SASKATCHEWAN (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriter: from a story by Gil Doud/Gil Doud; cinematographer: John Seitz; editor: Frank Gross; music: ; cast: Alan Ladd (Thomas O’Rourke), Shelley Winters (Grace Markey), Robert Douglas (Benton), J. Carrol Naish (Batouche), Hugh O’Brian (Carl Smith), Jay Silverheels (Cajou), George Lewis (Lawson), Antonio Moreno (Chief Dark Cloud), Richard Long (Patrick J. Scanlon), Lowell Gilmore (Superintendent Banks of Fort Walsh); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal International Pictures; 1954)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Raoul Walsh (“High Sierra”/”Klondike Annie”/”The Bowery”) directs this lushly photographed Western story about Indians in battle with Canada’s Mounted Police, in his usual vigorous manly style. It’s based on a story byGil Doud. The pic is fine as spectacle (beautifully photographed on location near Banff) and has good action scenes, but the weak story leaves a lot to be desired.
In Canada’s Saskatchewan River country, in the spring of 1877, Mountie Thomas O’Rourke (Alan Ladd), an orphan reared by the Cree chief Dark Cloud (Antonio Moreno), and Cajou (Jay Silverheels), his Cree Indian friend and son of the chief, are returning home from hunting all winter when they come upon a burned out wagon train and a sole survivor, feisty saloon girl from Montana, Grace Markey (Shelley Winters). She says their party of five was wiped out by an Indian raiding party, but she was not spotted by the Indians because she hid under the covers.
The taciturn O’Rourke takes her to his outpost, where he learns from French Canadian scout Batouche (J. Carrol Naish) that some of Chief Crazy Horse’s American Sioux have crossed the border into Canada after massacring General Custer at Little Bighorn. The fort’s new commander is a greenhorn from England named Benton (Robert Douglas), who antagonizes the Crees by collecting their weapons and foolishly ignores O’Rourke even when warned by him that the peaceful Cree will be forced to ally with the Sioux and make war if they have no weapons to hunt for food.
In the meantime a belligerent marshal from Montana, Carl Smith (Hugh O’Brian), arrives to take back for trial Gloria for killing his brother. When Benton receives orders to close the fort and transfer all troops and ammunition to reinforce Fort Walsh on the Canadian-American border, the marshal rides accompanies them with his prisoner. Things turn ugly when the ignorant marshal shoots in the back a Cree who stole his rifle so he could hunt. The Mounties are attacked on the main road by a small band of Sioux, and are able to repel them. But when Benton decides to continue on to Fort Walsh by the visible main road, O’Rourke rebels and is put under arrest by Benton. The Mounties side with O’Rourke, who takes them the long way through the woods. Benton promises that all the Mounties will be subject to a court-martial if they reach Fort Walsh.
It’s up to O’Rourke to save the men and ammunition from both the Indians and the stupidity of his superiors, get them safely to Fort Walsh, prevent the Cree from uniting with the Sioux, stop the creepy marshal from hitting on the innocent Gloria and teach the naive Benton how to be a soldier in the Northwest Canadian wilderness. O’Rourke is up for the task, and in the end wins the hand of the fair maiden.
REVIEWED ON 9/27/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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