Friday, September 04, 2015

Brief Thoughts - SASKATCHEWAN (1954)

I'm a fan of movies about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for reasons that don't bear scrutiny. So, when the chance to see one of the examples of this sub-genre of western appears I generally grab the opportunity and that is how I recently caught the Alan Ladd film SASKATCHEWAN (1954). I'd love to report that it's a great little adventure film with lots to offer the casual fan but unfortunately its only an OK film with some interest for cinefiles and fans of films featuring the RCMP. The movie is better known under the title 'O'Rourkeof the Royal Mounted' according to the IMDb and that would be a better, more descriptive name for this tale.

This may be sacrilegious among film nuts to admit but I've never been very much a fan of Alan Ladd. I've liked him in a few roles (THIS GUN FOR HIRE, SHANE) but most of the time he seems out of his element or bored with the entire affair. Here he seems to at least be a willing participant but I still found myself wishing he would try to emote just a little bit more. Too often the connection we are supposed to feel to the character he's playing is muted because he isn't giving the dialog enough depth or power. The rest of the cast is pretty good with J. Carroll Naish as a trapper giving us a nice French-Canadian accent and Shelly Winters doing a very good job as the eventually romantic interest. The story is nothing new or fresh but the action is well staged and the film's pace is swift enough to please western fans looking for something a little different. One of the best things about the movie is the fantastic location shooting in Alberta's Banff National Park. The near constant shots of the gorgeous landscape with its trees, creeks and mountains make me long for a Hi-Def version of the picture. I watched this from a broadcast on Encore's Western channel and I'm glad they showed it but their print of it is only in standard definition. This is a movie that would benefit from a high end digital restoration that could turn it into more of the spectacle that I'm sure the producers originally intended. The colors are certainly there even in this presentation and I get chills thinking about how amazing the sights in this movie would look in 1080p. 

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