Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
This 1936 adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s frontier classic was directed by George B. Seitz, a veteran of the silent serials, and in its simplicity and rat-a-tat pacing it’s likely to appeal most to young boys and unapologetic philistines. Judged on its own terms — the terms of the B adventure film — the movie is quite successful. The characterizations are pithy and colorful, and the editorial sharpness and graphic intensity of the big action set-pieces redeem their basic modesty. (Here Seitz, or perhaps his technicians, seems to draw inspiration from the Soviets.) As Hawkeye, the rifle-bearing woodsman whose sympathies are more Indian than white, Randolph Scott projects a courtliness that shines through his rustic accoutrements; no one has ever looked so gallant with a dead raccoon on his head. Though in adapting the novel Seitz and screenwriter Philip Dunne emphasize its movement and incident over its romanticism, it’s clear that filmmaker Michael Mann’s 1992 take on the material — a romantic juggernaut — is based largely on their example; several of the later film’s best lines and moments are lifted directly from its ‘30s predecessor. Despite the movie’s pleasures, the love story is weak, and it’s more than a little disappointing that it ends with Hawkeye — that embodiment of American self-reliance — enlisting happily in the British Army. Seitz has the good sense to end the picture before he trades his buckskins for a redcoat.