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The Last Frontier

The Last Frontier(1956)

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In order to save their lives, a trio of rugged, Wyoming fur trappers--Jed Cooper, Gus and Mungo, an Indian--have to give up their horses to Chief Red Cloud and his band of Sioux Indians. Red Cloud explains that whites are no longer welcome in their territory because the "blue coats," members of the U.S. Cavalry, have been cutting down too many trees. Undaunted, the trappers march straight to Fort Shallan to get new horses, which they believe the Army rightfully owes to them. Capt. Riordan, the commanding officer, instead persuades them to take jobs as scouts, though Gus, the elder of the group who mistrusts progress and all civilizing efforts, fears they are walking into a trap. The trappers get drunk on whiskey, and while looking for more, Cooper barges into the home of Corinna Marston, the lovely wife of Col. Marston, who is away building the new Fort Medford. When Cooper informs her that her husband is a dead man if he is working in Red Cloud's territory, Corinna throws him out. Cooper then finds out from Riordan that Gus and Mungo were sent on a scouting mission in the area of Fort Medford and, furious, sets out to retrieve his friends. He finds Gus and Mungo camping out with Marston and his company, who fled the fort when it was burnt down by the Indians. Marston demands that Cooper return to the captain and bring back reinforcements, but Cooper refuses. Just then, the warring Indians arrive, and during the subsequent attack, Gus is injured. The surviving troops return to Fort Shallan, but Marston, who is a violent and bitter man, is determined to return to the frontier with all available troops to teach Red Cloud a lesson. When Riordan refuses to participate, Marston pulls rank on him, and Cooper is sent to scout Red Cloud's village, reporting back that several tribes have joined forces with him. Marston insists on going out anyway, and Capt. Clarke, a doctor, tells Marston to recount to Riordan, Cooper and Corinna the story of Shiloh, a Civil War battle in which Marston sent 1,500 men to their deaths. After Corinna, upset, leaves the room, Cooper finds her, kisses her and takes her to his room, telling her that he wants to "make her his woman." Later, Marston brings his men out to scout Red Cloud's camp, and when he falls into a bear trap, Cooper refuses to release him until he promises to leave the chief alone. Marston refuses to capitulate, so Cooper returns to the fort, where Corinna and Riordan denounce his treatment of Marston. Cooper rescues Marston, who immediately orders the entire company attired. Marston attempts to deliver a rousing speech to the men, but is heckled by a drunken Cooper, who has donned a stolen Army coat. Cooper runs from the fort and jokingly calls on Red Cloud, and when he tries to return to the fort's gates, he is attacked by Indians. After Cooper makes it back to the fort, Marston urges his sergeant to go to Cooper's room and attack him. The two fight, and Cooper pushes the sergeant off the roof to his death. When Marston announces his intention to hang him for the "crime," Cooper flees. Riordan confines Marston to his quarters, having requested his arrest from the chief officer of the area, but when Mungo returns with the dispatch, Riordan learns that his request has been denied. Mungo leaves the fort and finds a disgruntled Cooper in the woods. The troops headed by Marston enter Red Cloud's territory, and Cooper watches from the safety of the trees as scores of camouflaged Indians lie in wait. When Gus is sent ahead to scout, however, Cooper shoots a brave as he is about to kill the trapper. In the fighting that ensues, both Gus and Marston are shot and killed, and Cooper tells the surviving troops to run back to Fort Shallan. There, artillery fire is used on the Indians, who finally retreat. Later, Cooper is made sergeant, and now that he is civilized enough to be her man, he takes his hat off to Corinna.