Friday, September 25, 2020

2020 Tolkien Blog Party Tag

Ahhhh, September!  I spend all month (and much of August) looking forward to (and preparing for) my annual Tolkien Blog Party, which I have hosted on my book blog, The Edge of the Precipice, for eight years running.  You can find the main post here, which has links to all the posts people are contributing on their own blogs, plus the tag!  As is my wont, I shall fill out the tag on this blog, to spread the Tolkieny cheer :-)

(All bookish photos taken by me for my Instagram account.)

1. What Tolkien character do you think you're the most like? 

Samwise Gamgee, though I also feel a great kinship to the movie version of Bard the Bowman.

2. What Tolkien character do you wish you were more like? 

Hmm.  Maybe Gandalf.  I'd like to always arrive in the nick of time and have so much wisdom and experience.

3. What would your dream home in Middle-earth be like? 

A nice house somewhere in Rohan with lots of green fields around for all our horses to gambol and roam.  (Note: I do not own any horses in real life.  But if I lived in Rohan, I would!)

4. You get to make a movie of the story of Beren and Luthien! Who do you cast as the leads? 

I'm going to go with Henry Cavill and Elizabeth Debicki.   Both are athletic and could pull off the Great Warrior vibe.  They had great chemistry in their few scenes together in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  We already know Cavill looks great in fantasy armor, and I'm quite sure Debicki would as well.  Now I really want this to be made so I can see her riding in to rescue him.  Please?

5. Have you ever marathoned the LOTR or Hobbit movies? 

Yup, my hubby & I marathoned the extended editions of all 3 LOTR movies in a single night back before we had kids.  It was quite great.  (Note: we worked third shift at the time and were quite used to staying up all night and sleeping all day.)

6. Do you have a favorite song or track from the movie soundtracks by Howard Shore? 

"The Last Goodbye" sung by Billy Boyd at the end of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies album is currently my favorite.

7. Which of Tolkien's characters would you like to be best friends with? 

I think maybe Faramir and Eowyn as a couple?  They would be such cool people to be friends with.

8. Who of the people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor? 

My husband, my dad, DKoren, and several of our friends who are in the Marines and Army.

9. Have you read any of Tolkien's non-Middle-earth works? 

Yup!  I've read Roverandom, Mr. Bliss, Letters from Father Christmas, and "Smith of Wooten Major" and "Farmer Giles of Ham."  Totally recommend all of them! (Note: those titles are linked to my reviews of them if you're curious to know more about any of them.)

10. Is there a book by Tolkien you haven't read yet, but want to?

I want to read his translation of Beowulf sometime.  And several other things that I know are on my shelves, but can't remember the names of right now.  And the Lost Tales.  And the History of Middle Earth books.

My Tolkien Blog Party is drawing to an end, alas.  Today is the last day you can enter my giveaway and play the two games (one and two), but you can still continue to contribute posts today and tomorrow!  So if you haven't had a chance to join in, there's still time.  (And, honestly, I'm not going to turn you away if you want to add a post to it a day or two "late."  There are no hard and fast rules here for sharing posts -- this is a party, after all!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"The Tin Star" (1957)

I've mentioned a couple of times that I listened to Elmer Bernstein's score for this movie almost exclusively while writing One Bad Apple.  Now that I've got that book firmly out into the world, I decided to rewatch the movie to see how the music applies to the story it was written for, rather than to mine.  This was a little surreal at times, I admit.

Anyway, this is my favorite Henry Fonda movie.  I'm not a big fan of his, usually, but he does have a few roles where I like him, and this is the main one.

It all begins when a stranger arrives in town (my favorite storyline, you know).  He's leading a pack horse that's got a grisly burden.

We zoom in on the hand hanging out from under its covering just to be sure the audience knows what's under there.  Which I wouldn't really mention, except that it's such a cool shot.

The stranger's name is Morgan Hickman (Henry Fonda), known as Morg to his friends.  Morg is a bounty hunter, here to collect on the man his pack horse is carrying.  Morg is a very pragmatic man, practical in the extreme, and also cynical.  He says that if a wanted poster says "dead or alive," it means dead, and people are just too polite to admit it.  His brusque demeanor keeps people at arm's length, including the town's young sheriff, Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins).

