Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Wild North (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE WILD NORTH (1952) is a colorful, engaging MGM adventure film, available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Stewart Granger plays Jules Vincent, a trapper who returns to town from hunting in the "the wild North" and in short order acquires an adorable kitten and meets a gorgeous Indian singer (Cyd Charisse, dubbed by Ruth Martin).

Against his better judgment, Jules allows Mike Brody (Howard Petrie) to accompany himself and the Indian girl (whose name is never given!) on a canoe trip. Jules and Mike had brawled over the girl the night before, but Jules accepts Mike's apology. In a brief sequence, Mike is last seen paddling the canoe, looking at Jules and the girl with evil intent; next thing you know, the couple arrive at Jules's cabin, minus Mike and looking very nervous. We learn that Jules had shot Mike in self-defense, intending to wing his shoulder to fend him off, but the canoe pitched and Mike was killed.

Jules doesn't trust a jury of city folk and decides to disappear back into the north country for a while, after asking the girl to wait for him. Meanwhile the death is discovered and a Mountie, Constable Pedley (Wendell Corey), is assigned to bring Jules back for trial. But it's a brutal winter, and once Pedley locates Jules it's going to take everything both men have, working together, to stay alive.

I hadn't seen this film in a good decade or more, and I very much enjoyed revisiting it tonight. Granger is at his charming best as the cagey trapper. Over the years stories from costars have surfaced which were less than flattering about the actor, but on screen, he's simply wonderful, with great charisma; the quick progression of his romance with Charisse, much of it conveyed with unspoken understanding, is quite believable and touching.

I love Granger's MGM work of the '50s, which included the superb adventure film KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), the swashbuckling classics SCARAMOUCHE (1952) and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952), and the underrated Western GUN GLORY (1957), to name a few.

Charisse, always a favorite of mine, is lovely and dignified as the Indian woman who makes a home for Jules in his absence. The ongoing story thread about the kitten which she cares for while awaiting his return is a very nice, meaningful touch which makes the film a bit different; the final shot with the cat and Pedley is marvelous.

Corey is excellent as the Mountie. One of the best scenes in the film is when he arrives at Jules's winter cabin to arrest him, then calmly sits down to drink coffee and play checkers, with a break to empty the ammunition from Jules's guns. The mutual respect of two smart men facing multiple problems makes the film quite interesting.

There is some gorgeous location filming which was apparently mostly in Idaho and Wyoming, rather than Canada. There are some soundstage and process shots mixed in but for the most part the movie has a "fresh air" look and feel which adds to its appeal. Robert Surtees filmed the movie in Anscocolor, which looks better here than in some other MGM films of the era.

THE WILD NORTH was directed by Andrew Marton, who had codirected Granger in the previously mentioned KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950); he later worked with him on GREEN FIRE (1954), a film I wish had been better.

The script of this 97-minute film was by Frank Fenton, loosely based on a true story. The supporting cast includes J.M. Kerrigan, Morgan Farley, Ray Teal, and Houseley Stevenson.

The Warner Archive print is excellent. The disc includes a trailer.

Additional Warner Archive reviews coming soon include some interesting Blu-ray releases, including the great ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951), Traveltalks Vol. 2, Jeanette MacDonald's last film, and more Monogram Westerns.

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 Maricatrin said...

I greatly enjoyed this one too! The wolf attack was especially memorable, as was the unexpected aftermath. The admiring adversaries angle has been used before and since, but they still kept you guessing as to how it would end here. Excellent work by Granger and Corey as the two leads... and I also liked the kitten;-) Frank Fenton did the screenplay on several other favorites, including STATION WEST, GARDEN OF EVIL, and DANGEROUS DAYS OF KIOWA JONES.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Great to know you enjoyed this one also. Quite an entertaining film, hope others will give it a try.

Good to be reminded of Fenton's other contributions. STATION WEST is a real favorite of mine.

Best wishes,

8:12 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Re Stewart Granger. I was not a friend of his, but twice had lengthy conversation with him. He was bright, amusing, and in his own way, loveable.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Love hearing a positive anecdote about Granger since he's someone I enjoy so much on screen! Thanks much.

Best wishes,

9:33 AM  

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