John Ericson (BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK) plays Lt. Niles Ord, who serves with the U.S. Cavalry in 1870s Oregon.
Niles grew up among Oregon Indian tribes and knows them well. Niles is immediately in conflict with his new commanding officer (Edward Platt), a by-the-book know-it-all who's also a jealous man whose wife (Lola Albright) knew Niles years ago.
Niles has rescued Little Deer (Toni Gerry), who was kidnapped to be the bride of Black Eagle (H.M. Wynant), and all-out war between the Indians and Cavalry ensues.
OREGON PASSAGE is well staged, with colorful location shooting in Deschutes National Forest. Ericson's cavalry officer is someone worth rooting for, and the film's sympathetic treatment of some Indian characters, including Little Deer and Niles's best friend Nato (Paul Fierro) is a nice change of pace.
To be sure, OREGON PASSAGE is far from a perfect Western. It's all been done before, and the martinet commanding officer and his unhappy wife are particularly cliched characters. The script by Jack DeWitt could have done a lot more to develop the stories and characters, as he had quite a large cast and a number of relationships which could have been more deeply developed, but it's all pretty by-the-numbers.
At times it's also a little more brutally violent than I care for, though not to such an extent that I didn't enjoy the film.
All that said, one of the things I enjoy about Westerns is seeing the different ways tried-and-true stories play out, and OREGON PASSAGE has enough going for it to at least be worth a look for Western fans. I found it entertaining despite its shortcomings. The movie runs a well-paced 80 minutes.
The supporting cast includes Judith Ames (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE), who as Rachel Ames was a longtime star of GENERAL HOSPITAL. Her parents were character actors Byron Foulger and Dorothy Adams.
Jon Sheppod, Walter Barnes, and Harvey Stephens also star.
OREGON PASSAGE was directed by Paul Landres and filmed by Ellis Carter.
The widescreen Warner Archive DVD of OREGON PASSAGE is of variable visual quality; at times it's quite an attractive print and in other scenes the color is faded or tinged with green. There are no extras.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.