Saturday, January 2, 2016

MOHAWK (1956)

There are enough embarrassing movies to do a very long film festival, but this film ranks (in the literal sense) pretty high. The actors mostly justify their salaries so it is not their fault. The main leads are Scott Brady, Neville Brand, Ted De Corsia (everyone's favorite gangster, frequent Indian), Allison Hayes (Miss B-movie), John Hoyt (the face of crookedness) and Rita Gam. All destined for television notoriety. 

Brady plays an artist looking for paint and action in early America. The Iroquois, mostly from the Bronx, are favorite subjects for both. Brand is cast in the little known sub-tribe, the Irritated Iroquois, and is suspicious of “paintman” Brady and the white man in general, thanks to the lies from Hoyt. But can he dance! De Corsia is hilarious with a mohawk and his four-day-dead, grayish-violet makeup. Gam had a beautiful European facial structure (being born in Pittsburgh) so naturally she is cast as a Native American. The casting call net was not very large. She eventually becomes the central love interest while barmaid, Hayes, tries to turn up the heat on Brady. I should add that Lori Nelson is also in love with Brady. Captain Kirk should be so lucky. 

The set designers were going through their violet period. There is a lot of it on Ted, trees and tee-pees alike. I figure Brady painted them, too. Beyond the obvious outdoor “sets from Bonanza” are sequences from 1939’s “Drums Along the Mohawk,” the film’s highlight. 

If this had meant to be a comedy, Mel Brooks could not have skewered the stereotypes much more, but unintentionally funny can also bring the tee-pee down. There are few scenes when the viewer will not laugh or groan. In the end, we learn nothing authentic about early American history, except that oil paints travel well in saddlebags.

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