Monday, September 07, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Oregon Passage (1957) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

OREGON PASSAGE (1957) is a moderately enjoyable Allied Artists Western available from the Warner Archive.

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.


Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,

I have been looking forward to your review of this film.
I really think that you have nailed the film's strengths and weaknesses.
Also agree about the picture quality,but when it's good it's pretty darn good....
and I loved those gorgeous locations and Ellis Carter's super photography.
I like the film better than you did and I knew that you would have issues
with some of the violence.
I am sort of biased as I am a great admirer of director Paul Landres,and this film
although a programmer does have a higher budget than most of his films.
The main weakness of the film are the female characters;Lola Albright's man hungry
wife of the cavalry officer and Toni Gerri's "eye candy" Indian maiden.
You have,of course already touched on these aspects.
It's still for me a powerful film,both complex and ironic,a wonderful scene where
Ericson cannot bring himself to kill his sworn enemy while he is praying.
Our friend Blake Lucas and myself have recently engaged in an on-line discussion
about how "unpleasant" (Blakes well chosen word) we both find ARROWHEAD a Western
that has divided opinion over the years.
Funnily enough the climatic fight in OREGON PASSAGE is very similar to the one in
ARROWHEAD between Charlton Heston and Jack Palance.
The fight in OREGON PASSAGE is very brutal although the film is far more sympathetic
to Native Americans.
I hazard a guess that Blake will share my regard for OREGON PASSAGE and our friend
Colin's opinion will fall mid way between mine and Laura's.
The point I am trying to make is we all come from different directions on the
films that we love and I'm so glad that you chose to highlight this little known
but interesting Western.

3:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John!

Thanks so much for your feedback on the movie! I haven't seen a great deal of Landres' work, other than MAVERICK episodes. I would really enjoy hearing what Blake, Colin, and the rest of the "Westerns gang" think of this film -- it's always interesting, as you point out, to see what each person brings to a film and then takes away from it.

The location photography was so attractive, it's a shame the print was uneven.

Even when a film isn't a 100% success, I'm so glad the Archive has brought these films out of relative obscurity and made them available for us to check out for ourselves.

Best wishes,

8:50 PM  

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