Sunday, April 19, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Canyon Passage (1946) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The superb Western CANYON PASSAGE (1946) is now available on Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber.

In the years since my first viewing close to two decades ago, this film directed by Jacques Tourneur has become one of my favorite Westerns -- indeed, one of my favorite movies, regardless of genre. It's a richly detailed, complex film which offers new rewards and insights on each viewing, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The movie tells the story of a frontier community in 1850s Oregon, including Logan (Dana Andrews), a merchant who also runs a pack mule delivery service, and his best friend George (Brian Donlevy), who has a gambling addiction and is engaged to Lucy (Susan Hayward).

Logan and Lucy seem to have an attraction, but Lucy remains loyal to George, while Logan proposes to a recently orphaned English girl, Caroline (Patricia Roc).

The wider community is populated by a marvelous group of actors including Ward Bond (truly scary in this one), Lloyd Bridges, Andy Devine, Dorothy Peterson, Fay Holden, Virginia Patton, Stanley Andrews, Frank Ferguson, Halliwell Hobbes, and more. Wandering amongst the community members singing songs like the Oscar-nominated "Ol' Buttermilk Sky" is Hi Linnet (Hoagy Carmichael).

I've previously written about the film at considerable length in both 2013 and 2019, so rather than restate many of the same points I'd like to direct readers to those posts for more extensive thoughts on the movie.

I think it's worth emphasizing here, however, how I gain something new on each viewing, which makes adding this particular Blu-ray to a classic film fan's library such a joy. Last time around, as I wrote for Classic Movie Hub, I really keyed in on how much George (Donlevy) exists "outside" the local community. He lives there, but he's not really part of things, other than his close relationships with Logan and Lucy.

This time I felt I gained new insights into the character of Caroline (Roc), who on first or second viewing seems to be a bit of a timid English rose; that impression might have been initially reinforced by the way she wanders lost in the forest after a lethal Indian attack.

On this viewing I was completely struck by a sequence early in the film which I almost didn't remember, in which Caroline leaves the Dances (Devine and Peterson) to help a neighbor deliver a baby. When Mrs. Dance asks if she should send for the doctor, Caroline laughingly says that it's "just a baby" and she can handle it, and she confidently heads out to serve as midwife.

Though an unmarried young woman, Caroline plainly has a great deal of life experience and has more nerve than I initially credited to her, singlehandedly delivering a baby at an isolated cabin -- a point which is underscored by her desire to remain in Oregon and have a farm after her father was killed, despite the ongoing dangers.

Though the film is only 92 minutes long, it's as meaty as a good novel, managing to give its many characters depth and distinctive personalities, in turn causing the viewer to reflect more deeply on them with each successive viewing. Simply put, it's a superb film which deserves to be revisited regularly.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray shows off the Technicolor cinematography of Edward Cronjager in fine fashion; surely the wonderful location shots filmed in Oregon never looked better. I also really noticed so many interesting details in the houses this time around, perhaps aided by the crisp-Blu-ray picture.

The disc includes the movie's trailer, an additional trailer gallery for four films also available from Kino Lorber, and a fact-filled commentary track by Toby Roan.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Excellent. I don't see how anyone could pass up the chance to see this film after reading your review. I particularly enjoyed your description of "meaty." It truly is a movie to lose yourself in as you would an engrossing novel. (Plus Ol' Buttermilk Sky.)

5:21 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This is certainly a wonderful Western. I'm glad you're focusing on Caroline who's actually my favorite character in the movie. I like her much better than Susan Hayward's character. Hayward is an actress I can take or leave, I don't dislike her but I wasn't wild about her Lucy.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Margot!

I like Hayward's self-possessed Lucy a great deal, and it's fascinating figuring out her relationships with George and Logan, but I think perhaps I'm most interested in Carolin as well. This film always leaves me wishing I could know even more about the characters, and I think Caroline is the one I would really appreciate seeing at greater length. Her story with Vane (Victor Cutler) is so interesting; for instance, I love the way she turns to him when she's found in the forest. It's beautifully depicted but like most of the movie is told in an "elliptical" style...we only see bits and pieces of each character's life. They could have made an entire film about Caroline and it would have been a great story.

Best wishes,

7:18 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Something different from me on this film: Is there a significant improvement on the video and audio presentation/

7:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, when Ol' Buttermilk Sky plays as the movie comes to a close, my eyes mist!

Thank you so much for the kind words, I hope others will be inspired to watch this beautiful movie.

Best wishes,

9:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, it's been a few years since I watched this on DVD -- my last viewing was on 35mm -- and that DVD was borrowed so I couldn't do a comparison. I can say that I thought the Blu-ray was gorgeous!

For added info, I'd note that Glenn Erickson only classes the picture and sound as "Good/Very Good," while saying the Blu-ray is an improvement on the DVD and VHS (which was the first way I saw the film - I've now seen it in four different formats!). He does also say he was "more than satisfied" with the Blu-ray. I was quite delighted with it.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,

10:07 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Thank you, Laura. I have now officially ordered the Blu-ray.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

Look at that cast! You've persuaded me--I've added this to my ClassicFlix queue. Too bad they only have the DVD.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to have helped, Barrylane. I hope you'll find the Blu-ray worthwhile! I'd be interested in your feedback.

Seth, I'd love to know what you think when you get the chance to see it.

Best wishes,

11:08 PM  

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