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Sunday, March 13, 2011

North West Mounted Police (1940)

Set in the 1880s during the Saskatchewan rebellion when the Metis (French-Indian) people rebelled against the dominance of Great Britain, a Texas ranger (Gary Cooper) comes to Canada to bring back a man (George Bancroft), active in the rebellion, who is wanted for murder in Texas. But the Canadian North West Mounted Police want Bancroft, too. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille, this vivid Technicolor adventure is overlong and DeMille's stodgy direction in addition to his slow pacing make the film a chore to sit through rather than an exciting outdoor adventure. The irony is that the film's sluggish pacing won an Oscar for film editing! DeMille appears to want to make an epic but the plot doesn't lend itself to it and the comic relief provided by Akim Tamiroff and Lynne Overman is unnecessary since it slows down the action. Cooper is at his most charmless here and the lovely Madeleine Carroll (THE 39 STEPS) makes for a wan heroine. Paulette Goddard as a fiery "half breed" is much more enticing but her acting is so bad that it dilutes whatever appeal she may have had. Robert Preston as Goddard's love interest and Preston Foster as Cooper's romantic rival come across much better though, to be fair, they have the more interesting roles. In fact, if it weren't for the gorgeous three strip Technicolor, it would be most tedious indeed. With Robert Ryan, Richard Denning, Regis Toomey, Rod Cameron and Lon Chaney Jr.

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