Jump forward thirty years.
As the DVD revolution began, I started having access to so much great stuff. I gorged (am gorging) on all those things that pre-internet living had deprived us middle-modern generations of; serials, b-reel movies, radio shows, and other such delights. Now, even in my own collection, I find it difficult to catch up. I sometimes even have a fear of "passing on" before I see the choicest bits! A good position to be in, to be sure. It was in this atmosphere that I started to see Rinty films, and even a serial (THE LIGHTNING WARRIOR is, as the kids say, amazing). I pat my inner child on the head fondly as I watch them, knowing that I'm resolving deeply held wants developed when I was quite wee.
A few years ago, on yet another Mountie movie tear, I found the perfectly charming sixty-minute b-reel CARYL OF THE MOUNTAINS, from 1936. It was a perfect storm, from a Phantom Empires perspective! Mounties and Rin-Tin-Tin? Hot dog! Better than a million dollars, Mr. Potter! I nabbed it, and home I went, thinking that I'd pop it on my telly, kick back with a Coke and a snack, and enjoy.
Well, I didn't.
I got back to my place and put it on my DVD shelf...you know the one with sixty-six Mountie movies on it? Yep, that's the one. I had panicked in an irrational way; something about 'if I watch the only Rinty movie with Mounties, there may be no more!". So dumb. Well, long story short, I did watch it, and I loved it. Of course, I love Mountie stuff to begin with (one of my many cinematic, audio and literary paraphilias), and I'm also predisposed to love Rin-Tin-Tin stuff, but this really was especially enjoyable.
Apparently based on a story by James Oliver Curwood (the godfather of Mountie fiction), CARYL OF THE MOUNTAINS is a nice little romp through territory warmly familiar to fans of b-reel pictures. Produced and directed by Bernard B. Ray (who did so for a huge number of other Rinty features and serials), it stars the luverly Lois Wilde as the titular Caryl (who I know from the excellent Kermit Maynard Mountie movie WILDCAT TROOPER ALSO FROM 1936, as well as the Ray "Crash" Corrigan classic, UNDERSEA KINGDOM), and our rugged central Mountie figure is well-played by the uniquely-named Francis X. Bushman Jr.. The canine hero here is not the original Rinty (if there ever was a single Rin-Tin-Tin...I'll have to research that), but Rin-Tin-Tin Junior, as himself.
Caryl Foray works at an investment firm, and as we start the picture, she's pocketing a large envelope. She sneaks out of the office, goes to the street, and mails it...but not before her boss, Enos Colvin (yes, Enos) sees her do it. He goes to the pad on the desk, and using a mirror, manages to read the address that she wrote on the envelope. Jump ahead to Canada, where Caryl's French Canadian uncle (and owner of Rinty Jr.) receives the letter, with a wad of securities inside and a note telling him to keep them safe. That seals his fate. Caryl's employer makes his way up to uncle's cabin, and in a struggle over the location of the securities, shoots the uncle dead. He then shoots Rinty Jr., and leaves the cabin without the papers. Enter Caryl's fiance', Sergeant Brad Sheridan, a big lug of a Mountie played by the cheerful-but-serious Bushman. She's in quite a fix. Without the proof of the securities (which are hidden in uncle's shack), Caryl is on the hook for the crime. She takes off before duty forces Brad to bring her in, which makes her a fugitive...and in spite of the saying that the Mounties "always get their man", it certainly applies to women, too!
It was great fun all around. Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. is a well trained critter and full of eagerness, and they really manage to pull off some really nice action for him. Francis X. Bushman Jr. is a touch more big and lunk-ish than the usual film Mountie, which I thought was a pleasant change, especially standing next to the relatively tiny and mobile Lois Wilde. I enjoyed his performance a lot. Another thing that I liked was how dark the storyline was; the uncle dies, the dog gets shot, the gal is threatened by prison, etc....the fun of it didn't stand in the way of some good hardcore plot stuff. They packed quite a load of good story into a mere sixty-minute film, but it didn't seem rushed, and none of the plot points were shorted in any way. It was a brisk little Mountie tale!
This picture exemplifies everything that I love about these movies. It's packed with justice, goodness, excitement and fun. These qualities are often, in this jaded, post-modernist world, looked on as archaic, or at best, quaint, but to me they uplift my insides and make me feel good about life. That's why I like the films of the 1930's, and I believe that's why the 1930's liked the Mountie genre.
Rinty is pretty damn cool too!