What a fantastic picture.
The plot is a fusion of a few different themes, one particularly Mountie oriented, and a couple familiar from many a lovely classic western...in this case I'm thinking back to the spotless and inarguably wonderful 1954 Audie Murphy western, DESTRY. It begins with two young boys, Frank "Blackie" Marshall, and James "Jim" Gardiner; good pals across the board (like brothers, in their own words), but in nature and temperament entirely different. Blackie is the wild one. The defiant one. Jim is calm and measured.
It begins with an arrow embedded into a tree, transfixing a notice about illegal whiskey. There are many empty liquor bottles on the ground...the boys suspect them to have been left by a group of "drunken Indians" (which is, in spite of a bit of soft racism here, a very real and tragic problem, even to this day). A very short time later they find this to be a prophetic observation; when they arrive at their homestead, they see that those same Indians have raided the houses, have killed their parents, and have set things ablaze.
Their lives will never be the same.
They are taken in by a kind Mountie Sergeant named Duncan Frazier (played with a calmly paternal grace by Jack Holt, star of one of my favourite serials, HOLT OF THE SECRET SERVICE). Skip ahead to adulthood, and Blackie (played charismatically by James Craig) and Jim (given a cheerfully confident vibe by William Lundigan) have followed their natural inclinations in very likely fashion. Blackie has become a bit of a dapper cardsharp with an eye for the ladies and the main chance, and Jim has become the very pride of the Royal Canadian Mounted police (at that time called the Northwest Mounted Police). As adults in a very real world, those natures are set to collide, and they do...in spectacular fashion.
Toss in the luminescent Patricia Dane as sparky and intelligent love triangle fodder, with John Carradine as an evil-yet-charming owner of a gambler's saloon, and a great spot for Keenan Wynn for good measure, and you have the stuff that makes for a supremely fulfilling movie watching session!
NORTHWEST RANGERS, as you may guess, is a rollickin' good time, and in that spirit I highly recommend it. As I mentioned, James Craig, who I've reviewed previously in FORT VENGEANCE (HERE), is really one of my 'watch pocket' actors these days; guys that aren't really famous but should be, that I keep in a special little category of personal favourites. Although it's really Craig's movie, William Lundigan is also quite good, and he brings across the feeling of those Mountie ideals that I admire so much. The direction, typically tight in true Mountie picture fashion, is well done by Joe Newman, director of the amazing 1952 Tyrone Power Mountie film PONY SOLDIER and THE BRUTAL 1958 Joel McCrea western FORT MASSACRE, and the script is the same, written by Gordon Kahn and David Lang, from a story by Arthur Caesar.
This is about as good a film that one could pick for a Canada Blogathon, as it makes me want to go north and breathe the fresh air and hike a mountain! I'd like to again thank Kristina Dijan of SPEAKEASY for the opportunity to see this great Mountie film.
This is a part of the 2016 O' CANADA blogathon, put on by SPEAKEASY and SILVER SCREENINGS! I'm happy to have the opportunity to join in on the fun once again. Please go visit their pages HERE and HERE to give love to Canadian and Canadian-themed movies!