As kids, Jack and sister Caroline are the only survivors of an Indian attack, and they are taken to an Indian village and meet "Old Lodge Skins", the chief. Caroline expects to be raped later (and is somewhat disappointed when she is not) and rides away at night. The Cheyenne ("human beings") adopt Jack. Due to his small stature, Jack is named "Little Big Man" after he saves Younger Bear from a Pawnee attack.
In a battle againt the cavalry, just before he is about to be killed, Jack ID's himself as a white man, and is put in the care of Reverend Pendrake, whose wife (Faye Dunaway) takes an interest in Jack. He is taught to to read and write, and takes up religion with Mrs. Pendrake. After he finds Mrs. Pendrake and a soda-shop man in bed, that ends his religion phase.
Jack takes up with Mr. Meriwether, a con-man, and ends up getting tarred and feathered by a group lead by his own sister. Jack moves in with Caroline and she teaches him to shoot ("Go snake-eyed"). Jack becomes a flashy gun-fighter known as the Soda Pop Kid after his drink of choice. He meets Wild Bill Hickok ("Might I ask who I are addressin'?") but gives up gunfighting after Hickok kills a man in a bar. Caroline disowns him, so Jack gets a partner, becomes a store owner, and marries Olga, a large Swedish woman. Jack's partner is a crook, and he goes bankrupt.
General Custer is passing by, takes pity on Jack and advises him to "go west" with his personal guarantee of safety - cut to Indians raiding a stage coach and riding off with Olga.Read more ›
No movie that I know has ever painted the American Indian culture as vividly, or as empathetically. And given that, the movie goes on to succeed on every level it exists, the dramatic, the romantic and the comic.
I can't tell you how this movie ranks in the pantheon of great film, but I can say with absolute certainty it is the most enjoyable film I have ever watched. I find the ending both moving and deeply funny and look forward to that scene every time.
Penn and his collaborators use Jack as a social mirror reflecting the injustice, brutality and pettiness of the wild west. Staying true to the spirit of Thomas Berger's marvelous novel, the cast and crew manage to distill much of the essence of Berger while sacrificing some of the less important details. The loss is, surprisingly, not really felt for many of those who read the novel. The superb supporting cast includes Martin Balsam, Jeff Corey (in a funny, perceptive cameo as Wild Bill Hiccock), Faye Dunaway (as a religious hypocrite who lusts after her adopted son Jack), Chief Dan George (he has some of the funniest lines in the script)and the late Richard Mulligan playing a vain nearly psychopathic General Custer.
The digital transfer preserves the original aspect ratio of the film and the nearly flawless print shows very little digital compression problems. This disc is enhanced for 16X9 widescreen TVs. The 139 minute production is presented on a dual layer disc for maximum picture quality. I didn't detect any analog artifacts (or at the very least very few). The color is fairly true to the original release as far as I can tell. The sound presented in Dolby Digital 5.Read more ›