Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Northern Pursuit (1943)

Yesterday I happened to catch a bit of NORTHERN PURSUIT (1943) on Turner Classic Movies...which reminded me that it's an Errol Flynn movie which has been in my "to watch" stack for far too long.

The TCM Spotlight Errol Flynn Adventures set thus came off the shelf and I watched the entire film! It's a unique WWII adventure movie directed by Raoul Walsh.

The story is set in the northern reaches of Canada. Flynn plays Steve Wagner, a Mountie. He and his partner Jim (John Ridgely) arrest Hugo (Helmut Dantine), a German officer. Hugo and several other soldiers arrived in Canada by submarine, but an avalanche wiped out most of the group.

Hugo is sent to a Canadian internment camp but escapes along with some other men in order to complete his original mission. Steve, who is of German heritage and speaks the language, has meanwhile worked out with his superiors an elaborate plan to go undercover and infiltrate Hugo's group to learn their plans.

His mission is even more dangerous than expected as the Germans, particularly Hugo and Ernst (Gene Lockhart), don't hesitate to kill anyone who stands in their way. And being suspicious of Steve's true loyalties, they kidnap his fiancee Laura (Julie Bishop) to make sure Steve cooperates.

This is a pretty good adventure yarn with an appealing "Northerner" setting not seen enough in movies. Having a miniature WWII fight take place in that environment was even better, as it was a creative and rather plausible tale. (Well, maybe excepting the crew building a plane in the snowy middle of nowhere...!) Flynn is just right as the heroic Mountie who keeps calm under pressure.

I especially liked the way Flynn's Steve briskly brings Laura up to speed when she unexpectedly appears in the middle of his undercover job, with his offhand tone helping to keep her calm. It's a nice bit. He's also effective in the scenes where the Germans switch plans and he has to quickly work out how to handle the situations.

Gene Lockhart occasionally played creepy villains, and he's certainly effective here, particularly when he realizes he's about to get the same thing he's been dishing out.

Any movie with a supporting cast including Ridgely, Bishop, and Tom Tully is worth seeing in my book. Alec Craig and Monte Blue are also in the cast. Although he's listed in the credits, IMDb indicates Warren Douglas was cut from the film.

Tom Drake, John Forsythe, James Millican, and Robert Hutton are all listed as being in the film, and I completely missed picking them out. I suppose all the men in uniform blurred together! I think I'll put the disc back in tomorrow just to fast-forward through and look at the various soldiers to see if I can find them.

The movie has a good mix of location shooting, done at Sun Valley, Idaho, with soundstage interiors; the soundstage work was quite good and blends well with the real thing. Some of the second unit footage was directed by future feature film director Don Siegel (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS).

NORTHERN PURSUIT was filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox. William Faulkner was among those who worked on the screenplay! The running time is 93 minutes.

The trailer can be seen at the TCM website.

They don't make 'em like this TCM Spotlight DVD set anymore, at least very often. Each feature film in the five-movie set is accompanied by a "Warner Night at the Movies" package consisting of trailers, shorts, a cartoon, and a newsreel. The set is currently an excellent price on Amazon.

Another WWII film set in Canada, 49TH PARALLEL (1941), is on my "to watch" list -- along with more Flynn films!

July 2018 Update: This film is being reissued on DVD this month by the Warner Archive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

SA very satisfying Flynn vehicle, in my opinion, and ideal viewing for a winter evening.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Agreed! It's the perfect movie for a winter night. Glad you enjoyed it too!

Great to hear from you, Colin!

Best wishes,

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Flynn film I haven't seen. Will look out for it.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's a good one! Hope you'll like it too. :)

Best wishes,

12:34 AM  

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