by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Last of the Dogmen (1995)

Jack   B

IMDB    6.4

Tribe(s) : Cheyenne

Language : English/Cheyenne


   This movie is set in modern times, but it is a portrait of life in 1860's, so I thought I would include it. I know that it is not the most believable of movies, probably more of a fantasy than a drama, but I still think it is pretty well done. I think I liked it because I really do wish that there was an Indian tribe living in the "old way" in this modern world.

   The movie is about a tracker and a historian who discover a lost Indian tribe in the mountains of Montana. The tracker, Lewis Gates played by Tom Berringer, goes after some escaped convicts who have fled in to the deep woods. He doesn't find the convicts, but he finds evidence that they are dead, and he thinks that Indians are still living up there. He then tells Lillian, an historian played by Barbara Hershey about what he thinks. She doesn't buy it, saying "Look, Elvis is dead, the government is not hiding UFOs, and there are no Indians in the Oxbow." The anthropologist then tells the tracker the true account of Black Kettle and the Massacre of Sand Creek, when Cheyennes were promised protection just to be lined and then slaughtered. This historical event is then built on for our story, in that twenty "Dog Soldiers" escaped with some women and children from the massacre. They were chased into the mountains, when a blizzard turned back the army who left them for dead. We also later see Lillian lecturing about the forced assimilation of Indians in the Carlisle Indian School

   Lewis and Lillian then set out to see if the Indians are really out there. They do discover the lost tribe that has been living hidden for the last one hundred twenty years in their traditional ways. Lillian is able to speak to them in Cheyenne, and this probably saves their lives.

   One thing I really enjoyed about the movie is the authentic scenes of a lifestyle long gone. The costuming and use of the Cheyenne language was great. The cast also made use of Native Americans, lending to the authenticity of this fantasy.

   Roger Ebert says of the movie: "Even if the movie could have been better - deeper and more evocative - it's pretty good just as it is. The plotting comes too close to the surface in a scene where Gates evens the old score with the sheriff, but for the most part "Last of the Dogmen" holds our interest. Berenger creates a brave, simple, no-nonsense character who keeps the movie on track despite scenes where the sheriff (Kurtwood Smith) overdoes the melodrama. If there is no moment in Last of the Dogmen to equal the true sense of wonder that "Dances With Wolves" was able to evoke, there is at least an absorbing story, well told."

   I think it's pretty good too. I also think the movie is well worth seeing just for the vivid description of the Sand Creek Massacre, which helps introduce people to the real way that the West was won. It also portrays the Indians in a very positive light. It really makes you wish you could go back and join them too.