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Film / The Last Wagon

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A 1956 Western film directed by Delmer Daves, starring Richard Widmark and Felicia Farr.

After an Apache massacre, the teenaged survivors of a wagon train must depend on a renegade white man accused of murder.

Tropes present include:

  • Arrows on Fire: used to set off Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Asshole Victim: the sheriff's death isn't exactly mourned, even by the settlers.
  • Badass Native: Comanche Todd is a white man, but has lived all his life with the Indians and considers himself one of them.
  • Badass Boast: when Todd challenges a duo of Apache warriors:
    "Come! If you do not fear one Comanche! always took two Apache to kill one Comanche warrior!"
  • Big Brother Worship: Billy starts hero-worshipping Todd almost immediately.
  • The Brigadier: General Otis Howard, only appears after the characters have made it out of Apache territory and serves as the stern but fair judge during Todd's trial.
  • The Cavalry: Shows up...but since there's only a total of fifteen of them, versus three hundred Apaches, other solutions have to be found.
  • Chain Pain: Todd uses the severed chain from his shackles to kill a bird and while fighting the Apache.
  • Crucified Hero Shot
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: slightly averted, as the first thing Todd does on losing his shackles is stretch.
  • Death of a Child: Clint's young sister is killed by the Apaches.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ridge and Valinda most prominently.
    • Valinda panics, screams her head off and runs when bitten by a rattlesnake—spreading the venom.
    • Ridge then wastes half their limited ammunition shooting the snake and also incidentally alerts any nearby Apaches to their position.
  • Due to the Dead: Todd prevents the survivors from doing this, as it might reveal that there were survivors. He does try to comfort them with the thought of The High Place.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Lieutenant accepts that Todd is not the missing half-Comanche Todd mounts an Indian pony and picks up his bow and arrows.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Jolie is half-Indian. Her half-sister bullies her relentlessly, partly out of bitterness at having her mother replaced by another woman.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Todd is mourning the death of his (Indian) wife and two young sons.
  • Heel Realization: Valinda, when she realizes that the people she most despises have given up their water rations for her.
  • Humiliation Conga / Trauma Conga Line: Valinda emerges at the end of hers a better person.
  • Going Native: Comanche Todd has been raised by the Comanches and identifies with them. Jenny and Billy go native by staying with him.
  • Kick the Dog: the Sheriff cruelly taunts Todd by withholding water and attempts to prevent the settlers' giving him food.
  • Kirk Summation: Jenny and Todd give a joint one to the court and Gen. Howard.
  • Mercy Kill: Todd gives Clint the responsibility of doing this to the girls and Billy if necessary.
  • Night Swim Equals Death: inverted. The teenagers' sneaking off for a spot of Skinny Dipping saves their lives.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: Todd recognizes the call of a genuine coyote...because after twenty years' of your life depending on knowing the difference, you get very good at telling.
  • Rape and Revenge: Todd's wife was raped and murdered by four white men, as were his two sons.
  • Pet the Dog: The lines are drawn very quickly when the sheriff decides that Todd is to have no food or water.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Valinda is the stuck-up Rich Bitch blonde; Jolie is her quiet and sensible half-breed half-sister.
  • Skinny Dipping: Subverted. Ridge gets Valinda and Jolie to go for a night swim with him (with Jenny, Clint, and Billy following them), but they don't strip down and are unhappy to find out that he expects them to.
  • Smells Sexy: Todd tells this to Jenny.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Spotting the Thread: the Lieutenant figures out (after having missed numerous other "hints") who Todd is when he spots the Sheriff's badge Todd collected earlier.
  • Suck Out the Poison: When Valinda is bitten by a rattlesnake, although a torniquet is also used.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: All three of Sheriff Harper's brothers. One is shot dead from a distance by Todd in the film's first few seconds. When the remaining Harpers pursue Todd for revenge, one (who is wearing a Red Shirt) is shot after less than ten seconds of screen time and just one quick line of dialogue. Harper's third brother, Cole, lasts a few minutes longer and has some dialogue, but falls to Todd after a close-quarters battle.
  • What a Drag: the sheriff does this to Todd.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Todd punches out a hysterical Valinda...much to everyone's relief.