(director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: James Oliver Curwood (novel)/Bertram Millhauser; cinematographer: Arthur L. Todd; editor: Clarence Kolster; cast: Dennis Morgan (John Keith/Sergeant Derry Conniston), Victor Jory (Norman Talbot), James Stephenson (Inspector McDowell), George Tobias (Andy Dijon), Elizabeth Earl (Linda Conniston), Steffi Duna (Cheeta), Edward Pawley (Frank Crandall), John Ridgely (Constable Jeffers), Frank Wilcox (Constable Kentish), David Bruce (Balt); Runtime: 69; Warner Brothers; 1940)

“A very conventional thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fair remake of the 1920 and 1930 versions of this film. A pleasant action adventure story about a convicted murderer who escapes to prove that he was framed. He assumes the identity of the Mountie who pursues him. It is set in the rugged wilderness of Alberta, Canada.

It’s 14 months after John Keith (Dennis Morgan) escaped from the court house after sentenced to hang for the murder of Roger Cass. Sergeant Conniston (Morgan) has been asked by Inspector McDowell (Stephenson) to track the fugitive down and he finally locates him in the remote wilderness of Canada, but the severe winter weather takes its toll and he’s dying. Keith tries to nurse him back to health and when the two get to talking, Conniston is convinced that Keith is no murderer. Since the two men look almost alike, Keith takes on the identity of the dead Conniston just when Constables Jeffers and Kentish arrive.

Back in town Keith contacts his best friend Andy Dijon (Tobias) and they plan to find the real murderer. They believe he is Norman Talbot (Jory), who was partners with Cass in a gold mining business. Keith got framed for the murder when he came to collect the money Cass owed him and found him already dead. Talbot lied on the witness stand saying that Keith threatened him, and he was convicted on just that testimony. Keith believes the cause of the murder was because the partners had a falling out over money.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Hearing that her brother is safe, Linda returns to stay with him. She hasn’t seen him for 6 years and fails to notice that he is not her brother. She is one dull-witted chick! To make matters worst, the attractive girl whom Keith is smitten with falls for Talbot and plans to marry him. That’s too much for Keith and he tells her that he’s not her brother and that Talbot is a murderer. But she runs to Inspector McDowell and he arrests Keith. But Andy comes through and beats a confession out of Frank Crandall (that’s getting info the old-fashioned way!), who provided the false alibi that Talbot was in the barber shop at the time of the murder. Crandall also implicates Balt as being Talbot’s accomplice. McDowell thereby releases Keith, who tracks down Talbot as he is running away by buggy to marry Linda. The climax results in a fist fight in the buggy, as Keith overcomes the criminal and brings him to justice.

A very conventional thriller.

Elizabeth Inglis, Dennis Morgan, and George Tobias in River's End (1940)