It will take a few days for the reward to arrive, so Morg sets off to find somewhere to stay.  And just when we're ready to write him off as a bitter middle-aged coot, he meets up with a boy named Kip (Michel Ray) who begs to ride his now-unburdened pack horse.  Morg gives his permission, and it's not long before he's almost genial.  Clearly, although he has little patience with many adults, he is more kindly disposed toward youngsters.

Kip says that if Morg needs a place to stay, he could stay with Kip and his mom, Nona Mayfield (Betsy Palmer).  She seconds the invitation, and Morg doesn't need much convincing.  He's taken a liking to the bright, cheerful Kip, and he finds Kip's widowed mother intriguing.

As for Nona, she quickly learns that Morg is a man of good sense, a strict moral code, and sound judgment.  And also that he's hungry for human companionship, even if he won't admit it.  In a way, he's a bit like the title character of Shane (1953), a drifter with a very specific skill set who stumbles upon a family with their own set of troubles that he just might be able to help in some way or other.  Except, of course, that he has no plans to settle down in this town or take on familial responsibilities in any way.  He's just here to get his reward, and then off he'll go in search of his next bounty.

Against his will, Morg also starts getting to know Sheriff Ben Owens.  Owens is clearly in over his head as sheriff.  He's got a fast draw, but he's not prepared for the nitty gritty of law enforcement.  He's soft-spoken and shy, stumbling over his words whenever he's nervous.  And he's always nervous around Morg, whom he almost instantly begins to look up to.  Time and again, he asks Morg to be his deputy.  Time and again, Morg refuses.  He thinks Ben won't last long as a lawman, but he refuses to rescue him either.

Ben's girlfriend Millie (Mary Webster) doesn't want him to be the sheriff either.  Her father was the last sheriff, and she doesn't want to lose another man she loves while he's pursuing his duties.  But the more people suggest Ben shouldn't be a lawman, the more stubbornly he insists he has to do this job to the best of his abilities until someone more suitable comes along.  He was duly elected sheriff, and he is not going to let down the townsfolk if he can possibly help it.  We start to admire his dogged determination, and his willingness to learn from Morg if he can only convince Morg to give him some advice.

Someone else in town has his eye on the job as sheriff, namely Bart Bogardus (Neville Brand).  He just happens to be related to the dead man that Morg brought in to collect bounty on, and he constantly antagonizes both Ben and Morg, trying to goad them into a fight.

Morg shuns Ben's pleas for assistance. Morg likes the quiet slice of life he's enjoying in his rented home with Nona and Kip.  As a bounty hunter, he's used to being an outcast, but he's discovered that Nona and Kip are outcasts too.  Why?  Because Nona married an American Indian.  Kip is only half-white.  And that makes many of the townsfolk look down on both Nona and Kip, even ostracize them.

Morg begins to feel a kinship to them, to feel protective of them both.  He and Nona quietly and calmly come to value each other and understand that, at last, they have each found someone to share their lives with.  Both previously married and widowed, they harbor no silly romantic notions, yet clearly are attracted to each other.  I love their relationship, as it's realistic, sensible, and yet sweet.

And then there's these two.  Zeke (Peter Baldwin) and Ed (Lee Van Cleef) McGaffey are lowlife trash that hang around town, are sometimes involved in petty crimes, and generally stink of trouble.  Which they cause soon enough, and lots of it.

Ben Owens is probably also my favorite Anthony Perkins role.  He's sweet, kind, innocent, game, stubborn, and stalwart.  I want to shake his naivete out of him sometimes, but he has the makings of a very good man, if he can just live long enough to live up to his potential.

I haven't yet mentioned Doc McCord (John McIntire).  He's like the conscience for the whole town.  And the history of the whole town.  He's been there so long, he delivered Ben and a lot of the other people in those parts, a fact he delights in reminding people of.  He's a wise and perspicacious guy, and I dig him.

