TRAIL BEYOND, THE (director/writer: Robert Bradbury; screenwriter: from the James Oliver Curwood novel “The Wolf Hunters”/Lindsley Parsons; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Charles Hunt; music: Lee Zahler; cast: John Wayne (Rod Drew), Verna Hillie (Felice Newsome), Noah Beery Sr. (George Newsome), Noah Beery Jr. (Wabi), Robert Frazer (Jules LaRocque), Iris Lancaster (Marie LaFleur), Earl Dwire (Henchman Benoit), Eddie Parker (Ryan, the Mountie), James Marcus (Brother of the missing brother); Runtime: 57; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Malvern; Alpha Video; 1934)
“One of the weaker John Wayne B Westerns in the Monogram series.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the weaker John Wayne B Westerns in the Monogram series. It’s let down by Lindsley Parsons’s weak script, the terrible acting by the entire cast and those French-Canadian outlaws with bad accents. It’s based on James Oliver Curwood’s popular novel “The Wolf Hunters.” The father of Bob Steele, Robert Bradbury (“The Star Packer” Lawless Range”/”Westward Ho”), helms by offering plenty of action. On the positive side, there’s Yakima Canutt performing marvelous stunt work doubling for Wayne (in one sequence he rides two horses in succession off of a cliff) and good scenic views of Northern Canada (filmed at an undisclosed California location), but that’s not enough to overcome its sketchy narrative and all its other flaws. It was filmed as a silent in 1926, using the same title. It was later filmed in 1949 by Budd Boetticher and titled The Wolf Hunters.
Rod Drew (John Wayne) is a college grad cowboy, who is asked a favor by his late father’s best friend (James Marcus) to find his long lost brother and his twentysomething niece in the wilds of Canada. On the train ride there Rod meets his Indian half-breed college pal Wabi (Noah Beery Jr.), and helps him escape when he’s accused of killing a card cheater during a poker game. The two are now wanted by the Canadian Mounted Police, and ride off into the wilderness. On the trail they locate the skeleton of the deceased brother he was looking for and a map of a gold mine. They stop off at the Wabinosh House, run by George Newsome (Noah Beery Sr.) and his pretty young single twentysomething daughter Felice Newsome (Verna Hillie), and deposit the map in the trading post’s safe. The clerk, Benoit (Earl Dwire), is in cahoots with a renegade French-Canadian gang of ruthless trapper outlaws, led by Jules LaRocque (Robert Frazer), and informs him about the map. The gang kidnaps Felice to get the combination to the safe so they can steal the map, but things come to head as Rod comes to the rescue. After a few tussles, Rod saves a wounded Mountie (Eddie Parker) from going over the falls in a canoe, locates the gold mine, discovers the long lost niece, captures the outlaw gang and Wabi is freed of the murder charge when the dead cheat survives and names as shooter one of the other players.
Wayne does all these heroics in 57 minutes, giving one pause to think what he could have done with just 15 more minutes.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2007 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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