excellent site & page
devoted to The Last of the Mohicans - the first link on our links page) and a visitor to his site, which we received via e-mail:
:Well, I just plain old love the Last of the Mohicans, and your site's fast, with a
Thanks for that. My server is pretty good and I have designed for speed as well.
:Okay, L.O.T.M. is also one of my personal favourites. It is one of the rare movies
that TRULY fits the epic definition. Last year I did a project on the epic, and just
had to use it, cause it's so darn good. BUT, to let you in on a little known fact, it's
not very accurate. As my job and hobby, I dress up as one of those guys and get
paid to give tours and stuff at a fort near to where I live, Fort George.
That sounds like an interesting job. Are you saying that Fort George is the actual
fort that was used in the historic battle that the film depicted, as opposed to the
made to order fort they used in the film?
:Anyway, the fort in the movie is way oversized. In reality, that fort wasn't too
much bigger than a highschool classroom. The mortars that the French used against
the fort weren't being used on land by the French, especially not that deep into
America. They're just too damn big and heavy.
Interesting. To my knowledge, mortars were no more heavy than an equivalent
cannon and besides they were all on their own trailers. The difference was the
mortars fired much more accurately but at a closer range than cannon and of course
they used explosive shells. For many years after their invention they were only
used on land. It wasn't until deep into the Napoleonic war that the British started
to use them from ships. However you may be right in that they weren't used
inland in the American war of independence.
:Second, near the beginning, the little group escorting the girls through the forest
was led by a drummer. That regiment was actually not a Royal Regiment (not
100% Brits) and so they would not have had a drummer. My real only major
complaint about the accuracy of the movie ...
Ah, so what. Maybe the Major was such a stickler for bells and whistles that he
recruited one to show off to his lady. It's possible.
:that most people would recognize is from the end. D.D.L. is running along the
cliffside, and loads his rifle in this order - ball, gunpowder. That doesn't work too
well, it's got to be the other way around. And a rifle takes about two minutes to
load standing still (muskets only about fifteen seconds), and a rifle ball has to be
pushed down into the barrel with a ramrod, which he doesn't use. A rifle barrel is
corkscrewed, unlike a musket, so the ball won't just drop down.
Well, not exactly. A rifle in those days was little different to a musket. The lead
shot was not closely engineered and was able to fall straight down the barrel in
most cases, hence the need for wadding to stop it from rolling out again. In rifles it
was the pressure of the gun powder's explosion that deformed the lead and
brought it into contact with the surface of the rifled barrel. The loading sequence
was, depending on the model, powder, shot wadding, ram rod, (to ensure that the
lot was tightly packed together and that the powder was in contact with the trigger
pan). Some used, powder, wadding, shot, wadding. It was also possible to get
more range by double loading the gun with twice the powder but at the risk of
bursting the barrel. One of the most common time savers used in the loading
process was to keep a series of loads of powder in twists of paper. This way you
could drop a twist, which looked like a roll your own fag, down and the ramming
process broke the paper releasing the powder for firing. You are right though that
there was an error in that sequence. In addition, you may notice that the sequence
where Hawkeye picks up and fires two Indian guns, the rifles were conveniently
poised on rocks. Strange really because we see him shoot one of them in the
moment prior to this and the rifle clearly falls on the ground.
:Anyways, sorry if I've pissed you off or anything. It really was a kick-ass movie, I
just figured anyone who loves it as much as yourself would probably like to find
out a little more about it. If you ever get to Canada, check out some of the original
Brit forts. They are really amazing, and it really gives you a chance to see what it
was like. Last summer, I was involved in a battle re-enactment with around a
thousand people. It was the best adrenalin rush I ever got.
photo courtesy of the McDowell Tourism Development Authority
A recent view from the Fort site looking out over Lake James.
And this ...
Then 16 year old Jodhi May is noticeable, next to Madeleine Stowe, for her buttoned up dress. This was due to the presence, on the set, of her Mother - she saw to it that her daughter's attire met her standards, despite the director's wishes to the
Sometimes, we are asked about the price of the book ... Do we think it is worth it? Well, maybe not. Would we buy a copy, if we were not the creators? Sure would! You see, it's the kind of item where either you want it, or you don't. Price plays a minor
role in the decision. Now, we had an option. We could have chosen to publish the book in black & white. That would have eliminated the prohibitive costs of 4-color process separations, and brought the price of the book down considerably. It wouldn't have
done the movie or the locations justice, though. We just had to do it in full color. The printing costs are high enough, but when one factors in all the other expenses involved in this project, we'll be lucky to break even. Really! That doesn't do you,
the potential buyer, any good though does it? That's where this web site comes in, particularly everything from this page on. It occurs to us that, more & more, it's becoming a gigantic, on-line addendum to the book. It picks up where the book leaves
off. And, it's free. While we certainly hope that you do buy the book, the site is for you regardless. Maybe it makes it all worth it after all. We think so. Enjoy it all!
LEFT: ORIGINAL 1992 THEATRICAL TRAILER - RIGHT:
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Last Update: 02/18/2001