Silver Screenings and Speakeasy. There have already been many wonderful contributions about Canadian filmmakers and films set in Canada. Please check the Day 1 Roundup for links to explore and continue to check in as the blogathon continues!
PONY SOLDIER is a great exemplar of what is sometimes called a "Northerner" -- in other words, a Canadian Western! It's a satisfying film with Tyrone Power starring as a brave red-coated Mountie who single-handedly brokers peace with the Cree Indians.
Power plays Constable Duncan MacDonald, a relative newcomer to the Mounties whose superior (Howard Petrie) sends him to investigate the kidnapping of a white woman (Penny Edwards) and man (Robert Horton) by the Cree, who have left their reservation and also tangled with some U.S. soldiers. The footage of the battle with the Army was lifted from the 1944 film BUFFALO BILL, according to the Blu-ray liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
Standing in the way of peace is another Cree chief, Konah (Cameron Mitchell), who hates all white men and wants to give the imprisoned woman to his brother as his wife.
Power's screen presence and a solid story keep this 82-minute movie interesting despite its fairly limited scope. Gomez offers lively support, and his presence is missed in the movie's final section. Mitchell is quite believable as the embittered chief. Adeline de Walt Reynolds, who began her film career a decade earlier, when she was nearly 80, does a fine job in a small role as a respected elder of the tribe.
Penny Edwards, the heroine of many a "B" Western, such as Roy Rogers' TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (1950), is not much more than a placeholder here, the object of negotiations but not really a developed character. Likewise, Robert Horton, playing a jailbreaker who went from the frying pan into the fire as a prisoner of the Cree, serves to move the story forward at a key moment, but that's about it.
Production values are solid, including Technicolor photography by Harry Jackson and a stirring score by Alex North; the opening credits theme music is particularly fine. The PONY SOLDIER screenplay by John C. Higgins was from a story by Garnett Weston.
A decade earlier director Joseph M. Newman had directed another "Mountie" film, a "B" picture titled NORTHWEST RANGERS (1942) with William Lundigan as the Mountie. Newman's other Westerns included Joel McCrea in THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY (1959).
Unfortunately, despite the subject matter, PONY SOLDIER was not actually filmed in Canada! It was shot in California's Red Rock Canyon and in Sedona, Arizona.
Despite the lack of Canadian locations, the movie is a stirring tribute to the honor and bravery of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When the film was shown in UK, it was titled MACDONALD OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTIES.
PONY SOLDIER is not on standard DVD. It is available on a limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time. The film can be played with an isolated music track.
PONY SOLDIER is also available on VHS.