Blu-ray/DVD review: “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992) – Definitive Edition

“The Last of the Mohicans” (1992)

Drama/Action

Running time: 112 minutes

Written by: Michael Mann and Christopher Crowe based on ‘The Last of the Mohicans‘ by James Fenimore Cooper and “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936) by Philip Dunne

Directed by: Michael Mann

Featuring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig and Steven Waddington 

Hawkeye: “My father’s people say that at the birth of the sun and of his brother the moon, their mother died. So the sun gave to the earth her body, from which was to spring all life. And he drew forth from her breast the stars, and the stars he threw into the night sky to remind him of her soul. So there’s the Cameron’s monument. My folks’ too, I guess.”

Cora Munro: “You are right, Mr. Poe. We do not understand what is happening here. And it’s not as I imagined it would be, thinking of it in Boston and in London…”

Hawkeye: “Sorry to disappoint you.”

Cora Munro: “No, on the contrary. It is more deeply stirring to my blood than any imagining could possibly have been.”

Recently re-released on DVD/Blu-ray as a definitive edition with a theatrical and a directors definitive edition is the now classic “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992) directed by auteur Michael Mann who was able to harness the feeling of the original novel as well as almost remaking “The Last of the Mohicans” (1936) movie of the same name. However what Mann was able to do was bring some pre millennial tension, an honest to goodness acting legend and production values that would rival Kubrick’s own “Barry Lyndon” (1975). In doing this Mann produced a film that after thirty years still has much to say about colonialism, war, the frontier in the US and how some elements of society have not changed along with what it means to be honourable even when that may cost your own life.

It has to be said that when Mann directed “The Last of the Mohicans” he was in the middle of an almost perfect patch of film making, he had come off “Thief” (1981) then “Manhunter” (1986) having introduced the world to Hannibal Lector in what must be a film at least as great as its sequel “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Then following Mohicans was a run of films that is rare indeed, “Heat” (1995), “The Insider” (1999), “Ali” (2001) and “Collateral” (2004). These films not only have shaped Manns career but have influenced countless filmmakers as well as launching careers that owe him a debt.

The story takes place in 1757, during the French and Indian War in the Adirondack Mountains, in the British colony of New York. British Army Major Duncan Heyward arrives in Albany. He has been sent to serve under Colonel Edmund Munro, the commander of Fort William Henry. Heyward is given the task of escorting the colonel’s two daughters, Cora and Alice, to their father. Major Heyward, the two women, and a troop of British soldiers march through a rugged countryside, guided by Magua, a Huron warrior. Magua leads the party into an ambush. Heyward and the women are rescued by the timely intervention of the Mohican chief Chingachgook, his son Uncas, and his white, adopted son “Hawkeye”, who kill all of the ambushers except Magua, who escapes. From this point the movie runs a course that seems inevitable with loss on both side and one of the greatest endings to a film ever put on celluloid.

The Versions

In October 2010, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time ever. Mann did also conduct some almost unnoticeable changes to “Heat” for its Blu-release but that’s no comparison to his work on “The Last Mohicans”. Here, he made more changes with more impact on the film. 
After all these years, Mann sat down in the editing room once more and did the third cut of his film. This Director’s Definitive Cut(to which I will refer as DDC from now on) is clearly more rooted in the theatrical cut (TC) and can be described as a mixture between the TC and the old DC. Here are many differences that do also exist between the TC and the old Director’s Cut. The DDC mostly restores changes back to the way they were in the TC or keeps the extensions Mann made for the normal DC. This leads up to a runtime which is only approximately 2 minutes shorter than the old DC. The DDC-exclusive changes aren’t of much importance and do not have a major impact on the film since they mostly include inserted shots or other minor bits and pieces. In order to clarify the changes and differences which come along with the new DDC, a red marking was used. 

Due to the fact that some changes brought to us by the old DC are removed again, it is considerably difficult to judge if fans of the film do actually need the new version. If you want to view the whole spectrum of Mann’s changes, it surely wouldn’t be wrong to view the TC and the old Director’s Cut. The DDC is a mixture which is both praised and criticized by fans of the film since some popular scenes are back in and others are (still) missing. As an example, one could name the extensions in the battle scenes or the prolonged speech at the end. Once again, Michael Mann took them out just like in the TC. This is one of the reasons that there will be controversial discussions whether the DDC does embody the perfect balance between the two previous versions of The Last of the Mohicans. Still, it’ll be inevitable that the new DDC will find its owners since it is the only version the Blu-ray includes. 

52 differences, divided into 
12 extended scenes 
11 scenes with alternate footage 
8 additional scenes 
7 extended Scenes with alternate footage 
7 extended scenes in the TC 
2 additional scenes in the TC 
2 deleted dialogues in the DDC 
2 changes of position 

The Director’s Definitive Cut runs 211,28 sec. respectively approx. 3 minutes 32 seconds longer than the Theatrical Cut. 

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