Academy AwardŽ winner Jon Voight, Terence Stamp and Trent Ford star in this film based on the true story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the brutal murder of 120 men, women and children on September 11, 1857 as their wag... more »on train passed through Utah on its way to California. The question of whether the attack was carried out by local Paiute Indians or by a renegade sect of the Mormon church remains unresolved to this day. Set against the breathtaking beauty of the Utah mountains, September Dawn explores what might have happened when the ill-fated settlers stopped near Cedar City to rest before completing the last leg of their journey. Local Mormon Bishop Jacob Samuelson (Voight) is suspicious of the group, so he dispatches his oldest son Jonathan (Ford) to spy on them. Jonathan soon falls in love with an angelic member of the wagon train, the minister's daughter Emily (Tamara Hope), and is horrified when he discovers that his father thinks the settlers are enemies of the church and is planning an attack on them. While Jonathan makes plans to escape with Emily, his father sets in motion a chain of events, fueled by revenge and fanaticism, which culminates in a violent and tragic ambush.« less
Deidra C. (Deidra670) from GARRETT, KY Reviewed on 10/11/2010...
SEPTEMBER DAWN is a heartbreaking telling of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. This is a little known piece of American history, it's shame. The Arkansas Company are traveling to California and stop along the way at Mountain Meadows, a Mormon community. At first, they are treated well, and the religious differences seem far away. Soon, however, a darker side to the Mountain Meadows people is revealed, bringing a tragic end.
This story moved me on so many different levels. It amazes me and always will, the atrocities committed in the name of God. SEPTEMBER DAWN is a hard film to watch, but I'm very glad I did. Somme things must be told, must be remembered. And the Mountain Meadows Massacre is one of them.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
EXTRAORDINARY INDICTMENT OF RELIGIOUS FANATACISM
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 08/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great movie. In an age of extreme political correctness, here comes a movie that dares to look at a fully home grown 19th century massacre (on September 11, no less) in the name of a paranoid religion.
I'm sure there will be an organized group of critics (Mormons?) who will post their one star reviews. Don't be duped. This movie may be a scathing look at a shameful incident in the history of Mormonism -- the so-called "mountain meadows massacre" -- but the real theme of this film is something much greater.
World events suggest there is coming a time when we will be forced to face in a public way the problem of irrational religions based on lies and fear and hate. What if the unthinkable happens and the West wages an all out war against a religion hell-bent on cleansing the planet of "infidels." Whose God will win? Or is that the wrong question?
Under what circumstances can we have this urgent conversation? A start is by going to see this movie and talking about what it means to Americans today. How do we deal with the conflicting issues of freedom and security? Especially freedom of religion?
Is there a subjective way to even talk about a religion being "authentic"? Is there a way to "love our enemies" or should we kill them before they kill us? This unexpected and unsettling movie about a Holy War on a small scale deserves consideration and conversation on a large scale."
Charles M. Strnad | Tulsa, OK | 12/06/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Been waiting for this DVD to come out since first seeing it in the theatres- and having since read several histories about the historical event. There already have been numerous website slugfests about just how accurate the movie is, with most of the debate just re-emphasizing how, 150 years later, the Mormon community still struggles to reconcile this documented part of their church history. But before the DVD is even released, and before the anticipated subsequent storm of prejudiced-laced customer "reviews" ( and it doesn't even matter which side they are for), let me just say that the "editorial review" summary ought to at least introduce the topic fairly. For one, it is hardly an issue of uncertainty whether or not Mormons participated in the massacre- indeed, the valid histories (even the source work by Juanita Brooks, herself a devout Mormon)all confirm that Mormons did most of the killing, and even eventually owned-up to that, but only after years of trying to pawn it off on the Paiute Indians. I've seen the movie and read the histories, and the only aspect of the movie which is somewhat "over-the-top" is its clear portrayal of Brigham Young as a main architect of the massacre; the available histories at least conclude that there is some doubt as to his actual role. Whether viewers of the movie liked the love story subplot or not isn't really what this movie is about, after all....it's just a cinematic technique used to make the history more personal (much like Cameron did with "Titanic", and Kate Winslett and Leonard DiCaprio). But having said that, I'm sure the DVD release of this movie will again spark all the prejudicial comments about Mormons, etc.....but none of that changes the facts, and the movie does a fair job with that. But don't believe me- don't believe ANY reviewer: read the published histories, then you decide."
