I believe this western to be one of the most overlooked western films of the period. When one looks at the westerns made before 1960 it is difficult to find many that come close to comparing with the realism, adult themes and complex characterisation of this film. I have viewed this film multiple times over a period of years and enjoy it more with each viewing. The movie is brilliantly cast with especially great performances from Charles Bickford Zeb Rawlins , Joseph Wiseman Abe Kelsey , Lillian Gish Mattilda Zachary and June Walker Hagar Rawlins . This western has it all; uniformly <more>
wonderful performances from the entire cast, excellent dialogue, and a real look and feel of the western frontier. I give this film a 9 out of 10.
This classic film from one of the greatest directors of the 20th century boasts an incredible cast: Audrey Hepburn, Lillian Gish silent films , Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy war hero , a young Doug McClure, all of whom show classic acting at its finest. Go beneath the dialogue and watch the body movements, facial expressions and withheld, unspoken emotion of these superb actors esp Gish and Lancaster . Check out the incredible performance of the wraith-like, howling itinerant evangelist Joseph Wiseman who seems to know the "secret". The score by Dmitri Tiomkin is terrific, with <more>
a minimum of Hollywood-style Native American drumming and flute playing. Indeed, the music played by the Kiowas during the "break" was fascinating. Although the story is set in 1800s Texas panhandle, the theme is universal and hard-hitting: racism, and a family divided by their differing views. I found the portrayal of the Kiowa culture to be accurate, esp the use of costumes and rituals. Remember, this film was made in 1960, a time when racial intolerance was rarely put on film, and the fair presentation of Native Americans was almost non-existent. Indeed, this is why Huston wanted this project. Remarkably, this film is NOT pro-Indian or pro-settler, rather it's an honest depiction of a clash of cultures. My only disappointment, a minor one, was that the film ended rather abruptly for my taste, almost as if they ran out of film. But then again, I'm not a director! I found interesting background on the making of this film at dvdverdict.com
Believe this is John Houston's only movie of the old west, and he made a wonderful adult western. Only Houston could make a western with leading actors like Lancaster, Hepburn, Gish, Murphy, Bickford, Salmi, Hamilton, Saxon, and Wiseman to be believable. The storyline is unusual for a western but it is interesting. Audrey Hepburn's character is being called an Indian, and it makes havoc in everyone's life.This is Audie Murphy's best performance. He became an actor in this movie. It's a shame he died young in a plane crash a few years later. He was being cast as the bad guy <more>
in a Clint Eastwood movie directed by Don Siegel. Murphy could had shown what a good actor he had become in that new movie.
Audrey Hepburn, from the indian tribe from south of london. (by walter_gibson)
I am in no way criticizing the film by saying this, but what kind of accent is that by Audrey Hepburn. It's not that her performance is bad, no, it's great. But Audrey Hepburn could never sound like she should be in a western. She does seem to try hard at it, but she can't shake away the French/Posh English/Cockney accent. But who really cares in the end. It must be really difficult for an actress to look really good on the set of a western, with all that dust and everything, but she looks real good.Another reason why I like this movie is because of Audie Murphy. Sure, ol' <more>
Burt is a pro at this kind of thing, but he'll never be as cool as Audie Murphy. He's the one with the most conflicts, "My sister, an injian!?!?!", then he goes off drunk to his girlfriend Georgia. When she begs him to marry her, "I'm Drunk, but I not THAT drunk." Ha! Ha! The film also has genuinely tense and frightening moments, and we owe most of these moments to Joseph Wiseman, playing Abe, the guy with the sword. He didn't even blink, and that eye just stares right at you, but seems to be out of focus at the same time like it's looking right through you. It wouldn't be that surprising to see something like that in recent films, because they've done psychos and demon-possessed aplenty since the seventies. But in 1960, it probably was real scary.Saying it like the 'injians': FILM GOOD, YOU GO, SEE FILM.
A hidden gem, better than The Searchers (by captainblackadder)
I can't figure it out. Why does everyone love The Searchers? John Wayne's young sidekick in that film, and his absurd romance, sink the film like a stone. This film, which deals with a number of the same issues - racism, kidnapping, mass slaughter, etc. - treats them with greater seriousness and to better effect. There's wonderful moral ambiguity to The Unforgiven, an ambiguity which was obviously built into the story from the beginning ... so we need not pat ourselves on the back by rooting for the Indians in this one and thinking of ourselves as so much wiser than the <more>
filmmakers. When a lot of Kiowa get killed during the course of the film it is unsettling, partly because one thinks in real life that their fighting tactics would be better, but mostly because it is upsetting to see so much bloodshed.There are better westerns than this film - Open Range, Valdez is Coming, Destry Rides Again, The Long Riders, The Cowboys - but that doesn't stop The Unforgiven from being a first-rate movie filled with suspense and fascinating characters.
A troublingly realistic look at racial bias in 19th century Texas! (by nanksy)
I have read the comments posted about this remarkable movie and have to wonder if the writers watched the movie. If they did it reflects an appalling lack of historical knowledge. Audrey Hepburn plays Rachel Zachary, a Kiowa Indian girl stolen during a raid on a Kiowa camp. Abe Kelsey, Joseph Wiseman says it was a vengeance raid because renegade Indians had massacred some settlers. He says, "we killed and we killed til we had to lay down tired of the killin." It did not matter whether the village they raided had anything to do with the killing of settlers, or not. Will Zachary, who <more>
does not appear in the movie, prevents Abe from killing a tiny Indian girl and takes the baby to his wife who is grieving the loss of her own newborn girl. Will is later killed by the Kiowas in an attempt to retrieve the baby. Rachel is raised as a white girl by Matilda Zachary, Lillian Gish a cultured Southern woman who hates the desolate North Texas ranchland where she has finally settled after many moves to escape the vengeful Abe Kelsey. He "rides vengeance" on the Zachary's because Will would not give him the girl to trade for a son that he refuses to believe is dead and not captured. Matilda, in an effort to hold back the ugliness of the country and it's people, has taught all of her children to read and to have an appreciation for classical music. Cash brings her a piano when he returns from a cattle drive, which she later plays to "make Medicine" against the Indians. Ben Zachary Burt Lancaster and his brothers, Cash Audie Murphy and Andy Doug McClure have made themselves and their neighbors rich by rounding up the plentiful supply of wild cattle that roamed Texas after the end of the Civil War and driving them to the railheads in Kansas. All of the people of the region share a common hatred of Indians and half-breeds. That is where the title "The Unforgiven" comes from. A vicious back and forth war has been waged for the vast amount of land along the Red River and the Indians have been defeated and placed on Reservations in Southern Oklahoma. Up until the early 1900's there is a legal bounty on Indians just as there is on coyotes. The Kiowas and the Comanches in particular are considered by the settlers to be less than human. With no real knowledge of the culture and traditions of their enemies there are a lot of mistaken ideas about Indians. This is evidenced when the women are told to strip Rachel and look at her body. The belief at that time was that Indians had no body hair. Ben and his brothers do not know that Rachel is not their sister until they find a buckskin page from the Kiowa Book Of Days in their dugout cabin after they return home from the hanging of Abe Kelsey. Mother confesses, and Cash, who is an extreme example of the local hatred toward Kiowas, leaves his family to face the Indians alone. Rachel, who has hidden a guilty love for Ben, who she believed was her brother, tries to go out to her Indian brother and stop the killing. Knowing that there is no way that Rachel can fit in as a native, and realizing that he loves her, Ben prevents her from going by killing a messenger from the Kiowas who is under a white flag. The story ends with the death of Matilda, atoning for her sin of first stealing and then concealing the origins of her adopted daughter, the return of Cash to aid his family and the death of Rachel's true brother by her hand. All of the family has made their choice. Rachel will marry Ben, there is no other possible match for her now that it has been revealed that she is Indian, and the Zachary family will stand alone until times and attitudes change. The only flaws I found in the movie were minor. There was no explanation of how Ben was able to read the Indian signs on the buckskin page left in the cabin. There was not enough development of the character of the Kiowa Chief so that the expending of blood for the sake of one girl seemed excessive. One had to assume that the Indians were trying to regain some of their pride by retrieving the stolen girl and were willing to die for that reason but that was not explained in the script. The movie is beautifully filmed. The supporting cast was exceptional. Audie Murphy gave the performance of his life. A movie well worth watching if taken at face value.
Not to be confused with Clint Eastwood's 1992 film "Unforgiven", "THE Unforgiven" is a 1960 John Huston film that is almost worthy of joining Eastwood's as one of the top ten westerns of all-time. That it falls slightly short of that status could be because Huston withdrew from the project in post-production, after the studio insisted on toning down his message of racial tolerance to give the film more commercial appeal. Although this tampering tends to cloud his political message, it is still there if you do conduct a little analysis. "The Unforgiven" <more>
does lay claim to the distinction of being the most ambitious western of all time.Based on an Alan LeMay novel, as was John Ford's "The Searchers", "The Unforgiven" presents the flip side of the search for a missing sister. Here it is an Indian looking for his sister who was abducted as a baby by a white man and then adopted by his family. The obvious complaint is that the Indians are the villains in both films, by a kind of damned if you do-damned if you don't logic. But there is a distinction as the little girl in "The Searchers" was abducted when she was nine years old and she retained a desire to be reunited with her white family. The girl in "The Unforgiven", Rachel played by Audrey Hepburn , has only known her adopted family.John Huston once said that a good story should have "excitement, color, spectacle and humor, adventure, high drama, tragedy, good conversation, truth and irony". Even the studio version of "The Unforgiven" does a pretty good job of bringing all these elements to the screen. The most obvious sign of studio tampering is the inconsistency in John Saxon's character Johnny Portugal , a half-breed who is often harassed by the local cowboys and is meticulously set up to be Ben's Burt Lancaster rival for Rachel's affections. But Portugal mysteriously disappears from the film by the half-way point and there is no attempt