This shot is only here because I find it really hilarious that Henry Fonda is perched on this bench this way for basically the whole scene.  For no reason that is ever explained.  He's just sitting there on the arm of the bench like that.  Because he can.

Anyway, Morg's getting set to leave.  He buys Kip a pony with part of the reward money that's come in at last.  Kip doesn't realize it, but Nona sees that this is the beginning of goodbye.

But, of course, the plot intervenes, and Morg ends up having to put aside his reluctance to pin on a badge (which he explained, don't worry) and help Ben because he knows that, if he doesn't, the kid's just gonna die.  Also, there's a lynch mob trying to hang a couple of killers that Ben's got locked in jail, and, well, this is the movie that I had to rewatch to make myself have any shred of liking for Henry Fonda a decade or so ago when I watched The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), which I Do Not Like At All and Will Never Watch Again.  Ugh.

Neville Brand sure can play mean and nasty when he wants to.  Isn't this a fantastic shot?  Look at the composition, with him standing in the foreground and all the townsfolk kind of angling off on both sides, and those two nooses making his intentions plain.  Such a bully, even the people backing him up aren't actually willing to stand behind him.

Henry Fonda really shines in this role.  He's calm, capable, no-nonsense, and impossible to ruffle.  If you know of any other movies where he plays similar roles, let me know, because the only other one I can think of is his tiny role as Teddy Roosevelt Jr. in The Longest Day (1962), which is the only other thing I totally like him in.

SPOILER ALERT: Skip to below the picture that says "The End" if you don't want the whole ending spoiled.

Ben stands on his own two feet at last, no stammering, no backing down.  All he needed was a mentor for a few days.

All's well that ends better!  Ben survives his trial by fire AND wins the affections of Millie for good.  Morg, Nona, and Kip head off together toward the new life they're going to make together.  It's a happier ending that I ever expected the first time I watched this -- I was just sure that Morg was going to end up dying to save Ben's life, or Ben was going to die and Morg was going to take the job as sheriff, but nope!  They both survive.  I dig it so much.

You know I love intelligent, thought-provoking westerns that spend the time to develop fully rounded characters, and this one does exactly that.  They make the eventual gunfights and other action pieces actually matter, instead of just being flashy, noisy entertainment.

Anyway, that's all I've got to say about this somewhat obscure western that deserves a lot more attention than it gets.  Adios!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

My Autumn 2020 To-Do List

It's still so stinking hot here that I could cry, but once in a while, I get a whiff of cool autumn air under all the humidity, which gives me hope for the future.

(All photos are mine.)

So I'm going to start working on my goals for this fall even if it doesn't *feel* like fall yet.  I'm stubborn that way!  Here's my list of things I'd like to do between now and Thanksgiving Day :-)

~ Write a short story

~ Start writing my Beauty and the Beast retelling

~ Read Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien

~ Participate in Heidi's read-along of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

~ Finish reading Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome aloud to my kids

~ Read 1 other title for my Classics Club list

~ Read 7 other books off my TBR shelves

~ Read 2 books from the library

~ Read at least 1 book each month about/by someone who is not white

~ Watch 4 movies off my TBW shelves

~ Finish the blanket I'm crocheting for my 8-yr-old's bed

~ Make a new fall wreath

~ Go hiking

~ Toast marshmallows

That's all for this list, I think!  Happy autumn, everyone!

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Polishing off My Summer To-Do List

Labor Day has passed, so I guess the summer is basically over.  That means it's time to report on my goals I set in my summer to-do list.

All photos are mine, several from my Instagram account.  All titles are linked to my reviews if I've reviewed that book or movie.

~ Publish One Bad Apple  Check!  My Snow White retelling is out in the world now, and you can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

~ Read The Hunchback of Notre Dame  Check!  My review is here.

~ Read 2 more titles for my Classics Club list  Check!  I also read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Chronicles of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery.

