(director: Kieth Merrill; screenwriters: Ray Goldrup/Blaine Yorgason/from the novel by Blaine Yorgason; cinematographer: Reed Smoot; editors: Janice Hampton/Stephen L. Johnson/Peter L. McCrea; music: Merrill Jenson; cast: Trevor Howard (Windwalker), Nick Ramus (Smiling Wolf/Crow Brother/Narrator), James Remar (Windwalker as a young man), Serene Hedin (Tashina), Dusty ‘Iron Wing’ McCrea (Dancing Moon), Silvana Gallardo (Little Feather), Emerson John (Spotted Deer), Jason Stevens (Horse That Follows), Roberta Deherrera (Happy Wind), Ivan Naranjo (Crooked Leg); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Thomas E. Ballard/Arthur R. Dubs; Pacific International Enterprises Inc.; 1980-in Cheyenne & Crow with English subtitles)
“Awesome in inspiring a spiritual awe.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Devout Mormon filmmaker Kieth Merrill (“Yellowstone”), known primarily for his outdoor family value pictures, passionately directs this involving offbeat western. It has beautiful wintry mountain scenery (filmed in Utah) and is noted for being entirely spoken in the tribal tongue (offering subtitles). The only white man in the film is noted British actor Trevor Howard (who was coached to deliver his lines in Cheyenne). The rest of the cast is made up of Native Americans. Merrill keeps this as an honest and accurate telling of the Indian tale, only bogging down at times with too much sentimentality. It’s based on the 1979 novel by Blaine Yorgason, who cowrites it with Ray Goldrup.
It’s set in the 18th century and is told in flashback, as narrated by the Cheyenne warrior Windwalker’s (Trevor Howard) long-lost son (Nick Ramus). It begins with the elderly Windwalker on his deathbed getting up enough strength, thanks to the “Great Spirit,” to see if he can try once again to reunite his family by finding his twin son who was snatched by Crow and has now become a Crow warrior attacking his family. Windwalker feels he cannot have a peaceful afterlife again until this mission is accomplished.
As a young man, Windwalker (played by James Remar) suffered the tragic loss of his wife Tashina (Serene Hedin) and one of his twin sons, Smiling Wolf, at the hands of an enemy Crow tribe that attacked him to steal his horses and wife. His twin son was part of that attack, not knowing he was Cheyenne and that it was his father and mother being attacked. How they eventually reunite is filled with the magical lore of Indian traditions, in a pic that may lack credibility in dramatic storytelling but is awesome in inspiring a spiritual awe.
REVIEWED ON 5/25/2010 GRADE: B