O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings from February 3-5, 2017. Please click on the blogathon link and enjoy the many interesting contributions by a large number of classic film bloggers!
For a half decade between 1949 and 1954, Kirby Grant starred as a Mountie in a series of 10 Monogram (later Allied Artists) releases.
In the first film, TRAIL OF THE YUKON, Grant plays Bob McDonald; the character was known as Rod McDonald in one of the films, and as Rod Webb in the rest of the series.
Bob/Rod had a trusty sidekick, a very smart dog named Chinook. Being a low budget series, Southern California's Big Bear Valley stood in for Canada.
In TRAIL OF THE YUKON Bob and Chinook find themselves helping a pair of bank robbers (Bill Edwards and Guy Beach) who had double-crossed the rest of their gang. Turns out the double-crossers weren't really so bad, but the banker (Stanley Andrews) is!
Grant is genial but this initial entry is pretty bland. There's little to no introduction of the main character in terms of letting us know his background or what he's like, other than what's communicated as he helps people.
It also doesn't help that this is one of those Westerns ("Northerns"?) where the numerous men in the supporting cast are all rather nondescript, wearing similar caps and plaid shirts, and are thus a bit difficult to distinguish from one another as they race around bank robbing and fighting. The issue is most significant early in the film. Funny thing, when I was doing some research after watching the movie I came across another reviewer who had the same problem; I'm glad to know it wasn't just me!
There's a fair amount of stock footage used, especially of dance hall entertainers, but at the same time, one of the film's biggest strengths is some nice Big Bear location work. There's a wonderful foggy mist over the lake in the final scene, and another sequence seems to have been filmed during a "real deal" snowfall. It's beautiful and helps the movie stand out from the "usual."
Another plus is that Chinook and his tricks are entertaining and make the movie a little different. Overall, while the movie was only so-so, I liked Grant and look forward to trying more in the series.
Look for Jay "Tonto" Silverheels in the supporting cast. Also in the film are Suzanne Dalbert, Iris Adrian, Dan Seymour, William Forrest, and Anthony Warde.
TRAIL OF THE YUKON was directed by William Beaudine and filmed in black and white by William Sickner. It runs 67 minutes.
All but one of the "Kirby Grant and Chinook Adventures" may be found in a trio of three-film sets from the Warner Archive. Although it's the first in the series, TRAIL OF THE YUKON is in the final set, Kirby Grant and Chinook Adventure Triple Feature, Vol. 3.
Only the last film, YUKON VENGEANCE (1954), doesn't appear to be available from the Archive.
Costars of other films in the series include Martha Hyer, Gail Davis, Margaret Field, Anne Gwynne, Helen Parrish, Lynne Roberts, Jan Clayton, and Elena Verdugo. One of the films was directed by Oscar (aka Budd) Boetticher. I'll be reviewing more from these sets here in the future.