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“The Last of the Mohicans” {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Paramount
Release Date:
Special Features:

Commentary by Director Michael Mann, making of three part documentary, BD-Live enabled ---


Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans” takes James Fennimore Cooper’s classic novel and alters it for a more modern sensibility while staying true to the core of the story. There’s no doubt that Mann’s film is a classic but, sadly, Mann chose not to make the original theatrical version of the film available on home video instead opting for an “Extended Director’s Cut” so for those of us old enough to have seen this classic film in theaters, we’ve been stuck with an admittedly strong version on DVD but one different enough to bother purists who enjoyed the original theatrical cut of the film more. ***

I had hoped with the release of the Blu-ray to see this remedied with a seamless branching edition that included both the original theatrical version as well as the extended “Director’s Cut” that appeared on DVD about a decade ago. Ever the perfectionists, Mann has fiddled with “Mohicans” yet again and this version is actually 3 minutes shorter than the “Extended Director’s Cut” released on DVD and two minutes longer than the original theatrical edition of the film. At one time Mann had stated that he had wanted to assemble a version that would have been a full hour longer than the original theatrical version so for those looking for that version, you’ll be disappointed as well. ***

What we do get is still a stunning film with an iconic performance by Academy Award winner Daniel Day Lewis as Hawkeye the Caucasian adopted son of Chingachgook (Russell Means) whose parents were killed in an Indian massacre. Hawkeye has a foot in both worlds but truly doesn’t exactly belong in either. The talented guide becomes involved along with his father and brother Uncas (Eric Schweig) in the conflict between the British settlers of North America and the French who have hired Magua (Wes Studi) a double agent to kill settlers and lead the family of Col Edmund Munro (Maurice Roëves ) Cora Munro (Madeline Stowe) and her younger sister Alice (Johdi May) into an ambush. The Munro sisters are saved by Hawkeye and a budding romance occurs between the headstrong older sister and Hawkeye but Magua pursues the Munro family as part of his personal vendetta against them. ---

Image & Sound:

Gamma levels have been much improved here which means more accurate colors. Clarity and depth are also improved as are black levels in this transfer but this is a dark looking film overall in this transfer especially compared to previous home video versions. The improved detail is most apparent in close ups but the overall detail is improved even in long shots. Is it perfect? No. While this is a marked improvement and upgrade over the DVD, image clarity, depth and color accuracy are definitely improved. The previous DVD however wasn’t as dark—scenes set during daylight aren’t quite as vibrant or stunning as I would have thought. I would put this down to the transfer that Mann supervised himself and his choices in color timing this version of the film. The good news is the film as a nice film-like appearance throughout. This is Mann’s film so to question his choices might amount to heresy but I’ve never been known to not speak my mind; I would have made some slightly different changes in the color timing area and also would have lightened up the overall image a bit. ---

Dialogue remains clear throughout and the 5.1 soundstage has nice presence but the surround channels are discreetly used at best immersing us in Hawkeye’s world. That’s not a bad thing used a bit unexpected as I would have expected the surround speakers to be a bit more vivid with more detail spread around in the mix. Mind you it’s not bad but with as often as Mann has revisited this film and re-edited it, I would have thought he also might have remixed the surround channels for the home video market. Still, it sounds quite good considering that the film is nearly twenty years old.

Special Features:

Unlike the original DVD we actually get some pretty nice special features; we get a retrospective three part documentary on the making of the film which covers just about everything you could imagine regarding the making of the film. Running at just under 43 minutes it gives us a fairly comprehensive look into the making of the film. ***

Mann also provides a feature length commentary as with all of his commentaries it’s subdued and intelligent but I couldn’t help wish that he had someone else there with him to prompt him with questions or bring some additional insight into the making of the film. Again, I’m not complaining because at least we get something BUT it could have been a bit more dynamic. ***

I would have liked to see the film with its original theatrical presentation, “Extended Director’s Cut” and this “Director’s Edition” and also a featurette on the differences between all three and WHY Mann made the choices he did. Using seamlessly branching technology it wouldn’t have been that difficult and the different of editing in the film and the three or four minutes between all three versions shouldn’t have consumed that much additional disc space still allowing a high bit rate for the transfer. I suspect we’ll see a deluxe edition somewhere down the line as Mann would have had to go back and color timed the film again with a new transfer as the “Extended Edition” from a decade ago was from an older high def master that would have probably had less detail and a loss of fine detail due to the overuse of DNR (this is a guess on my part but it would fit in with some of the older HD transfers that we’ve seen studios lazily use to rush product to market).

Final Words:

While “The Last of the Mohicans” looks quite nice in its Blu-ray debut I couldn’t help but feel this could have been better and given that it is possible this might be the “last” home video version of this film we might see, I had hoped this would also be the ultimate edition of the film. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations and while I wasn’t completely disappointed with the presentation, I couldn’t help but feel it could have been better with all three edits of the film, a transfer where the film isn’t quite as dark as this presentation. ***

It’s a pity that Mann didn’t use this opportunity to prepare the three hour version that he has talked about before but, perhaps, the budget that Paramount gave to him to rework the film didn’t allow for that. ***

Fans will still enjoy this version and while it is a bit closer to the original theatrical version, there are STILL differences (I can’t pinpoint them because I don’t have that version on home video but I just “know” they are there). Hopefully this is the last time that Mann messes with his vision. I realize that an artist can feel that a film or work of art is never truly done but, at some point, you have to decide which version you’re going to hang in the museum for people to enjoy.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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