Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. --Voltaire
September Dawn may or may not be well-intentioned; it's a lot easier to state that it's not well-made. Directed by Christopher Cain, September Dawn tells the story of an 1857 massacre where a group of settlers en route to California were attacked and slaughtered in Utah by a group of local Mormon residents. It also includes a Romeo-and-Juliet love story -- and yes, I'm taking that cliche phrase directly from the press notes -- between the young pioneer Emily (Tamara Hope) and Jonathan (Trent Ford), the eldest son of the local Mormon bishop (Jon Voight, sporting the requisite evil goatee). At first, the Mormon community offers the pioneers land and supplies so they can rest for two weeks before moving on; in time, though, inflamed by the words of Brigham Young (Terence Stamp, with an equally ominous set of whiskers) and paranoid concern that the settlers may be planning to strike out at them, Voight's followers decide to save the damned souls of the Christian group -- by cutting them down so they can sin no more.
September Dawn's been the focus of some controversy -- not because it's invented the climactic bloodletting; the events of that day, now known as the "Meadows Massacre," are a matter of historical fact. The controversy around September Dawn comes from its assertion that Young, the supreme leader of the Mormon church at the time, knew about the massacre before it happened and explicitly approved of it. The central question September Dawn wants to answer is simple: What did Brigham Young know, and when did he know it?