Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

The bad guys are very reminiscent of the Donald Pleasance gang in Will Penny. Same thing, actually: an extraordinary, nearly plotless gentleness, intersected by blood and thunder. (For that matter the same goes for the Clantons in Ford’s My Darling Clementine.) This is more plotless and gentle, such that in the end the blood and thunder leave not a trace, on the Latter Day Saints or on us.

Here’s a thing: Johnson’s and Carey’s dispatching of the villains is actually quite Book of Alma. The Mormons have made an impossible covenant, and they’ve done so with all their hearts (Alma 24, etc.). In honour of that righteous impossibility, honest (well…) men step in gladly to do battle. Beautiful.  Other than that, tiny increments. Look how they let the worldly folks in. The Navajos, who find the Mormons to be only little thieves. Ward Bond’s job is to swear, Russell Simpson’s to make that face that he makes (“Elder!”; and, of course, “wait, Sister Lamanite!”), Jane Darwell to be indeterminate.

That dugway thing that comes toward the end is really lovely, and in the end this gentile production warms the believer’s heart. This non-pioneer mostly-believer finds resonance in the outsiders’ appreciation. Our people were brave and hard working and good! We should ask. Are we still?