The Last of His Tribe (1992)

Jon Voight, Graham Greene, David Ogden Stiers, Jack Blessing,
The Last of His Tribe is a TV movie starring Jon Voight, Graham Greene, and David Ogden Stiers. Ishi, the last Yahi Indian of California, must leave his homeland and learn to navigate the world of the white man in order to survive.
  • 7.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2020-03-15 Added:
  • Stephen Harrigan, Writer:
  • Harry Hook, Director:
  • John Levoff, Robert Lovenheim, Producer:

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7 / 10

A touchingly sad story about a lone Indian and his friendship with a generous white man.

For the record, I am not Jen, but her sister Kathleen.

I saw this movie in an English class after reading "Black Elk Speaks." It is a solemn statement about the sad plight of dying Native American tribes. Graham Greene's character is a poor hungry Native American who has lost his family and is found trying to steal food from a small farm. A kind-hearted doctor takes him in and attempts to educate him to the ways of the white man. The middle-aged native is seduced by the prosperity of this new world, and even has an unexpected encounter with a prostitute, much to the dismay of his new guardian, the doctor. But the distractions of this new world are not enough to erase the sadness of this man who has lost his family, his tribe, and his history. In a striking scene in which the native leads his new friend to the wilderness he once called home, the native sings a mournful tribal chant in remembrance of the family and tribe that was forever gone. It is an emotionally moving film for those who feel compassion for the Native American and I recommend it to viewers who enjoy a film with a message.

7 / 10

Worth seeing...

I sought out this HBO movie because I just recently watched an episode of "The American Experience" that was all about this same man and his discovery at about 1900 (Ishi: The Last Yahi Indian (#5.8)"). It seems that there was a very small tribe in California that the White folks didn't know about--and their existence was only discovered when the last of them, Ishi, wandered into town! While I am no where as familiar with the story as [email protected], I would not consider this 'probably the worst film ever made'. I would be loathe to call ANY film this, actually, and I can think of hundreds of films (such as those of Ed Wood, Ray Dennis Steckler, Arch Hall and Ted Mikels) that are truly among the worst ever made--and "The Last of His Tribe" would not even come close. Perhaps it might be faulted from taking liberties with the true story (and as a history teacher, I hate this), but so have thousands of other films. But when it comes to completely dismissing history, this HBO film doesn't even come close to films like "Pocahontas" or "They Died With Their Boots On" or the VERY anti-Semitic Nazi film "Jud Sü?". No, to me, calling this film the worst film ever made just sounds like a lot of hyperbole. I COULD understand many faults he found with the film (especially since the film SHOULD have been based on Kroeber's widow's writings and they did misrepresent Kroeber in some ways), but 'the worst'....no. In fact, if I were to be a filmmaker today, I probably wouldn't even try making a film about Native Americans today. After all, even if you try to get the story right, you'll probably get ripped apart by someone--even if you try to get the story right.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and thought it pretty good. I did think that Graham Greene's zombie-like expressions/behavior did seem a bit odd. While Ishi was not a loud and boisterous guy, in the film he seemed practically catatonic at times. But the essence of Ishi's life with White America came through and the film was entertaining and most enlightening.

By the way, think twice before you see this or have kids see it--the autopsy scenes are a bit vivid.

7 / 10

Entertaining even with it's flaws.....

I believe that having read a book that becomes a movie, tends to bias the reviewer into more of a comparison rather than a film review. I came into "The Last of His Tribe" with zero knowledge of the story. Based on fact,I find it forgivable for a film to embellish for entertainment purposes, unless it is presented as an outright documentary. The acting is strong, with Graham Greene outstanding in a quiet, understated, performance as Ishi the last survivor of his tribe. John Voight is the scientist who intends to take advantage of a marvelous opportunity, for learning the secrets of Ishi's people. David Ogden Stiers is a sensitive physician, who views Ishi not as an object for study, but simply as a man. So what if it's not totally accurate? "The Last of His Tribe" is a fine movie, with sensitive performances. - MERK

6 / 10

A good film considering that its based on a true story

I believed Graham Greene did well portraying Ishi since he easily blended in with the character's storyline. I found it interesting how the anthropologist he befriended became so familiar with his Native language so soon! I think he wasn't like any other white anthropologist who wasn't interested in truly getting to know the people whose cultures he was studying. He really had a genuine liking for Ishi and as a result their friendship became very deep.

Well........ anyways........... that's the reason why I gave this film a 6 out of 10.

8 / 10

The Last Of His Tribe - Historical Facts, Entertainment, and Emotion

This well above average telemovie gives us a unique glance into a slice of American history that was never given enough attention (I'd say for rather obvious but unforgivable reasons) The amazing story of Ishi, the last of the Yahl tribe members, is as curious as it is tragic. Ishi (Man) is well played by Graham Greene a native performer I've always enjoyed on screen - in fact I would have been happier if he had made more appearances. As Ishi's protector and mentor John Voight gives an award winning turn as Professor of Anthropology at Uni of California, Alfred Kroeber. Kroeber excelled in languages and studied many Native languages and according to this treatment, even knew many key-words in Yahl tongue. In Ishi, Kroeber recognised a firsthand study of these otherwise extinct people - providing precious insights into customs, lifestyle and language for the Museum. This solid screenplay by Award-winning writer Stephen Harrigan is based on a bestselling book by Kroeber's second wife Theodore, who sadly never met Ishi. The film begins while the Prof is married to first wife, Henriette (played by lovely Anne Archer) who is dying of consumption. Ishi is brought to the professor to uncover insights into how this extremely rare man had survived hiding in mountainous country for several decades!

Sensitively directed by Harry Hook it's a film for thinking audiences and an unexpected find from the HBO stables - although one or two slightly 'suss' scenes look as if they may have been added, at possible request, by HBO to 'spice' up an otherwise near documentary study. High production values keep the movie visually impressive and help us gain an understanding of the terrible waste of life at the hands of greed and ignorance. The deliberately slow pace gives the viewer time to absorb the beauty of the landscapes and the gradual interchange between these vastly different cultures.

Award-winning British composer John. E. Keane captures the wide vistas and emotional bond between Ishi and his Museum protectors. Because little has been recorded from these times - much of Ishi's earlier existence is built on supposition, and while this may be somewhat obvious, it's so sincerely achieved its all quite convincing. One of the saddest outcomes of this cross-culture union is that Ishi died without anyone being able to find out his real name - this somehow seems so odd. While not run as often as it deserves, it's well worth finding on DVD - could also be a good resource for school studies.