powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
In the early 1800s, young, adventurous Jeremiah Johnson desires to live in the mountains of Utah. Hoping to live by trapping big game, Jeremiah struggles to master mountain life, battling freezing temperatures and a challenging terrain. One day, as he attempts to catch fish with his bare hands, Jeremiah turns to see an Indian watching him contemptuously. Although Jeremiah fears for his life, the Indian leaves silently. Soon after, he comes across the frozen corpse of Hatchet Jack, who has left a will pinned to his jacket bequeathing his first-class rifle to its next finder. Despite the rifle's superior aim and accuracy, Jeremiah still labors to survive. One day, a man approaches him with his gun drawn. Introducing himself as Chris "Bear Claw" Lapp, the grizzled older man complains that Jeremiah is ruining his bear hunt by moving through the woods too loudly. Inviting Jeremiah to his cabin for food, Bear Claw traps him inside with a grizzly to test the younger man's mettle. Impressed with his abilities, Bear Claw allows him to share his food and shelter, and over the next weeks teaches Jeremiah invaluable survival skills. One day, Jeremiah uses Bear Claw's coaching to kill an elk. While they are returning home through Crow Indian territory, they are stopped by tribe members led by Paints His Shirt Red, whom Bear Claw identifies as a mighty warrior. Despite the fact that Bear Claw speaks the Crow language, the Indians are threatening until Jeremiah offers the freshly killed elk, earning Paints His Shirt Red's grudging respect. Soon after, Jeremiah prepares to go out on his own, bidding goodbye to an unsentimental Bear Claw. Over the next months, he trades with Paints His Shirt Red and other tribes. Along his wanderings, he comes across a homestead where three sons lay dead in the field, recently killed by Indians. The mother, driven insane by grief, draws her rifle upon spotting him, but he calms her and helps to bury the boys. Returning to the cabin hours later, Jeremiah finds another young son alive, struck mute from the horrors he has witnessed. That night, as the mother screams in agony by the graves, Jeremiah tends to the boy and cooks them dinner. The next morning when he offers to take the pair to the ferry, the mother refuses to leave but insists that he take the boy with him. Although Jeremiah is loath to take him, he cannot leave the child behind, and so travels on with him, naming him Caleb. One day soon after, they spot a man buried up to his neck in the sandy dunes. The voluble man introduces himself as trapper Del Gue, who has shaved his head to save himself from scalping. Eager to retrieve his stolen horse and gun from the Blackfoot Indians who attacked him, Del Gue asks Jeremiah to help him, and they soon track the Indians to their camp. Unwilling to fight them, Jeremiah insists they wait until the men are asleep. They creep into the camp at night, but upon waking one man, Del Gue shoots all three and steals their collection of scalps. Furious, Jeremiah returns to Caleb, who is silently weeping in fear for Jeremiah's life. The next day, another band of Indians surround them, but although Jeremiah and Caleb are fearful, they are peaceful Flatheads who have heard of the murder of the Blackfeet and assume Jeremiah is a powerful warrior. They are welcomed to the tribe by the chief, Two-Tongues Lebeaux, who is Christian and French-speaking. During their conference, Jeremiah misguidedly offers the Blackfeet horses and scalps, not realizing that now the chief is honor-bound to offer an ever better gift in return. When the chief gives Jeremiah his daughter, Swan, Del Gue informs the trapper that he must marry the girl or insult the tribe. Now saddled with a wife and child, neither of whom can communicate with him, Jeremiah is annoyed, but cares for the pair as they travel on together uneasily. It takes many days for Jeremiah and Swan, a devout Christian, to trust each other, but she is impressed by his ability to provide for them. While hunting, he spots an ideal site to build a house, and as they work together to erect a log cabin, the three grow into a close and loving family. Months later, a cavalry patrol appears, led by Lt. Mulvey and Reverend Lundquist, who are trying to rescue a homesteading wagon train that has broken down in the mountains, stranding the families. Mulvey asks Jeremiah to lead them through the mountains, and although Jeremiah is reluctant to leave Swan and Caleb, the reverend sanctimoniously induces him to help save the settlers. When the group comes upon a Crow burial ground at the pass, Jeremiah informs them they must bypass the burial ground and head east to the next pass, despite the time this will add to their trip. While the reverend sneers that Jeremiah cares more about the "savages" than the settlers, the lieutenant, knowing that the delay will imperil the settlers, determines to go on without Jeremiah's help, forcing Jeremiah, who realizes Mulvey cannot survive without his leadership, to go along. As soon as they spot the wagons, however, Jeremiah turns back. Returning through the burial ground, he senses a disturbance and races home to find Swan and Caleb brutally murdered by vengeful Crow. Sick with grief, Jeremiah covers the bodies and burns the cabin down. For months he wanders aimlessly, killing any Crow he catches sight of, and in response the Crow determine to kill him, attacking continuously, one at a time. One day, he meets up with Del Gue, and that night when Jeremiah is once again attacked, the other trapper suggests that he leave the mountain. Now a true mountain man, Jeremiah refuses. Later, he once again comes upon Caleb's mother's house, and finds her dead and settlers inhabiting the cabin. They show him a monument the Crow have erected to Jeremiah on the property, and although Jeremiah assumes it is a grave, the father informs him it is more of a testament to his might. He spends years alone, scrabbling for existence and moving farther and farther up the mountain to escape the Crow. One day, Bear Claw finds him and greets him as if no time has passed. Realizing Jeremiah is lost and lonely, Bear Claw speaks to him gently and wishes him well. Soon after, Jeremiah meets Paints His Shirt Red. The two foes face each other, but soon the Indian raises his hand in a gesture of peace and respect. Jeremiah silently returns the salute.