Friday, June 09, 2017


A handsome French-Canadian trapper named Pierre (John Carroll) is riding through the woods, singing a merry tune about Saskatchewan, when he runs into his Indian pal Crying Loon who is trying unsuccessfully to hide his drunken state. Pierre heads into town to give a thrashing to Clerou (Sheldon Leonard), the trader who gave the Indian booze in exchange for his horse—it's illegal to sell the natives alcohol. The destructive fistfight is the last straw for the sheriff who orders Pierre to leave the district, but Pierre promises to shape up, claiming that he's getting married to Daisy (Ruth Hussey), a barmaid with whom he's had a longtime dalliance. Daisy is getting married, but, as her kid brother Val explains, the groom is Durkin (Bruce Cabot), a guide for the Mounties—we know all we need to know about Durkin's standing when we find out that Clerou, the shifty trader, is his best man. As the wedding is about to begin, an Indian woman and her children appear at the door, and she is revealed as Durkin's wife. Though Durkin claims he's being framed (by Pierre, he assumes), Daisy calls off the wedding and clearly Durkin has it in for Pierre. Later, Val gets in an altercation with Clerou who pulls a gun. They scuffle, the gun goes off, Clerou drops dead, and Val is arrested. A lawyer (Reginald Owen) is called in to prove Val's claim of self-defense, but he's constantly drunk, so Pierre and Daisy pull off a scheme to sneak Val out of jail. More complications occur, leading to a confrontation by the river between an unarmed Pierre and an armed and angry Durkin. Someone hiding behind a tree shoots and kills Durkin, but Pierre is arrested for his murder. Can our carefree trapper wriggle out of yet another predicament?

This MGM B-film is the kind of thing I typically enjoy: short running time, good production values, and a cast of familiar character actors including a very handsome lead actor. I'm not sure what went wrong here, but the 57-minute running time drags, despite lots of action and incident. Maybe there's too much plot crammed in, with not much done concerning backstory, and some loose ends left hanging. We have to take it as a given that Pierre and Daisy had any kind of relationship; Durkin and Daisy have no chemistry whatsoever; the brother Val vanishes from the story as soon as he is sprung from jail; I never did quite understand why the visiting Celia (Evelyn Ankers) and her father (Henry Travers) were there except to provide a minor plot point late in the game. The drunken Indian character—as written and as acted—is a disgrace, though he is important to the climax. So what did I like about this? Well, I'll watch almost anything with B-leading man John Carroll (pictured with Sheldon Leonard), and despite the forced accents, he gives a solid, energetic performance. Phil Brown, who plays Val, found fame late in his career playing Uncle Owen in the first Star Wars film. Hussey and Leonard are enjoyable. And I like the fact that, under the strict morals of the Production Code, Durkin's killer gets away scot-free. [TCM]

No comments: