Now I'm afraid to say that I have some rather bad news for you, Mister Owens (John Hamilton). You see, a day or so ago while I was escorting your niece Kate (Joan Woodbury) through the wilds of our native
Canada, suddenly, from out of the shadows a dastardly bandit appeared, and managed to steel the
twenty thousand dollars she was couriering on your behalf.
What's more, now we're both here in your rather rustic village -- safe and sound and relatively footloose and fancy free -- my Captain from back home has sent word that he doesn't want me to investigate your crime. Oh no. He wants me to investigate another crime somewhere else.
Well, just between the two of us, of course, but this second crime involves two circus performers who keep on getting shot at whenever they try to figure out why their dam is being blocked.
Yes, Mister Owens! I know that your crime should take precedence over this one. Yet what else can I do? Orders are order, and unlike every other mountie in the Canadian force, it looks like this time I won't be able to get my man. Then again, that's most probably why what next transpires all falls asleep when Kate looks over at me and says, 'Oh come now, Matt O'Brien (Bob Steele). I'm sure there's some way for you to tackle both crimes at once?'. As there's a mutiny on the bounty - you can't trust anyone in this county - can someone please say 'howty' - and at the end of the day, hands up anyone who wants to kiss a mountie?
Now with all due respect I'd say 'Northwest Trail' was a very vanilla film. Essentially it was one of those adventures where a stoic Canadian mountie is sent to a village to solve one crime, and in so doing has to also solve another crime which is loosely connected to the first crime. Furthermore, most of the acting on offer was rather stiff for my own particular tastes, and this was complemented by a couple of fairly slow paced action scenes as well.
For a start I did warm up to the incremental romance between the two main leads -- as played by Bob Steele and Joan Woodbury. From my point of view I did like how their fledgling relationship appeared to blossom over time, without it feeling too forced or too staged upon the screen.
Where as the second aspect of this movie I thoroughly adored were those scenes that involved the two circus performers -- especially the one played by Poodles Hanneford. Well? Let's face it. What would you rather see? A couple of two-dimensional characters running around for no particular reason? Or would you prefer the sight of a pretty young girl standing on top of a galloping horse? Or what about the vision of a rather pug faced old gent bull whipping a bottle of rum into his hand from ten feet away?
Now I know what option I would choose. And I'm pretty sure you would too. So it's on that particular note that I now have to explain why I thought this film was very vanilla in its execution.
You see, in no uncertain terms this was the type of story-line which could have been better presented if had some more gusto and pizzas behind it. If the story-line was more pronounced and dynamic in tone, and if the characters showed more character, I'm nigh on positive that everything would have been a lot better than it ultimately was.
But what did we get instead? A tried and tested premise about a bunch of tried and tested characters that didn't seem to live, feel, or exhume their respective roles. OK. I'm sure this had a lot to do with the constrains of this film being made in the 1940's. Having said that though, I've seen many other movies made during this era and they were an awful lot more plucky and innovative than this film plus many other more modern day productions.
Overall I'd say 'Northwest Trail' was a pretty mediocre movie. Even though some of it was rather pleasant to watch, some other parts of it could easily put you to sleep.
Oh! And that reminds me. Night-night! Nuff said.
THE RATING: C