~ Read 9 books off my TBR shelves  Check!  I read SIXTEEN books off my TBR shelves, which far surpassed my expectations.  They were: 

  1. A Light in the Dark Belt by Rosa Young 
  2. Desert Death Song by Louis L'Amour 
  3. Chronicles of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery 
  4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  5. Macario's Scepter by M. J. McGriff
  6. Great Writers: Jane Austen 
  7. The Malleville Conspiracy by H. L. Roethle
  8. Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay
  9. C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie L. Mead
  10. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
  11. The Queen's Falconer by Charity Bishop
  12. Rook di Goo by Jenni Sauer
  13. Frederica by Georgette Heyer
  14. Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson
  15. The Reluctant Godfather by Allison Tebo
  16. Mr. Bliss by J. R. R. Tolkien

~ Read 2 books from the library  Check!  I read three:  The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev, and Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King.

~ Read at least 1 book each month about/by someone who is not white  Check!  In my on-going quest to broaden my literary horizons, I've added a lot more "own voices" titles and authors to my TBR lists.  This summer, I read A Light in the Dark Belt by Rosa Young, Macario's Scepter by M. J. McGriff, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev, and Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson.

~ Watch 5 movies off my TBW shelves  Check!  I watched eight, and they were:

  1. I Love You Again (1940)
  2. The High and the Mighty (1954)
  3. A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
  4. Rawhide (1951)
  5. Hamlet (1970)
  6. The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (1983)
  7. Shogun (1980)
  8. Seven Men from Now (1956)

~ Make at least three new kinds of popsicles  Check!  We made butterscotch pudding pops, Oreo pudding pops, lemonade + blackberry, lemonade + blueberry, and hot chocolate with marshmallows!  I think my kids liked the hot chocolate popsicles best.

~ Make another book nook shelf insert  Fail  I haven't solidified my ideas for another one yet, and I also just didn't have time.

~ Finish the blanket I'm crocheting for my 8-yr-old's bed  Fail  But I'm getting close!!!

That's it for this summer, I guess.  On to autumn!!!  I'll have my new to-do list up soon :-)

Did you have fun this summer?  Try something new?  Read some good books or watch some good movies?  I hope so!

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Here Comes the Sunshine Blogger Award Again

Sally Silverscreen of 18 Cinema Lane has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  Thank you, Sally!  These are always such fun :-)


1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.


1. What is your favorite snack?

Brownies.  Thick, fudgy brownies with no frosting, in particular.

2. Is there a television show episode that you like, but other people do not?

Definitely.  I've always liked the Combat! episode "A Little Jewel" (1963), and I was shocked when I got to know other fans and discovered that many people find it annoying!

3. What was the last movie you saw?

I watched The Blue Dahlia (1946) on the third to celebrate Alan Ladd's birthday.  And to refresh my memory on it because I'm writing an article about it for the upcoming Halloween Femnista issue.  It's one of my absolute favorite Alan Ladd films, and the story and screenplay were written by my favorite author, Raymond Chandler.  Hearing his snappy dialog come out of Alan Ladd's mouth is so delicious!

4. Are there any blog posts that you plan on publishing in 2021? If so, what will it be?

Well, I'm hoping to lead a pirate-themed blog party or blogathon in January or February.  And I assume I'll hold my annual Tolkien blog party on my book blog a year from now, too.

5. Which book would you tell your friends to stay away from?

Hmm.  The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice really disturbed me, and I ended up not finishing it because it was putting me in a really dark place both emotionally and spiritually.  So I would advise most people to stay away from it.

6. Did you perform a random act of kindness lately? If so, what was it?

Well, I let someone who had only two things go in front of me in the really long line at Pet Smart yesterday.

7. Has there been a moment where you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone? If you want, share your experience!

I'm pretty shy, so something like saying 'hi' to a new person at church puts me out of my comfort zone.  But I do it anyway.

8. What was the last thing to make you laugh?

This open letter from William Shatner to Space Force.  It's hilarious.  You should read it.

9. Which movie scene is your favorite?

ONE MOVIE SCENE?  Madness.  I can choose a favorite scene from individual movies, sure.  But one movie scene out of all the thousands of movies I've seen and the hundreds of movies that I love so much I call them a favorite?  No.

Fine.  I will say that the whole brumby round-up sequence that is the climax of The Man from Snowy River (1982) is my favorite section of my favorite movie, so I guess that works?

