Wednesday, June 27, 2018

His Arms Around the World

Another of my recent DVD purchases was this cheap four-film Gregory Peck set. The movie on it that was completely new to me was The World in His Arms.

Peck plays Jonathan Clark, the captain of a sealing boat, that is, one who goes up to Alaska and catches seal to sell down in San Francisco. It's 1850, which means that Alaska is still a Russian territory, and frankly, the Russians aren't happy about Clark taking their seals. Apparently, they're going to imprison him if he shows up in Alaska again. Meanwhile, he's short on the money he needs to fix up his ship and get back to Alaska. Meanwhile, he's got a friendly rival in the form of the Portugee (Anthony Quinn).

In San Francisco, Clark meets Countess Marina (Ann Blyth), a young woman who is the niece of the territorial governor in Alaska. But she's come down to San Francisco because she wants to get away from Prince Semyon (Carl Esmond). The thing is, she's been betrothed to Semyon in a marriage of political convenience, and she has absolutely no desire to marry Semyon. And if that was her desire when she fled Alaska, it's an even stronger desire once she meets Jonathan. Our good captain, unsurprisingly, is also taken with Marina, and he proposes to her, a proposal she's more than willing to accept. Except that she gets shanghaied back to Alaska for that arranged marriage to Semyon.

Jonathan is understandably pissed, since Marina never had the chance to tell her about the arranged marriage leading him to think that Marina was just stringing him along. The Portugee also goes on his ship, with the two going after Marina, the seals, and the danger presented by the Russian territorial government....

The World in His Arms is solid entertainment, no more and no less. It played out to me as the sort of movie studios put their stars in to keep them working and in the public eye. It's enjoyable, even if nobody would have remembered it as the best work of their career. If there is anything wrong with it, it's that the part in San Francisco drags on too long before getting to the good parts of the adventure. Oh, and Jonathan keeps a seal which is presumably to provide comic relief, although I thought that part was dumb. The movie is based on a book by Rex Beach, a name that really sounded familiar although I couldn't remember why. It turns out he also wrote The Spoilers, which was turned into a movie on multiple occasions. (I recorded the 1942 John Wayne/Marlene Dietrich version when Dietrich was Star of the Month, and intend to get around to that one at some point.)

As for the box set, one of the Amazon reviewers claims that two of the movies are not in the proper aspect ratio. I noticed that The World in His Arms was not letterboxed and was worried at first, until I saw the copyright date of 1952, so of course it was in the Academy ratio. (I didn't check the other movies yet.) The box set is bare-bones, with two movies on each disc, although both movies on the same side and each disc gets its own spindle. No extras on the disc I popped in. But for the price, what can you expect.

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