Drums Along the Mohawk

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(1939) ★★★

Film4: Monday 22 June, 4.45pm

In 1776, newly married couple Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda move from Albany to the Mohawk Valley, frontier farmers whose home is burned to the ground by marauding Indians in the pay of British Tories. Colbert stands by her man on the stockade. John Ford’s colourful recounting of colonial life and death in America during the Revolutionary War, so vividly shot that footage from it later turned up in other 20th Century Fox films, including Buffalo Bill and Mohawk. Some of the comedy is broad and bawdy, but patriotic parson Arthur Shields sounds a sour note of humour: “Any man failing to report for duty will be promptly hanged. Amen.” Ford made this film, his first in colour, in between Stagecoach and Young Mr Lincoln. All three were released in 1939. You have to take your hat off to him. Drums Along the Mohawk, by the way, should in no way be confused with Death Drums Along the River, a 1963 British B-pic that’s playing on More4, Wednesday at 11.20am. Richard Todd stars in a slovenly reworking of Edgar Wallace’s story Sanders of the River. Its most curious aspect is a screenplay credit for cinematographer Nicolas Roeg who, with Walkabout, Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth, became of one Britain’s foremost film-makers in the 70s.

Certificate: PG
Duration: 100min