10. What is your least favorite Christmas song?

That stupid one that goes "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.  The very next day, you gave it away.  This year, to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special."  Is it completely nonsensical, because why wouldn't you make sure someone was special BEFORE you gave them your heart?  And who gives hearts as Christmas presents?  But even worse, it gets stuck in my head.  Blech.

11. Is there a theatrically released film you’d like to see when it’s a little safer (due to less Coronavirus cases) to visit the cinema?

I fully intend to go see many movies this fall, such as No Time to Die and Black Widow.  I'm sure there are others I'm not recalling at the moment.

And now, it's time to nominate 11 other bloggers for this award.  I hereby nominate:

And here are your 11 questions to answer!

1.  What's something good that's happened to you this year?
2.  What was your favorite movie when you were ten years old?
3.  Have you ever discovered you now like a movie or book that you used to dislike?
4.  How long have you been blogging?
5.  What's your favorite joke?
6.  What's a movie or book that people are surprised to learn you enjoy?
7.  Do you play croquet?
8.  How many blog posts have you published?
9.  What's the next book you plan to read?
10. What's the next movie you plan to watch?
11.  Do you want to build a snowman?

Play if you want to!

Thursday, September 03, 2020

"Saskatchewan" (1954)

Today would have been Alan Ladd's birthday, and you know I can't resist posting something in his honor every time his birthday rolls around.  This year, I'm reviewing Saskatchewan (1954), a Canada-based western released a year after Shane (1953).

I always think Alan Ladd looks especially handsome in buckskin, and this is no exception.  He also wears his RCMP uniform with flair.  He gets a serious, heroic character to play in this, and I quite like him when he's serious and heroic.  Yes, even though I tend to be awfully fond of the roles where he starts out selfish and gradually discovers he could be nice after all.  I like both for him -- he wears them well.

Anyway, the movie makes no mystery who's starring in it.  Since he's the birthday boy here, I'll include his before-title name card.

YES, I know this wasn't filmed in Saskatchewan.  I'll talk about that later, okay?

The story opens with two blood-brothers, Cajou (Jay Silverheels) and Thomas O'Rourke (Alan Ladd) rejoicing that they're done trapping all winter and heading back to civilization.

They behave a little bit like kids, challenging each other to shooting and racing matches. 

If you look closely, you'll notice Ladd has a bandage around one finger here.  It's the only shot I found where it's obvious.  He got an infected finger during filming, I'm not sure how.  I assume that's the finger.

O'Rourke wins the race so handily, he takes a little nap waiting for Cajou to catch up.  It's a pretty adorable and fun opening, really.  Silverheels and Ladd have an easy chemistry and appear to enjoy each others' company.  They'd been in Red Mountain (1951) together too, though I don't recall them sharing much screentime.  Still, Ladd is well known for preferring to work with actors he already knew, so I assume he enjoyed working with Silverheels previously.  They behave a lot like adult brothers that I know, ribbing each other, cracking each other up with nonsense, and so on.

On their way back to civilization, they come across the smoking ruins of some wagons, plus vague shapes on the ground that are probably the bodies of settlers.

One settler (Shelley Winters) is still alive, hiding in the ruins.  She shoots at them, thinking they're the previous attackers come back again.

O'Rourke convinces her they're not marauding natives and insists she travel with them because she can't just stay out in the wilderness alone, with no horses and only a single pistol to protect herself.

She tells them her name is Grace Markey and she's come there from Montana to start a new life.  More than that, she's reluctant to say.

Grace is one of the most unusual female characters I've run across lately.  She's sharp-tongued, but kind.  Bold, but also kind of shy.  She's never whiny, but she never hesitates to tell people why she doesn't want to do something.  I wish I had time to copy down a whole lot of her dialog, because so many of her lines are such zingers!  She has this world-weary attitude, always ready to be disappointed by people, but like she secretly hopes one day she'll meet someone who won't disappoint her.  I found her to be a refreshing change from the stock female characters that populate many westerns made in the fifties.

