5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A One Trick Pony.,
This review is from: September Dawn  [DVD] (DVD)
******** CONTAINS SPOILERS ********
Zane Grey's fine western story "Riders of the Purple Sage" gave the Mormon Church a bad press, but this film trumps that. This Canadian movie does not pull its punches, and is highly controversial in its depiction of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of an emigrant wagon train by Mormons and Indians in Utah on September the 11th 1857. The date of the massacre also carries great symbolism in the films powerful depiction of the atrocities committed by religious fundamentalists, and it is very clear where the director and writer Christopher Cain is coming from. In the film the blame is laid squarely at the feet of the Mormon churches larger than life founder Brigham Young, although historically this has never been proven, and is never likely to be. As you may imagine this film has been vilified by the Mormon church. Subtle this film aint! Did Brigham Young really claim to be 'God on earth'? This does seem to be stretching it a bit!
"September Dawn" weaves an unlikely love story between an emigrant girl and a Mormon Bishops son, into the days just prior to the massacre. We then watch as religious hatred is whipped up against the gentiles by the hate filled Mormon leaders, leading to a day of infamy. Unfortunately the film is a bit of a 'one trick pony'. Without the obvious 'look what religious zealots can do to the world', which is rammed down our throats, it doesn't really have anything else to offer, and the 'bland' accusation begins to hold water. The opportunity to take an insightful look at extremism through the characters gets lost along the way, and instead we simply have some overacted frothing at the mouth. You will need to watch the end to see what I mean! There is a love story and then a massacre! Not the most cheery of subjects, and the film duly bombed at the box office, despite employing the heavyweight services of Terence Stamp as Brigham Young and Jon Voigt as a Mormon Bishop. The film did not impress the critics and it even got the rare distinction of a zero in the New York Post. Some simply found it an unpleasant movie. Like "Soldier Blue" and its clumsy Mai Lai reference, I simply don't like directors own prejudices and bigotry being shovelled down my neck in such a slap handed way, especially with my beloved westerns. Two stars because it is actually better than some of the absolutely dire modern westerns I have seen recently.