“Civilization is creepin’ up on us, lads.”
During the final days of the Civil War, a trio of trappers — Jed (Victor Mature), Gus (James Whitmore), and Mungo (Pat Hogan) — arrive at a fort that’s short on men, and are hired by a friendly captain (Guy Madison). Jed quickly falls for the wife (Anne Bancroft) of the fort’s reigning colonel (Robert Preston), who is dead set on rampaging the local Indians despite the danger this poses to his inexperienced new recruits; will Jed be able to convince Colonel Marston (Preston) not to follow through on his foolhardy plan?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Anne Bancroft Films
- Anthony Mann Films
- James Whitmore Films
- Robert Preston Films
- Victor Mature Films
Director Anthony Mann made numerous westerns during his lengthy career, including this Technicolor flick filmed in Mexico with Mount Popocatépetl seen in the background of the fort:
The storyline centers on differing conceptions of masculinity and success, with Mature wondering if it’s time for him to finally settle down with a wife and kids (he has his eye on Bancroft), and Preston determined to regain his reputation after leading a disastrously lethal charge during the war and being nicknamed The Butcher of Shiloh.
Bancroft (how strange to see her as a blonde!) serves as the tension point between the two men; she’s loyal to her husband, but attracted to Mature’s insistent virility:
Meanwhile, Mature is, ironically, too immature to handle life at the fort after years in the wild, and quickly makes enemies, especially when drunk (which is often). Will he be able to redeem himself by the end? I found myself surprisingly caught up in this tale, especially the excitingly filmed final shoot-out.
However, with that said …
… the film’s very last sequence is jarring and unexpected. According to TCM’s article:
The Last Frontier’s ending, with Mature in a blue army jacket, having been recruited into the ranks, saluting while Bancroft smiles down on him from a platform above as an inanely upbeat song blares over the soundtrack, was, Mann has said, forced on him.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Victor Mature as Jed
- James Whitmore as Gus
- Fine direction by Mann
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing.