The sheer excellence of this motion picture (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 19816 being the North American DVD edition viewed) took me by surprise. I had expected this docudrama to be one that evangelicals would have used for their own purposes to defame L.D.S. Mormonism, with clearly apologetic aims. That is not the case, at all, to my relief. This film, without overt religious partisanship for either side, puts into nauseating light the L.D.S. Mormon perpetration of this blight upon U.S. history (which occurred, however, with even less Paiute Indian participation than it suggests), one of the most infamous genocidally and religiously motivated mass atrocities in the history of the U. S. of A. and of its then territories. This event of early Mormonism fully deserves this brutal, mostly factually accurate retelling of the massacre at Mountain Meadows, in Utah, an account that is historically and humanely motivated rather than being merely some religious cinematic diatribe.
I should have realised, even before seeing the film, that the illustrious likes of Jon Voight, Trent Ford, and Terence Stamp, among the other excellent cast, would not stoop to doing an "hatchet job" on Mormons for some neo-evangelical, Pentecostal, or fundamentalist Christian film outfit. The movie was shot in Alberta, the Dominion of Canada's own most Mormon-infested province, which only seems fitting. Alberta stands in reasonably well for Utah, both of them, anyway, sharing the topography of the Northwest Rockies area of the North American continent.
It is difficult for me to be entirely objective about the Mountain Meadowns Massacre. Although I was born and raised in California, I have family, both among my paternal and maternal relatives, indirectly or perhaps even directly associated with this tawdry L.D.S. Mormon incident in Western U.S. history. My mother was raised L.D.S. Mormon, hailing from Salt Lake City, her entire extended family being Mormon (until, gradually, almost all of them, one by one, became Christians over the decades, something that seldom happens in families of L.D.S. Mormon culture). My father's family hails from Arkansas, my grandmother, in fact, being from Harrison, Ark. itself, the very city from which the wagon train depicted in the film, consisting of would-be settlers from Arkansas, with some from Missouri among them, departed for California (and never made it) as this film depicts them on the Utah stretch of its fatal trek. It is even quite possible that I am descended from the mid-19th century perpetrators and/or the victims of this famous genocidal incident. (I do not know enough of my family's genealogy and history, having been raised under a step-father too hostile to my own paternal birth family and too indifferent to my mother's, to know that for certain and, anyway, my mother spoke little of these matters.) Understandably, therefore, this movie is about a slice of history that always has interested me and about which I have done much reading over the years. I can assert confidently that the film depicts what happened quite factually, apart, of course, from the romantic "love interest" that the movie provides between the Mormon boy and the Christian girl among the wagon train with whom the L.D.S. lad falls in love.
The acting is very, very fine; this cast, every one in it, famous or otherwise, does wonderfully well with their parts. Terence Stamp and Jonathan Voigt, of course, are quite celebrated film stars. For all of that, it is Trent Ford, youthfully handsome and tenderly ardent as Jonathan, the fictitious Mormon boy who falls in love, to such tragic outcome, with a young lady among those in the wagon train, who is my own favourite among the cast. The extra features are both historically illuminating and very worthwhile to view before or after watching the film itself. The subtitles, of which I followed those in English, are clear and, fortunately, helpful and not at all unduly intrusive.