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John Chard
Unconquerable, because, they are strong and free! Unconquered is directed by Cecil B. DeMille and collectively written by Charles Bennett, Frederic M. Frank and Jesse Lasky, Jr. It is based on the novel written by Neil H. Swanson. It stars Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Howard Da Silva, Boris Karloff, Cecil Kelleway, ward Bond and Katherine DeMille. Music is by Victor Young and cinematography by Ray Rennahan. Frontiersman Chris Holden (Cooper) becomes embroiled in the machinations of Martin Garth (Ds Silva), who for his own ends is helping the Native American Pontiac uprising. All this while trying to keep slave girl Abby Hale (Goddard) out of harms way… And 6 pence! So it comes to pass that this really is no historical document – shock! Based around Pontiac’s Rebellion, circa 1763 after the French and Indian War, it’s a fanciful narrative that’s a right old mixed bag. On one hand it’s the story of an all American hero and a fish out of water British woman traversing through perilous situations whilst simultaneously ignoring the attraction that exists between them. On the other hand it’s proud in propaganda flag waving, with heroic verve in full effect, but is gleefully executed with customary panache by DeMille. The Gilded Beaver! It’s a little too long at nearly two and a half hours, for there are exposition passages that don’t really serve the adventurous heart at core of story, yet the collective gathering of numerous characters does excite, DeMille excelling in that department. Action sequences are splendid, the fights with the Native Americans, repelling a siege of the fort as fiery death falls from the sky and bullets and blades do what they were designed for – sort of. Chase sequences, the best of which on the river rapids with incredulous tumble and all, and of course much shifty shenanigans and stoic glint in the machismo. The Compass Bluff! There’s the blend of fun scenes with the sadly elegiac, where a compass comes to the rescue of Holden and Hale for fun value, and the realisation of death being just yards away from homely comforts is sombrely played. There’s even some sexy spice in the mix, especially when the ravishing Goddard takes a barrel bath! Who cares about her non existing British accent?! Some of the attitudes within the narrative are suspect, towards race, nationality and womanhood, and the over talky sections tip it off the tracks at times, but it’s still ripper entertainment. It be colourful and vibrant, sexy and sharp, and boisterously proud into the bargain - enough good here in fact to forgive it the misdemeanors of the era. 7/10

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