Unconquered is one of those old, swash-buckling epics that came out during the era of epics during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Is it the greatest epic ever? Of course not, but all that matters to me was the entertainment factor of the movie. In that part, the movie succeeded. I had a fun time watching our main character, Chris Holden pick fights with the Natives, his fellow countrymen, and even the women. I’m not sure if this film is entirely historically accurate and some whitewashing may be prevalent, but does it really matter much? Especially in an older movie like this film? This film was filmed in technicolor, which of course added to the “expensive” budget, but it really gave definition to the epic as lighting and color techniques helped this film out.
I find it rather fascinating what the film was based on. In 1862, the descendants of the Holdens of Virginia wrote a letter about similar events to the one Anny Hale gone through in the film. The basic plot outline of Abby’s and this woman is very similar. Both were English women sentenced to the American colonies, accused of murder. But had lustful men come after her. There is a real historical document pertaining to the events of this movie, but the movie decides to expand upon the story, making it somewhat a fictional story.
Cecil B. DeMille, known for his great 1956 epic The Ten Commandments, directs a film that takes place in pre-Revolution colonial America. London gal Abby Hale is sentenced to slavery in the colonies, but she is bought and freed by colonist Chris Holden. But her freedom is taken away by a rival of Holden, Garth. This rivalry helps culminate a disastrous relationship between the colonists of Fort Pitt and the Indians, who want their land free of the white men.
We get some good acting here. No one is particularly great, but it seems like everyone is having a fun time. The biggest star, Gary Cooper, is no stranger to Westerns and this film uses his talents very effectively. He definitely delivers the charm of a leading man. Paulette Goddard was pretty good as Abby, but I feel like her character is annoying at times. I liked Boris Karloff as the chief of the Indians, despite the fact this is clearly an example of Hollywood ancient bias. I also liked Howard Da Silva does a solid job as the villainous Garth, who takes advantage of the Natives for his own self. Finally, Cecil Kellaway turns in a solid performance as Chris’s friend, Jeremy Love.
Overall, Unconquered is a solid, old-fashioned historical epic. There is nothing remotely special about the film and it doesn’t try to be. It just wants to entertain movie-watchers of all ages, and it succeeds in that category. As a history student, I can easily point out many of the historical differences. But this is a movie review, not a history lesson. I will save that lecture for another day. The tone may be historically inaccurate, but one should overlook the details. On its merit as a fun adventure movie, Unconquered succeeds very much so.
My Grade: A-