Released in 1995 THE LAST OF THE DOGMEN has always held a certain attraction for me personally, the story is interesting, and one ends up believing that this is something that is happening rather than it be a story that has been filmed. The film is beautifully shot and contains some stunning scenery. It is an exciting and attention holding movie that contains great performances from Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey, Berenger takes the part of bounty hunter Lewis Gates who’s only companions it seems are horse and Zip, who is an Australian Cattle Dog. Berenger’s character tracks three convicts who have escaped and armed themselves into Montana’s Oxbow Quadrangle. The bounty hunter knows he is close to his quarry and see’s the convicts as they try and make a break, he pursues them but hears shots and when he reaches the spot where he thinks the convicts are he finds nothing apart from a bloody scrap of cloth, a shotgun shell also covered in blood and an old style Indian arrowhead. Gates becomes curious about the arrowhead and decides to take it to Lillian Sloan who is an archaeologist.
She examines the arrowhead and the story then becomes even more interesting as she tells Gates that it is a replica of the type of arrowheads that were used by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers nearly a hundred years previous. Gates for some reason is not convinced that it is a replica and decides to do some research, where he compiles a long list of people who have gone missing in the area around where he found the arrowhead and where he had tracked the convicts too. He also finds a story about a wild child who was captured in the same area early in the 20th Century. Gates is convinced that there are Cheyenne still in the Oxbow and convinces Lillian to accompany him in a search of the area.
They encounter numerous trials as they go deeper into the wilderness and because of these become reliant upon each other and grow closer. They are after a week or so running out of supplies and Sloane suggests that they start to head back, as they are preparing to return they are attacked by Cheyenne and taken prisoner the Dog Soldiers taking them to their camp which is concealed behind a waterfall. They meet Yellow Wolf and the village elder, Spotted Elk, who tells them of the escape his people made from the white soldiers 128 years ago at the SAND CREEK MASSACRE.
He also tells them of his own experience with White People when he was a child. Gates and Sloan slowly form a bond and trust with the Cheyenne. However, Yellow Wolf’s son is sick he was wounded during the fight with the convicts and is fading fast. Despite the elder’s concerns, Sloan convinces Yellow Wolf to allow Gates to ride back into town to get medical supplies to help. Gates is desperate to get the medicine and robs the pharmacy and is chased by local law enforcement, including Sheriff Deegan, his father-in-law.
I won’t disclose any more of the storyline as this is a movie worth seeing if you have not yet done so. The other plus thing about this movie is the musical score by British composer David Arnold who wrote a wonderful soundtrack to accompany the action and thought-provoking storyline. Arnold, I think was fresh from his success on STARGATE and fragments of some of the style and sounds that the composer utilised within the sci-fi epic transferred to the music for THE LAST OF THE DOGMEN. There are many nods of acknowledgement to composer John Barry within the scores more intimate and melodious moments, but also Arnold managed to stamp his own unique musical signature upon the film as the storyline opened and developed.
The score opens with a rich and lyrical theme that immediately grabs the listeners attention and sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow both within the movie and musically. Performed mainly by the string section It is a rich and warm sounding piece that could easily be mistaken for the work of John Barry, Arnold puts to affective use the commodity of those proud and inspiring sounding Barry-esque faraway horns that are themselves embellished by subtle rumbles from the percussion, with the composition being given more substance and further support when the composer brings into the mix woodwind which are pensive and emotive, strings again return and the composer then adds flourishes from trumpet or cornet.
Track number two, begins in a similar style to the opening cue, but has to it a more urgent persona to it, percussion being more prominent and the strings also being more up-tempo and having to them a darker mood. As the score moves forward Arnold escalates the action music that underlines the films tense and fast paced storyline, but at the same time there are numerous moments of poignancy and tenderness present within the music, this is an epic sounding soundtrack that boasts a rich and emotive thematic quality, the composer displaying a evident gift for melody and talent for creating music to suit many situations and moods. Highly recommended.