Thursday, May 14, 2015

movie; Northwest Passage

Growing up, more than once my mother mentioned the classic movie, Northwest Passage. At some point I finally did see it via broadcast television. I had it on VHS tape at one point. It was one of the movies I waited forever to come to DVD. It was finally released via the Warner Archive. The Archive features no-frills transfers of older, less-than-big-hits. The films aren't cleaned up, feature no or very little bonus material.

The movie follows the exploits of Rogers' Rangers during the French & Indian War. Specifically, it focuses on the Saint Francis Raid - an expedition deep into hostile French and Abenaki territory to destroy a base of operations the Abenakis used for raids deep into English colonial territory.

I finally sat down and gave it a re-watch this week.

As with many things through rosy glasses, it's not nearly as good the second time around.

Not surprisingly for 1940s Hollywood, the "Indian" portrayals are weak. The first indian we meet is drunk. The Abenaki village Roberts' Rangers assault and destroy just happens to be overpopulated by males. There is a token appearance of kids & women to be spared. And, if they don't look Mohawk, then they look Apache. There is much told of "innocent" settler folks being butchered by Natives, and nothing said of things from the Natives' viewpoint.

Speaking of the Abenaki village, that's the only combat action in the entire movie. The rest of the action centers around the Rangers arduous journey to make the attack in surprise. Boats hauled over hills, swamps, rain, creating a human chain across a fast running river, discord among the troops and their Native allies.

The screenplay was adapted from a 1930s popular novel by Kenneth Roberts. It's out-of-print, and I'm surprised it hasn't been given the ebook treatment. Part of me still wants to read it. But if the movie followed it closely, it might not be my cup of tea. It does appear to have had a longer story than the movie, going beyond the Saint Francis Raid.

If you like old Hollywood frontier movies, you should probably watch this one at least once. I don't know about repeated viewings, though.

Historical note; while Rogers and his Rangers were heroes of the French & Indian War, in the end, Rogers washed out and sold out.

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen it. This review makes it seem pretty interesting, though. I wanna see it now.