Monday, December 01, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Back to God's Country (1953)

BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY is pleasant '50s Universal comfort viewing, a "Northerner" starring Rock Hudson as a brave sea captain and Marcia Henderson as his plucky wife.

Hudson and Henderson play Peter and Dolores Keith, who live aboard Peter's ship, which needs to leave the far north Canadian coast for the U.S. before it's frozen in for the winter.

Evil Paul Blake (Steve Cochran), who wants everything of Peter's -- including Dolores -- instigates several different plots to keep Dolores from leaving town and hopefully kill off Peter while he's at it.

The action includes Peter and his righthand man Shorter (Chubby Johnson) sent off on a wild errand by dog sled, while Dolores must fend off Paul's advances; later Peter makes another dangerous dog sled journey with Dolores, seeking medical help for a busted leg.

Midway through the film there's a humdinger of a brawl between Peter and Paul, and there's also a valiant dog who protects Dolores and Peter when they need it most.

The film was based on a story by James Oliver Curwood which was previously filmed in 1919 and 1927. It has somewhat of an old-fashioned feel, but it's pleasing, especially as it's somewhat unique for the romantic leads of an action film like this to be a married couple.

Location filming took place in Colorado and Idaho, although there's also a great deal of snowy soundstage action. It would have been great to have more "fresh air" scenes in the wilderness but the film's half-real, half-fake look is par for the course for many films of that era.

This was a very busy time in Hudson's growing career, and he's very appealing as the sea captain, while Cochran is so wicked the viewer almost wants to hiss him like the villain in an old-school melodrama.

Marcia Henderson starred that same year in Anthony Mann's THUNDER BAY (1953) and Douglas Sirk's ALL I DESIRE (1953). She also later starred in a George Montgomery Western I really liked, CANYON RIVER (1956). Henderson does a good job as a courageous young woman who deals with the bad guys with only a small gun and a large dog for help, and she later takes charge of getting her husband medical help despite the dangers involved.

The supporting cast includes Hugh O'Brian as a man who is both henchman and enemy to Cochran. Arthur Space and Tudor Owen round out the cast.

BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY was directed by Joseph Pevney and filmed in Technicolor by Maury Gertsman. The score was by Frank Skinner. The movie runs 78 minutes.

BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY is available in a nice print from the Universal Vault Collection.

It's available for rental from ClassicFlix.


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