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|Dustin Hoffman||Jack Crabb|
|Faye Dunaway||Mrs. Louise Pendrake|
|Chief Dan George||Old Lodge Skins|
|Martin Balsam||Mr. Merriweather|
|Richard Mulligan||Gen. George Armstrong Custer|
|M. Emmet Walsh|
"Either The Most Neglected Hero In History Or A Liar Of Insane Proportion!"
121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) recounts his colorful life story to a curious historian (William Hickey). Among other things, Crabb had been a captive of the Cheyenne, a gunslinger, an associate of Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Corey), and a scout for General George Armstrong Custer (Richard Mulligan).
Jack and his older sister Caroline (Carole Androsky) had survived the massacre of their parents by the Pawnee. Jack and his sister are taken back to a Cheyenne village. Caroline manages to escape on horseback, but Jack is reared by good-hearted tribal leader Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George). Jack unwittingly makes an enemy of another boy, Younger Bear (Cal Bellini); however, Younger Bear eventually owes his life to Jack. Jack is given the name "Little Big Man" because he's short but very brave. When Jack is 16, he is recaptured by U.S. cavalry troopers and renounces his Native American upbringing in order to save himself. He is put in the care of Reverend Silas Pendrake (Thayer David) and his sexually frustrated wife, Louise (Faye Dunaway), who tries to seduce Jack. Jack eventually leaves the Pendrake household.
Jack becomes the apprentice of the snake-oil salesman Merriweather (Martin Balsam). The two are tarred and feathered when their customers realize that Merriweather's products are fraudulent. One of the angry customers is Jack's sister, Caroline. She attempts to mold her brother into a gunslinger named the Soda Pop Kid. Jack meets Wild Bill Hickok at a saloon, and Hickok takes a liking to the young man. When Hickok is forced to kill a man in self-defense, Jack loses his taste for gunslinging and Caroline deserts him.
Jack next becomes a partner in a general store and marries a Swedish woman named Olga (Kelly Jean Peters). Unfortunately, Jack's business partner turns out to be a thieving scoundrel. The famous cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer suggests the couple restart their lives further west. They set out, but their stagecoach is ambushed by Cheyenne. Olga is abducted and Jack sets out in search for her. He is reunited with Old Lodge Skins. Younger Bear has become a contrary (a warrior who does everything in reverse). Jack makes friends with the hwame Little Horse, but continues on his search for Olga.
He eventually becomes a "muleskinner" in Custer's 7th Cavalry. He takes part in a battle against the Cheyenne, but when the 7th troopers begin killing women and children, Jack turns on them. Nearby, Jack discovers a Cheyenne woman, Sunshine (Aimée Eccles), giving birth. He returns with her to Old Lodge Skins's tribe. Sunshine becomes his wife and bears him a child. Jack again encounters Younger Bear, not a Contrary anymore, who is now the henpecked husband of the long-lost Olga. Olga does not recognize Jack. Sunshine asks Jack to take in her three widowed sisters as wives and to father children with them. He is reluctant at first, but finally agrees.
Custer and the 7th Cavalry make a surprise attack on the Cheyenne camp. A now-blind and elderly Old Lodge Skins is saved by Jack, but Sunshine and their child are killed along with her sisters. Jack tries to infiltrate Custer's camp to exact revenge. Jack loses his nerve. Disheartened, Jack becomes the town drunk in Deadwood, South Dakota. While in a drunken stupor, he is recognized by Wild Bill Hickok, who gives him money to clean up. Hickok is shot and killed. With his last breath, Hickok expresses a dying wish involving a widow he was having an affair with. Jack goes to see the widow, a prostitute who turns out to be Louise Pendrake. Jack gives her the money that Hickok intended for her to use to start a new life.
Jack soon becomes a trapper and hermit. His mind becomes unhinged after coming across an empty trap with a severed animal limb. He prepares to commit suicide. Jack suddenly spots Custer and his troops marching nearby. Jack decides to exact revenge. Custer hires him as a scout, reasoning that anything Jack says will be a lie, thus serving as a perfect reverse barometer. Jack leads the troops into a trap at the Little Bighorn. Before the attack, Jack truthfully tells Custer of the overwhelming force of Native Americans hidden within the valley of the Little Bighorn. Custer does not believe him and leads the 7th Cavalry to its doom. Custer begins to rave insanely. Ignoring the closing circle of warriors, Custer points his pistol at Jack. Custer is killed by Younger Bear. Having thus discharged his life debt, Younger Bear tells Jack that, the next time they meet, he can kill him without becoming an evil person.
Back at the Indian Camp, Jack accompanies Old Lodge Skins to a nearby hill, the Indian Burial Ground, where the aged, weary leader, dressed in full Chief's regalia, has declared "It is a good day to die" most formally citing the magic of the moment is right for it, and so decides to end his life with dignity and grand gesture. He offers his spirit to the Great Spirit, and lies down at his spot at the Indian Burial Ground to wait for death. The air is heavy with solemnity and grandeur. Jack stays with him, respectful and silent and waits. Hours pass, and nothing happens. Instead, it begins to rain. It is as if a bubble has burst. The grandeur vanishes. Old Lodge Skins rises, sighs and shrugging his shoulders, says, "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't". They return to his tepee to have dinner.
Jack's narrative ends and he dismisses the historian, while thinking with sadness about the memories of a world which is no more.
DVD : 2003-04-29