Northern Pursuit (1943)


(director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: A. I. Bezzerides/from an original story by Leslie T. White; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Errol Flynn (Steve Wagner), Julie Bishop (Laura McBain), Helmut Dantine (Hugo von Keller), John Ridgely (Jim Austen), Gene Lockhart (Ernst), Tom Tully (Inspector Barnett), Bernard Nedell (Dagor), Alec Craig (Angus McBain), Alice (Rose Higgins); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Chertok; Warner Bros.; 1943)

“Beautifully staged over the snow-covered fields of northern Canada.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Raoul Walsh (“Uncertain Glory”/”Objective, Burma!”/”Desperate Journey”) is in his elements helming this wartime thriller set in frigid Manitoba, Canada, in 1941. It’s based on an original story by Leslie T. White and written by A. I. Bezzerides. Errol Flynn was just involved in a real-life rape trial, which resulted in lots of free publicity and gave this outdoor adventure pic a box office boost. The Nazi spy chase film was beautifully staged over the snow-covered fields of northern Canada, which made this viewer snow-blind as to how stilted were the dramatics. Except for Errol’s far-fetched heroics being a bit much, the rest of the story was a bearable good vs. evil one.

A German submarine drops off a few Nazi aviators near Hudson Bay in Canada for a mysterious assignment in Canada. They are met by two other men with dog teams and head north. An avalanche kills everyone except for their fanatical leader, Colonel Hugo von Keller (Helmut Dantine). He’s captured in his cabin by mounties Jim Austen (John Ridgely) and Steve Wagner (Errol Flynn). While Jim reports the arrest to their base commander, Inspector Barnett (Tom Tully), Steve tries to use his German heritage to advantage to see if he can pump the exhausted colonel about his plans. The inspector is suspicious of Steve because of his German background, and has the officer immediately picked-up. Hugo is sent to an internment camp, but he soon escapes through the help of outsiders with several other German prisoners. On the night Steve is to marry Laura McBain (Julie Bishop), he’s called in for questioning by Barnett and later charged with being disloyal. It’s really only a ruse so Steve can infiltrate the Nazi spy ring and discover what they are up to. Steve is bailed out of jail by a slimy Nazi agent named Ernst Willis (Gene Lockhart), who offers him a job guiding him to the north country. On the train north, Steve’s accomplice is spotted by Ernst and killed. The two then jump off the train and meet up with the escaped Germans at an Indian cabin. Ernst never trusted Steve, and tricked Laura into coming by sled alone to the cabin. There she’s held hostage and Steve is forced to take these baddies further north to a secret destination–a mine shaft where secretly bomber parts were stored in crates before the war. There the Nazis assemble the bomber, and tell Steve they plan to bomb a key waterway that will cut off a main route for the shipment of supplies. It’s up to Steve to save the day.