Thursday, March 13, 2014

514. Little Big Man (1970)


Running Time: 139 minutes
Directed By: Arthur Penn
Written By: Calder Willingham, from novel by Thomas Berger
Main Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan
Click here to view the trailer

Note: I've finally decided to go ahead and start officially tracking my progress on the "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" list. Any and all conversation relating to that list can be found by clicking the above link, entitled "1001 Albums". You'll always find my most recent thoughts at the top, included with a picture of the album, my personal favorite song from the album and a letter grade. You can also click in there to find a link that will direct you to a look at the entire list, if you're curious. Also, I haven't forgotten about the Twilight Zone page, which I'll update at my whim.

JOHN FORD MEETS MEL BROOKS

Had the chance to take in "Little Big Man" last night, via DVD delivery from Netflix (hopefully they shape up soon - check the "India Song" review for details). I have to say it was Dustin Hoffman who turned this movie from something that could've been really boring into something mildly enjoyable.

Great scene where Jack attempts to murder Gen. Custer. Richard Mulligan was just fantastic as Custer and it's a shame that he died with his best known role being a sitcom doctor. Why didn't this guy get bigger/better work?

The film is told in flashback, as an interviewer talks with the 111-year-old Jack Crabb (Hoffman), a white man who is being asked about the Battle of Little Big Horn. Jack begins to talk, flashing back to a time when he was just a boy and his family was murdered by a Pawnee tribe, leaving only he and his sister. The two are then adopted by a tribe of Cheyenne, but it's only Jack who stays with them, as the sister runs away in the night, fearing she'll be raped by the Native American men. The Cheyenne bring up Jack as their own and raise him on their customs, even giving him a genuine Indian name - Little Big Man. Later, when the Cheyenne tribe is attacked by a troop of U.S. cavalrymen, Jack worries for his life and decides to surrender, showing the men that he is white, claiming he's been kidnapped by them and held against his will. From there, he is placed into the care of Reverend Silas Pendrake and his sexually frustrated wife, Louise (Dunaway). Jack develops a crush on the female Pendrake, but it goes nowhere, as he decided to leave the Pendrake residence and team up with a traveling medicine man. Eventually, the medicine man is robbed by a group of gunfighters, headed up by a familiar female who turns out to be Jack's sister. She takes him under her wing and teaches him to shoot, which later leads to him meeting Wild Bill Hickok and being dubbed the Soda Pop Kid. Later, Jack opens a general store and marries Olga, a woman who barely speaks English. When the store goes out of business, the two run into General Custer, who assures them that if they travel west, there will be nary an Indian. He was wrong, however and Olga is kidnapped by a band of Cheyenne, whom later meet back up with Jack and remember him as Little Big Man. So in summation, it's a western version of Forrest Gump, telling Crabb's story as he blunders through life, unintentionally meeting famous/infamous people and getting involved in historical events.

In "Little Big Man" we learn that Wild Bill Hickok wasn't a murderer, but rather just a nervous Nelly with an itchy trigger finger. Jeff Corey played him well.

Did anyone else make the "Forrest Gump" connections? I've seen a few other people on various sites (including the comments section over at iCheck) make the comparison and it was really obvious to me too, as I even used that comparison last night when my wife asked me what the movie I was watching was about. It was okay, I guess. I really wasn't expecting much to tell you the truth and honestly, didn't really know a thing about it going in. When it started out as a western, I was a little disappointed, as I think I've finally made up my mind that I'm just not the western type of guy (there are exceptions to the rule, but all in all, the Old West isn't my bag baby). However, it held my interest fairly well and I was chugging along not minding what I was seeing. I was surprised by the heavy use of comedy, as it just didn't seem the type of movie to use comedy so much to it's advantage. However, the comedy that was there was fairly amusing - nothing laugh out loud, but nothing too eye rolling either. Was it just me or was Dustin Hoffman doing an over exaggerated impersonation of himself in this? I mean, he REALLY sounded like a Hoffman impersonator, to me, instead of his natural self. I also have to say that Dunaway was a breath of fresh air here. I've honestly never taken notice of her before, but she was fantastic in this (looked amazing too!) - I only wish she'd had a more prominent role.

Dunaway as Louise Pendrake washing away Jack Crabb's sins...literally. She was just soooo good in this and made me want to see more of her movies.

Look, this one isn't setting the world on fire or anything, nor did it ever, but if you go in with your expectations lowered a bit, I think you'll find something worth watching, at least. If you're a Hoffman fan, he shines here and really makes the movie for my money. Also, Dunaway fans are in a good news/bad news situation, as she kills it, yet isn't in there quite enough. Seriously, Dunaway didn't grab my attention with "Network" and didn't grab my attention with "Bonnie and Clyde", but she did here and I guess that's saying something, considering her minimal screen time. Also, fans of the old sitcom "Empty Nest" may be interested to see an early role from that shows star, Richard Mulligan as the crazy, evil Gen. Custer. And hey, Marty Balsam's in there too and I'm always happy to spot on of the twelve angry men outside of the deliberation room. Otherwise, it really isn't anything particularly special. A somewhat interesting story, but also one that runs just a tad too long. Had they kept it a strict two hours, I think it would've helped a lot and maybe jolted this one into a higher rating category.

RATING: 6.5/10  But as it is, I can't see fit to bump it into '7' territory, because, as I've stated before, that's a whole new ballgame.

MOVIES WATCHED: 818
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 183

March 13, 2014  6:30pm

4 comments:

  1. Good morning Andrew.. and other friends on here..

    Sorry, a few days, a few posts with no reply. Well, I was a bit busy, and to be frank I couldn't think of much to say about any of your latest viewings. Either you had pretty much summed up what there was to say.. or the films didn't really warrant much comment.
    Like this one. I saw it.. ages ago.. I can remember it well enough, and that it was.. OK.. but I'd certainly not count it as a must see.

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    1. Another one for the agree column then. I enjoyed it enough, but as you say, NOT a "must see".

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  2. You're spot on about Dustin Hoffman being an exaggerated version of himself here. You seemed to have enjoyed it, but I found it really annoying. I normally enjoy his movies, but he ruined this one for me. I also thought they didn't do a good job walking the line between comedy and drama. The comedy just wasn't funny, but it took away from the drama.

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    1. Man, I used to love Hoffman, but this movie made me realize what a cartoon character he can sometimes be. And yeah, I can see how this one wouldn't work for a lot of people.

      Thanks William

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