This is a Canadian made film which set out to dramatise the slaughter of over 120 men, women and children on the 11th September of 1857. As many of its' detractors have said this is a very biased in terms of the agenda of blame and has taken quite a few `rumours' and presented them as fact.
In the film we meet the Baker-Fancher wagon train as they enter the area of Iron County, Utah where they are stopped by the local militia and told to move on. Then Bishop Jacob Samuelson (legendary `Jon Voight')arrives with his two sons and decides to let them stay but he insists they camp at Mountain Meadow, which they agree gladly to do, as their livestock needed grazing and watering. The Bishop's son Jonathan (Trent Ford) meets with the young and pretty Emily (Tamara Hope) and it's sort of love at first sight. He is also a horse whisperer and tames an aggressive stallion in a very touching scene.
Then we move back to the Bishop who starts to whip up anti `gentile' fervour on these immigrants. Despite the advice of his son he eventually foments an attack to kill the whole wagon train. But they want to make it look like the Native American Paiute tribe carried out the attack. What unfolds is a tale based on the actual events but with a lot of anti Mormon feeling being injected for no historical reason at all. Brigham Young is played by Terence Stamp and he comes across as not having one iota of decency, which has to have been intentional.
From an historical perspective the film says this train was from Arkansas and Missouri which is true, and that as the Mormons were driven from Missouri this acted as a catalyst for their revenge. Actually the Utah War was in full swing with a distrust of all outsiders because of President Buchannan's heavy handed approach. Brigham Young had just ordered martial law and for grain to be stockpiled in case Federal troops did invade. Also Mountain Meadow was on the old Spanish trail and was well known to wagon train leaders like Fencher as he had done two trips already. The film says that the Bishop chose it as an ideal ambush point, well not that ideal as the initial attack was on the 7th September and it was only after a five day siege that the Wagon train party were duped into being disarmed and that came about because the militia thought that they had given themselves away as being white and feared about the consequences of a clearly illegal and immoral act.
The sad thing is the wagon train clearly had not realised their attackers were white or the duplicity of the Militia would not have worked. Had they realised this at the time they could have called off the slaughter, sadly they did not. So as a piece of cinema for history lovers - not that good, as a film I found it really rather engaging and very nearly a four star film. However, the material inaccuracies and the storm of controversy that this whipped up on release in America mean that this has caused harm and the spreading of lies which is unnecessary and divisive. It failed to take into account the politics of the time or the fact that Brigham Young actually sent a letter ordering the party safe passage, which sadly arrived on the 13th September. All of that said this got me interested in a piece of history that I knew nothing about and now I have had the diversion of doing some research, so it aint all bad and there are some really good performances and as I said I was quite gripped by the whole thing.
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