Ladd and Winters had worked together previously as well, in The Great Gatsby (1949), though their characters don't interact at all in that one.  Alan Ladd was reportedly very shy and was most comfortable working opposite people he knew.  He liked having friends on set, and character actors like Anthony Caruso and George J. Lewis never had to worry about having jobs as long as Ladd was a star who could ask for bit parts to get filled by his friends.

Anyway, once they reach the fort, surprise!  O'Rourke is one of the Mounties!  He and Cajou consult a scout named Batoche (J. Carrol Naish) about a tomahawk they found being wielded by some of the American Indians who attacked the people Grace was traveling with.  Batoche identifies it as Sioux.  They're all very confused about why Sioux would be around way up there in Canada.

Batoche is married to a native woman himself, and they have six children.  This movie goes back and forth with the tone of its portrayal of Native Americans, though mostly I think it is very fair.  Cajou is a member of the Cree tribe, and O'Rourke was adopted by Cajou's father when he was found by them when he was a small child.  He has great love and respect for his adoptive family, and some of the other white characters accuse him of being more sympathetic toward the Cree than the whites.  Over all, the Cree are shown to be intelligent, sensible, reasonable people who get along well with their white neighbors and can be trusted to keep their word.

However, Batoche's wife and kids are played for laughs -- she speaks bad English and tells Grace it's easy to tell how long she's been married -- six years, because she has six kids.  Still, she and Batoche live beside the fort and are accepted and liked by the Mounties.  O'Rourke clearly trusts him and counts him as a friend.  (Batoche is supposed to be French-Canadian, I think.)

The events of this movie are loosely inspired by real life, when Sitting Bull led a party of Sioux up into Canada, seeking sanctuary from the US Government in 1877.  According to my cursory internet research, best laid out in this article, they did cause some trouble with local tribes in Saskatchewan, which led the Mounties to pressure the Sioux to return to the US.  Nothing I found specifically mentioned the Cree, but at least this is sorta inspired by things that actually happened, which is neat.

Anyway, the Sioux are portrayed as being pretty vicious, only wanting to make war on any white people they run across.  Their leader in most of the film is Spotted Eagle (Anthony Caruso), which was the name of a Sioux warrior who did accompany Sitting Bull in the move to Canada.

Overall, the film portrays the American Indians as being... people.  Not just targets, or cardboard villains, nameless and faceless, but people.  They're capable of being loyal, angry, kind, cruel, sneaky, trustworthy, whatever, depending on the individual, not depending on what their ethnicity is.  Which I find really refreshing, especially for a movie of this age.

Anyway, back to the story.  The Mounties have a new commander, Benton (Robert Douglas), who is one of those ramrod-up-his-coat sorts who insists everyone has to do things his way and has zero tolerance for independent thought or for discussing things with people who have lived in that area all their lives and have just a wee bit more experience dealing with the native peoples than he does.  (Can you tell I'm not a Benton fan?)

Benton has confiscated all of the rifles that the government previously gifted to the Cree.  The Cree have come to rely on those rifles for hunting and their own protection.  Without them, not only will they have trouble hunting for food, but the invading Sioux warriors will pose a serious threat to them.

O'Rourke goes out to visit his adoptive father, Chief Dark Cloud (Antonio Moreno), to see what's going on with the Cree.  They're very upset about being robbed of their rifles, so upset that they're pretty seriously considering Sitting Bull's suggestion they join up with him and work together to rid the territory of white people.

O'Rourke is shocked at this.  The Cree and the white people have lived so peacefully together so far.  He's even more shocked when his blood-brother Cajou renounces him and declares he must be cast out of the tribe forever because he's a spy for the white men.

Meanwhile, back at the fort, US Marshal Carl Smith (Hugh O'Brian) has shown up and announced he's chasing down Grace Markey because she's wanted for murder back in the states.  This is a year before O'Brian started playing the title character in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, and I'm wondering if he impressed some studio exec with his ability to play a lawman in this and got cast in that.

Anyway, Marshal Smith is a sourpuss and a bully and a lech.  I am not a fan of him either.