Not the best; not the worst
rgn | Indiana | 01/10/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Surprised to see this film currently has a rating of 4.5 stars. I guess Mormon advocates haven't realized this item is up and open for comments. Glad I can get mine in before the comment wars begin. I liked the movie overall. As a professor of religion I know the story accords with historical facts of the Mountain Meadows massacre as well as we know them. It truly does show how human beings can do the most atrocious things to one another if they believe they receive the blessing of God in doing so. I would only wish they ask some basic epistemological questions about the justification of their claim to knowledge that it is God they are truly hearing. The film mentions possible motives like the belief the federal government was about to start a war against the Mormons and payback for the murder of Joseph Smith in Missouri. One explanation for the massacre the film does not address but needs to be explored is using religious justification for plain old greed. There was a lot of wealth, cattle and horses with that wagon train. The Paiutes didn't get it. Who did? The film nicely points out how John Lee is the only Mormon forced to suffer penalty for the event. As for the film itself, it is beautifully filmed. I thought the Davidovich character was shallow, and her death is left unexplained. The real clinker in the film, though, and the reason I reduce its rating to a three star, is the clumsily melodramatic love affair between the son of the Mormon Bishop and the daughter of the wagon train's minister. As part of that story you have the son being imprisoned by the Bishop by being chained at the ankle in a barn. The chain, though, is around his boot. Why doesn't the kid just remove his foot from the boot? That's the kind of silliness that creeps in when you import melodrama into this tragic story. My greatest concern: The Mormons (with the exception of the lovestruck son of the Bishop) were uniformly caricatured as the embodiment of hate, while those on the wagon train were uniformly portrayed as the embodiment of sweetness and light. That's too simple-minded an approach. There are other comments to be made, but I don't want to turn this into a lecture on religion. Good film, but not great by any stretch."
A little-known history of the American West
J. Davis | Shelton, WA USA | 01/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The makers of September Dawn did not have a big budget, and are not contending for Oscars - they only wanted to tell a story from American history that most people never heard - the Mountain Meadows Massacre. 140 members of a wagon train, passing through Utah in 1857 - men, women and children - were murdered in cold blood by the Church of Jesus H. Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, under the direction of church president and territorial governor Brigham Young.
Two veteran actors turn in worthy performances - Jon Voight is righteously authoritarian as the Cedar City bishop, and Terence Stamp is an imposing Brigham Young. Unfortunately, the screenwriting is weak, especially the dialogue in the opening scenes, but the narrative of events is what counts, and the filmmakers took great care to be historically accurate. The fictional romance is simply the vehicle to tell the story from both points of view.
The bishop's son is developing his own identity as a young man, questioning his father's ideas, and potentially serving as a peace broker, while he courts a young woman in the wagon train. Like any rational person would, he begins to see the "immigrant" party as a means for his own escape from his father's cult.
The irony that this savage mass murder occurred on September 11 is not lost - at one point the Mormon prophet is quoted saying "I will be the new Muhammad" and the church leaders openly rationalize how they are doing "gentiles" a favor by killing them so they can be redeemed by Jesus.
The film also provides insight into the fear and hatred that the Mormon leaders felt towards these "immigrants" - they came from Missouri, where a Mormon leader was killed earlier that year. They regarded Utah as their own Promised Land, and feared President James Buchanan was preparing to send the US Army to depose Brigham Young as territorial governor. So the film explains the motive for the massacre without justifying it.
The ending is shocking, even if you know the story, and the message is how ruthless people can be when motivated by religious fanaticism, whether on 9/11/1857 or 9/11/2001.
The Mormon Church has undertaken a smear campaign against this film, accusing the producers of trying to undermine their presidential candidate. The church disputes the level of involvement by Brigham Young as portrayed in the film, but they do not dispute the fact that the massacre occurred and was conducted by Mormons.
This film tells an important part of the history of "how it was moving west." It is well worth your time. "
Connie Lineberry | Virginia | 10/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was a history lesson for me, as I do not remember ever hearing about this in school. It is a jawdropping sort of movie and you wonder how this could have possibly happened."