Classic Last of the Mohicans to open HippFest 2018

The Hippodrome Silent Film Festival looks to open with a bang this year with a rare screening of the 1920 version of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel

Article by The Skinny | 12 Dec 2017
  • The Last of the Mohicans

Coming up for its eighth year, the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival (HippFest) has established itself as one of the highlights of Scotland’s vibrant film calendar. The 2018 edition – which takes place 21-25 March – will open with The Last of the Mohicans, which will be accompanied by a new live score by acclaimed Celtic musician David Allison.

This being Scotland’s premier silent film festival, the version of The Last of the Mohicans screening is not Michael Mann’s Daniel Day-Lewis-starring take on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel, but the rousing 1920 version. It’s described by HippFest as a “thrill-packed adventure” and the story follows two British sisters who are caught up in a war for colonial control of North America, and find protection under the care of the dwindling Mohican tribe.

French director Maurice Tourneur – father of cult director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, Night of the Demon) – began the film at the helm but took ill during production. His talented assistant Clarence Brown took over directing duties and completed the film, launching a successful career in his own right that would see him directing over 50 widely acclaimed features, including The Goose Woman (which played at HippFest 2013) and National Velvet.

“We are delighted to be opening the 2018 Festival with this action-packed silent film from 1920,” said HippFest director Alison Strauss. "The Last of the Mohicans is an early cinema classic and is rich in adventure and historical reference as well as emotional depth.”

The film portrays the mistreatment of Native Americans during the period where they were being besieged by white European settlers, but the film is not without its own racial problems. As Strauss notes, The Last of the Mohicans also reminds us of the racial divides that existed at the time of the film’s production. “Both Hawkeye and Uncas, who are central to the film, are non-Native actors, a practice entirely accepted by cinema audiences at that time. But, it is chastening to remember that, even up until the 70s, the major speaking roles for American Indians would still go to non-Native actors like Burt Lancaster and Charles Bronson. This film set the tone for Hollywood’s portrayal of ‘Indians’ for years to come…”

Of returning to HippFest to score the movie, musician David Allison said: "I'm really looking forward to coming back to this wonderful festival in an extraordinary venue. In 2011 I really enjoyed doing a live soundtrack to Murnau's 1922 vampire film Nosferatu at HippFest. This time it's the turn of the well known story drama and passion in The Last of the Mohicans in a wonderful but rarely shown film from 1920."

HippFest runs 21-25 March. Tickets for The Last of the Mohicans are available from 12pm 12 Dec from Falkirk Community Trust’s Box Office on 01324 506850, or via www.hippfest.co.uk