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Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Produced in 1947
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
Gary Cooper stars in this tale of 18th century tale of slavery and adventure. Big, brash and utterly shameless, it can only be the work of Cecil B. DeMille, says James Oliver.
Although most famous for his biblical epics, Cecil B DeMille developed a useful sideline with films about America's past. Unconquered was the last time he delved into the history books, going back further than he'd gone before, before the republic was born.
It begins in London, where Abby Hale (Goddard) is found guilty for killing a man in self defence. She's given a choice of punishment – the rope, or 14 years of indentured slavery in His Majesty George III's colonies in the new world. She choses slavery and, on the boat that takes her to America, she meets the two men who will shape her immediate destiny.
The first is Martin Garth (da Silva, fantastic), a nasty piece of work if ever there was one: he's even selling weapons to the natives. He tries to buy Abby but is foiled by Chris Holden. He's a veritable paragon (well, he is played by Gary Cooper) and frees Abby. So begins an epic dance of betrayal and love that plays against the most turbulent period of the young country's history: armed with Garth's weapons, the indigenous people have declared war on the white man!
There's always a certain critical snobbery about DeMille, as though anyone who was so calculated in his pursuit of the box office can't be worthwhile but, as Unconquered shows, he deserves more. It's more restrained than some of his films – DeMille was plainly more circumspect about sexing up American history than he was with the bible – but it's still the most tremendous entertainment, the sort of galloping pot-boiler that no director ever did so well.
Sensitive souls should be warned that the film dates from an era when 'Native Americans' were still 'Injuns' and it's pretty crude even by the standards of the day – there's an unfortunate scene in which Holden bamboozles the Injun chief (an incongruous Boris Karloff (!)) with a compass.
Then again, who expects taste and sensitivity from DeMille? Surely shamelessness is one of his principal virtues. Unconquered is thoroughly typical of the man: big, brash and a lot of fun.
James Oliver on 25th March 2011
Author of 185 reviews
An enjoyable and unrestrained DeMille spectacle, Unconquered is a Technicolor epic of colonial America about which Time magazine sais, 'A five-million dollar celebration of Gary Cooper’s virility, Paulette Goddard’s femininity, and the American frontier spirit.'
Paulette Goddard plays the 'crimson-haired slave girl' transported to America and apparently sold in a slave auction on board ship to intrepid frontiersman Chris Holden (Gary Cooper in the the last of four films he made for Cecil B. DeMille), but taken by renegade baddie Martin Garth who is attempting to foment an Indian rebellion. Can Holden get her back?
Boris Karloff plays an Indian chief and on release, critics dubbed the film 'The Perils of Paulette', as it sees her bound, nearly drowned, burned and molested (among other things).
Publisher: Odeon Entertainment
Length: 93 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 18th April 2011
Cat No: ODNF224