Benton leads the troop away from the fort because he needs to get all the arms and ammunition to a different fort before the Cree and/or Sioux can capture it and use it all to drive out all the white people, etc.  Benton decides the best way to do this is to load everything into wagons and march everyone conspicuously off down the road.

I was kind of impressed by the river crossing scene, where the wagons get pretty realistically stuck and struggle to get across.  It didn't look faked, is what I'm saying.  Nicely done.

Well, the Sioux attack the troop, and the Mounties sustain quite a few casualties, including this one sweet Irishman named Abbott, who's played by a really young Richard Long.  My fellow Big Valley fans will appreciate this shot, I'm sure.

Marshal Smith starts to wave his bullying flag here.  He says we should abandon Abbott because he's going to slow us down, being gut-shot and probably going to die anyway.  Benton does rack up a few points here for agreeing with O'Rourke that we do NOT abandon wounded soldiers to die either alone or at the hands of our enemies.

(Spoiler:  Abbott doesn't die.  Hahahahahaha, joke's on you, Marshal Smith.)

O'Rourke tells Benton they need to abandon the wagons, pack as much of the munitions onto horses as they can, and strike out across the mountains instead of following the roads or they'll never reach the other fort alive.  Benton says no, it's my way or the highway.  O'Rourke says that's stupid and they're not going to do it.  Benton declares this is mutiny and orders Sgt. Lawson (George J. Lewis) to arrest O'Rourke.

I am FINALLY getting to where I know who George J. Lewis is when he shows up in an Alan Ladd movie pretty much right away instead of hearing him speak, stewing for five minutes over why his voice is so terribly familiar, and then finally realizing he played Don Alejandro de la Vega in Disney's Zorro (1957-61).  Only took me what, four years of devouring Alan Ladd movies?

Anyway, Sgt. Lawson says, you know what?  O'Rourke makes a lot of sense.  And he knows more about Indians than Benton does.  And we already know and trust him, whereas you are new to us and have made some dumb decisions already. And so, thank you kindly, but we're not going to arrest anyone today, sir.

So Benton declares that they'll ALL get court-martialed for mutiny when they reach the other fort.  Now hurry up and start getting ready to go there.

Did I mention that Marshal Smith and his prisoner, Grace, are along with the troop too?  Well, they are.  Marshal Smith continues being more and more of a slouchy creep.  He tells Grace that if she'll be his "woman," he'll see to it the charges against her are dropped and she won't hang.  Of all the disgusting pigs!  Trying to convince a woman who clearly doesn't like you to sleep with you by bribing her with her life?  Get thee hence, foul villain!

Which is pretty much O'Rourke's stance.  He finds Smith trying to force Grace to kiss him and knocks him out with one punch.

O'Rourke hasn't spent a lot of time with Grace since they reached the fort.  And before that, they spent most of their time making cutting remarks to each other.  But now he softens toward her after having to rescue her from Marshal Smith's clutches. He listens kindly as she pours out the sad story of her life to him one evening while they pretend the coyote howls all around them are made by actual coyotes.  Turns out Marshal Smith is very involved in the crime she's accused of, which surprises no one by this point.

And then a bunch of exciting fights and stuff happen.  They just about reach the other fort, and that's when O'Rourke decides that, you know, he hasn't gotten beaten up once in this movie, so he'd better take his shirt off, since it's a law that in every really good movie of his, Alan Ladd has to either get beaten up or be shirtless.  And sometimes both.  Once in a while, both at once.  Off the shirt must come.

Actually, no, O'Rourke decides that he needs to go talk to his Cree father, even though he's kind of been thrown out of the tribe.  Maybe he can convince the Cree not to join the Sioux.  He figures it's worth a shot, so he changes back into his buckskin shirt.  Even the day-for-night darkness can't hide the fact that Ladd's still in nice shape at this point.

Grace discovers that she doesn't want him to leave.  He says he has nothing to lose, and she thinks that's a pretty mean thing to say about her.

Chief Dark Cloud agrees not to join the Sioux and will even fight against them IF the Cree can have their rifles back from the Mounties.  O'Rourke gives his word that this will happen, though he has no authority to do so.

