Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Presented with no apologies to our Canadian readers

One of my recent viewings on TCM was the early talkie Men of the North. It's available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, so you get a blog post on it now.

Gilbert Roland plays Louis La Bey, also known as "Le Fox", a French-Canadian trapper working out of a trading post village somewhere in a northerly part of the country that has mountains. But before we're introduced to him, we see an unidentified person riding on a dogsled and get attacked by another unidentified person. Louis shows up at the post, just in time for a party.

Meanwhile, it's determined that somebody is attacking people and stealing gold, as a gold shipment to the post from a nearby mine has fewer bags of gold dust than it should. The mine owner himself, Mr. Ruskin (Arnold Korff) is about to show up with his lovely adult daughter Nedra (Barbara Leonard). She's interested in seeing the real north, not that she's going to get it in this movie.

Louis falls hard for Nedra, which pisses off his more or less current girlfriend Woolie-Woolie (Nina Quartero). She spies on Louis once he's alone in his cabin, and sees... he's removing a stone from his fireplace, behind which there's a secret drawer in which he stores gold dust! So he's obviously behind the gold robberies.

Once Woolie-Woolie figures this out and realizes she's being jilted by Louis, she's going to go to the Mounties at the base, who always get their man. Well, maybe not this time. Louis sets off even though there's about to be a blizzard coming up. The Ruskins also head out for their mine, but unlike Louis, they don't have experience with the sort of snow they get here, and they're going to need to be rescued. The Mounties go chasing Louis, and one of them is going to need rescuing, too....

Oh boy is Men of the North a silly movie. There's not much of a story here, and what there is seems disjointed and more worthy of a two-reeler than an early talkie. There's also a whole bunch of the tropes about the Canadian north that you'd expect from a movie like this: the heavily accented Quebecker, the Mounties, and the snow. Something tells me Canadian viewers are going to be screaming in horror at the stereotypes.

The acting isn't much to write home about with a young but recognizable Roland being the only familiar name. Thankfully, he already had an accent not being a native English speaker, and it's not as much of a riot as the one Laurence Olivier essays in 49th Parallel. Everybody else is no better than unmemorable.

If you remember Men of the North at all, it'll be for being a particularly big artistic failure. It really should be on a Warner box set with some other early talkie B movies, instead of a pricey standalone.

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