The Last Outpost
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (8th March 2020).
The Film

"The Last Outpost" (1951)

It is during the Civil War in 1862 along the Santa Fe trail where Confederate Army Captain Vance Britton (played by Ronald Reagan) and Union Colonel Jeb Britton (played by Bruce Bennett) are brothers fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield. Vance is moving with his men through the territory by disguising themselves as locals and robbing Union soldiers of their uniforms and equipment rather than using their ammunition for killing. But the past catches up to him when he hears from his brother that ex-fiance Julie (played by Rhonda Fleming) is nearby, but now married to trading post owner Sam McQuaid (played by John Ridgely). Unfortunately, McQuade is killed by Apache Indians while on a mission to negotiate with them, leading to more complicated issues with the territory and the war.

William H. Pine and William C. Thomas founded Pine-Thomas Productions, a low budget arm of Paramount Pictures. During their seventeen run between 1940 to 1957 they produced 81 features, from war pictures to westerns to adventure films, all on a low budget and bringing in profitable returns at the box office. Actor and future politician Ronald Reagan signed a non-exclusive contract with Pine-Thomas for a series of films from 1951 starting with "The Last Outpost". Though he was a known actor from the 1930s onward, Reagan's career started at Warner Brothers but his stardom never reached the A ranks. Even without being A superstar, he had a fairly consistent career and was elected to the position of president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947 following his service in WWII. For Pine-Thomas Productions, Reagan was a recognizable star and capable of lead roles, and the relationship lasted for two other features with "Hong Kong" in 1952 and "Tropic Zone" in 1952, with all three co-starring Rhonda Fleming and directed by Lewis R. Foster.

"The Last Outpost" follows basic B-western standsrds. A divided love story. Trust between blood. Questioning of loyalty. Action featuring gunfights, arrows, fires, horses. It certainly doesn't add anything new to the genre and nothing too significant. The direction by Foster is adequate, without flair or style. Cuts and edits are minimal as well as camera movement. There are some comical moments sprinkled in, some tension between the opposing sides as well as with the Apache Indians who are not given much humanity as the focus is on the "whites" of the story. But the film was never set out to break new ground and was in the category of playing to the matinee audience expectations. And in that sense, it certainly plays very well. It certainly fills the time with a fine story with good performances, with an exciting battle for the climax, and for moviegoers of the period looking for a fun weekend picture most likely found an entertaining ride. Even with its simplicity, there are a lot of great moments in the performances throughout. Reagan's character of Vance Britton is one that takes interesting twists and turns in morale, and his scenes with Fleming and Bennett are excellent, as well as his scenes impersonating a Union soldier. He certainly carries the picture along and is the highlight of the fairly plain production.

Released theatrically in America on April 4th, 1951, "The Last Outpost" grossed $1,225,000 which was the most successful run for any Pine-Thomas production. The film, along with other Pine-Thomas features were reissued by Citation Films in 1962 which retitled it as "Cavalry Charge". The copyright seems to not have been kept, and sadly has been available in grey market releases over the years on video and DVD. While some might be pleased that Umbrella Entertainment is issuing this under their "Six Shooter Classics" line of western features, it's sadly not a great release of the film on DVD.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (non-anamorphic) in the NTSC format. The DVD doesn't use the original 1951 Paramount release print but the 1962 Citation Films reissue, which uses the updated title "Cavalry Charge". Besides the opening title credits, there seems to be no scenes missing or different from the original release. The master used for this release is a dated one and is not the best, as it has faded colors, scratches, dust, speckles, occasional missing frames, and some telecine wobble. The opening credits are awkward as well, which uses some footage from the very end of the movie and adds the new title in a completely different font, then crossfades into the original titles. In addition the music tracks crossfade to make things sound just as awkward. In addition, the intertitle card that follows the main credits to explain the setting is strangely just a stillframe, and the one moment in the film that is completely free of telecine wobble, like it was an addition to the video master and not from the original film element. To be fair, the film is still in a watchable state, without too much damage to hinder the experience. It just isn't the most ideal.

The film's runtime is 86:27.



















Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
The mono track has not been given a restoration either, as it is filled with hiss, pops, buzzing, cracks, dropout, and other damage. But on the brighter side, dialogue is fair as well as the music, without major issues. The mono track is fairly flat throughout, and even the dangerous climactic battle is a bit tinny with the sound effects.

There are no subtitles offered.

Extras

Unfortunately no extras are provided. Not even the trailer.

Packaging

The packaging states "region 4" but this is a region 0 disc, playable worldwide.

Overall

"The Last Outpost" is by no means a lost classic, but is a fine and enjoyable Civil War western from Pine-Thomas Productions featuring Ronald Reagan in a great role. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD is far from being a great presentation, using a dated master from a damaged print of the reissue version rather than the original. The feature desperately needs a restoration, and if someone could do a restored set of all the Ronald Reagan/Rhonda Fleming films, that would be fantastic. But for now, fans will have to settle with a less than ideal presentation.

The Film: B- Video: C- Audio: C- Extras: F- Overall: C-

 


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