When he returns to the fort, he's placed under arrest and has to give up his weapons.

He's pleased to see Grace has made it there safely, and actually smiles at her, possibly for the first time.  She's found a new dress, though it's not much of an improvement on the last one.  Woman, don't you care about sunburns?  Or how that Mountie guard is staring down your dress?  Yeesh.

I mentioned that she has some really cool dialog.  This doesn't get said here, but I really like it, so I'm sharing it here anyway.

O'Rourke: You don't break easy, do you.
Grace: Not unless I want to.

Maybe it's just that her lines surprise me with their forthrightness?  I don't know.  But I really dig her.  She's tough, but not brassy, somehow.

O'Rourke reports the deal he made with the Cree.  Guess what?  The Mountie officers don't jump at the chance to make peace with the Cree and drive out the Sioux with their help.  Boneheads.

O'Rourke gets thrown in the guardhouse for his pains, where he's reunited with Batoche and Sgt. Lawson and all the others.  And Abbott, who's still Not Dead.

He proceeds to brood.  Awwwwwwww.  Look at those sad eyes.  Poor O'Rourke.

All the Mounties leave to go fight the Sioux.  And the Cree, if need be, though the Cree haven't gotten their weapons back, so not sure why they think the Cree pose a threat.

Cajou sneaks into the almost-deserted fort.  Grace spots him.  They didn't have much use for each other before, but now they work together to free O'Rourke and the others.

O'Rourke is surprised to see Cajou, since the last time they met, Cajou revoked their brotherhood and took back his special matching bear claw best-friends-forever necklace.  But O'Rourke doesn't hold grudges.  Together, they seize all the weapons and some wagons and head off to fulfill his promise to the Cree.

Guns for everyone!

I love this shot of Mounties and American Indians riding into battle together, not getting ready to fight each other.

Pretty obvious how this'll end, right?  Blood Brothers and Best Friends Forever Again!

And O'Rourke gets tasked with taking Grace back to Montana to protest her innocence in a US court.  Oh yeah, Marshal Smith is no longer a threat.  He tried to shoot O'Rourke in the back, and you can guess how well that went over with the other Mounties.

I want to take a minute to point out how handsome Jay Silverheels is in this movie.  I've loved him as Tonto in the original Lone Ranger (1949-57) show and movie (1956) since I was probably seven years old, and it's such a treat to see him in an important role in a feature film.  He was actually born in Canada on the Six Nation's Reserve, so I bet making this Canadian western was cool for him.

I've recently learned that some people, especially some Canadians, are highly annoyed by the fact that this movie is called Saskatchewan, but is clearly shot mostly in Alberta.  This kind of stymies me, as I am extremely used to movies being filmed in places they're not set.  I mean, how many westerns have we seen that were shot in Monument Valley but are set in Texas?  Monument Valley is NOT in Texas, y'all, it's in Arizona and Utah.  Also, my favorite show ever, Combat!, is supposed to take place in Normandy, but 90% of it is shot in California, and you can totally tell because Eucalyptus trees just don't grow in France.  It's just backgrounds, okay?  It's not that big a deal to me.  I mean, maybe this is a spoiler, but Star Wars movies aren't actually shot in a galaxy far, far away.  Movies are pretend.  They're not documentaries.

And it's pretty obvious why they wanted to shoot it where they did.  Feast your eyes:

Anyway.  Minor quibble.  They did shoot most of the exteriors on location in Canada, at least.

You can find the full movie on YouTube right now, if you're inclined to try it!  The version that's easiest to find is 2 1/2 hours long, which is a mistake -- the movie is only 2 hours, and for some reason it repeats the first half hour after the movie ends.  So don't be fooled by that weird running time.

Is this movie family friendly?  Yup.  It is.  All violence is non-gory.  No cussing, no major innuendo aside from that attempt at a forced kiss and Grace's dresses just about falling off her all the time.  Nothing truly objectionable, from my point of view.

Happy birthday, my dear Alan Ladd!  I'm so glad you recovered from your infected finger and the ankle you broke while playing with your kids toward the end of filming.

(Alan and David Ladd)