to resolve his situation with Ben and Rachel.Ben is the eldest son of a ranching family. Audie Murphy is the middle brother Cash. Doug McClure is Andy, the youngest brother. Lillian Gish is their mother Mattilda. Since their father's murder by the Kiowas Murphy has been a violent racist.The film's title refers to the attitude of Abe Kelsey Joseph Wiseman-later to play Dr. No , a bearded half-crazy avenger who has tormented the family for many years, ever since his son was abducted by the Indians and Ben's father refused to trade Rachel for Abe's son. The twist is that only Wiseman and Gish know that Rachel's biological parents were Indians, everyone else including Rachel believes that she was the only survivor of a massacred settler family.Rachel has grown up to be a loving and happy young woman. Huston's intention is to demonstrate that one race is not inferior to another; that while cultural differences are very real, there is no biological reason for racism. When Rachel's actual parentage is revealed it divides the family; Cash leaves to go on a wild bender, the other two brothers distance themselves from Rachel and she from them, and the surrounding settlers shun the family.One scene is absolutely riveting, Rachel is comforting the mother played by June Walker of the boy she was to marry. Walker slowly looks up at her and then suddenly goes absolutely ballistic. Hepburn's stunned reaction appears to be absolutely genuine, as if Huston had altered the script and not told her about the change.Interestingly, the climax actually occurs just after this and before the final shoot-out. The Indians come to the homestead to take Rachel. She attempts to join them, reasoning that they will spare her family once they have her. Ben physically restrains her and has Andy shoot one of Indians, rendering Rachel's intended sacrifice useless because the Indians will now attack to avenge the killing. But more important, this demonstrates to Rachel that they still consider her their sister, the first sign of this since everyone learned of her Indian parentage.You can quibble that Hepburn is physically miscast, at a minimum they should have made her hair darker, but the story requires that the character look "non-Indian" as she has been successfully passing for a white girl for many years. Watch for the scene where she is on the corral fence watching the cowboys break horses. She simply glows in this shot. How ironic that someone who was so closely associated with high fashion and glamor would look her most beautiful as a dusty tomboy and a dirty-faced flower girl.My only real criticism of the film is the moronic nature of the final shootout. There was no need for a war party, a handful of Indians would have been better. Otherwise this is a thoughtful and entertaining story that moves along briskly as Huston nicely crafts a number of rounded characters. He utilizes a variety of camera angles and positions, which enhance the story without drawing attention to the technique. Lancaster is excellent as man of character and conviction who manages to convey the conflict between brotherly love for his adopted little sister and the growing sexual attraction between them. Gish is amazing and Murphy turned in the best performance of the whole ensemble, playing against type and showing an unexpected range..Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
He threatened them with the truth they could not bear... (by tmwest)
'The Unforgiven' has a lot in common with 'The Searchers' , both were written by Alan Le May and both are westerns that deal with racism. They also show the lonely life of the pioneers, how hard it must have been to live with so few people around you, how important the few social contacts must have been and that is why it is much more painful to see racism taking over and destroying relationships that were so important. The locations and scenery that Huston show us are much more primitive and far from being as beautiful as 'The Searchers' and that much describes the <more>
whole mood of the film. Audrey Hepburn, cast against type gives a good performance. As long as an actor can incorporate the character and show his true emotions, you can even accept Laurence Olivier as Davy Crocket. Audie Murphy is a revelation as Cash, it is his best performance ever. Joseph Wiseman is the eerie crazy man who threatens to reveal the unbearable truth. Burt Lancaster accepts his destiny with courage, unlike his brother Audie who is a weaker person. There is a great scene where Lilian Gish plays the piano outside the house when the Indians are about to attack. The Unforgiven is an excellent film, it is one of the best of John Huston, but it does not achieve the greatness of 'The Searchers'.
When the weird Abe Kelsey Joseph Wiseman with his saber appears in the Zachary's ranch threatening the matriarch Mattilda Zachary Lillian Gish and her stepdaughter Rachel Audrey Hepburn , she does not tell to her sons Ben Burt Lancaster , Cash Audie Murphy and Andy Doug McClure . Later, when Rachel comments about him, Ben and Cash unsuccessfully chase him in a sand storm. Meanwhile, Kelsey poisons the relationship of the Zachary's family with their neighbors and the Indians Kiowa disclosing that Rachel would be a Kiowa baby stolen years ago in a raid by Kelsey himself and <more>
Mattilda's husband, when her parents were killed. Later, he wanted to trade Rachel per his son, captured by the Kiowa, but the old Zachary did not accept his proposal. The racists' neighbors turn their backs to the Zachary's family, while the Kiowa siege them in their house while trying to bring Rachel back to their tribe."The Unforgiven" is a western about the impressive intolerance between Caucasians and Indians in the beginning of the colonization of North America by the whites. The story is very well developed, with the usual outstanding direction of John Huston. Joseph Wiseman has a magnificent performance in the role of a despicable villain, a revengeful man capable of destroying many lives. Burt Lancaster is also great in his leadership, while Lillian Gish is amazing in the role of a protective mother. Audrey Hepburn and John Saxon are convincing as Indians. My vote is eight.Title Brazil : "O Passado Não Perdoa" "The Past Does Not Forgive"