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Northwest Passage Technicolor Triumph Needs Restoration Do OCN's Exist??? (1 Viewer)

RobertMG

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Northwest Passage was in development for quite some time in fact a Short Subject announcing MGM future releases had Robert Taylor in the flick! The film was recognized at the time as a triumph for it's outdoor location filming! The reviewer still was not used to the eyepopping indoor Technicolor! If the OCN exists this early outstanding example of the Studio System at its height and the stunning color we would get from a restoration needs to be on WB's radar! This and the Adventures of Robin Hood clearly are two of the best examples of Technicolor from that era, Also a great example of backlot filming looking like New England circa 1700's!


THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; Hair-Raising's the Word for 'Northwest Passage' With Spencer Tracy, at Capitol --

Now that the "Wind" has stopped ruffling your hair, you can have it lifted, scalp and all, in the King Vidor film of Kenneth Roberts's "Northwest Passage," which opened at the Capitol yesterday. It's a mannish, not-for-the squeamish, generally robustious screen version Metro has made, somewhat too generously Technicolored and inclined to grow sanctimonious about its Indian-fighting hero, Major Robert Rogers of Rogers's Rangers; but it still is a better-than-fair condensation of the first part of the book, still a rich and well-played and vicariously thrilling chapter of pre-national history. It was in 1759, according to Mr. Roberts and less vivid historians, that Rogers's Rangers stealthily launched their whaleboats on the smooth surface of Lake Champlain at Crown Point and rowed quietly away on a punitive expedition against the Indian village of St. Francis on the St. Lawrence. The way led past French ships at the mouth of the river, over a bluff they had to portage, by foot through swamp and bog and across white water; and then, their bloody mission accomplished, back again, without food, through terror of ambush, capture and torture, to a pre-arranged rendezvous at Fort Wentworth on the Connecticut—one of the most hazardous military missions in history, one of the goriest victories of the French and Indian war. Mr. Vidor's film is scarcely more than a journal of the expedition, with barely time for a quick introduction of his characters, barely a pause to mention the Northwest Passage itself—that will o' the wisp of all the early voyagers which drove Major Rogers, in the second half of the Roberts novel, to adventures even more incredible than those he dared against the St. Francis Indians. He has told it that way, as straight narrative, as pure thriller, as sheer spectacle; and it is only the circumstance that the expedition actually progressed that way, or generally that way, which stifles an indignant protest that this is all too fantastic for words, too astonishing to be true or even a reenactment of actuality.In a film so completely dependent upon its scene and its broad strokes of action, performance naturally is relegated to a subordinate place. Thus Spencer Tracy's Major Rogers, while sound as a dollar and communicating perfectly the almost legendary energy and infectious enthusiasm of the man, is relatively of no more importance to the narrative than the performance of white-bearded Ranger Beacham (Hugh Sothern) whose stoic acceptance of the hardships of the trail is at once comic and the sincerest tribute to the qualities of the old Injun fighters.Robert Young's Langdon Towne, ex-student of Harvard College, who joins the Rangers for reasons political, romantic, economic and artistic—but chiefly because he had no head for hot buttered rum—is more open to suspicion, although not to the point of complete disbelief until he makes a pointless little speech of Rogers's eulogy at the film's end. That was bad and banal.The picture's color is eye-blasting in almost every interior shot, with faces sunburned to salmon pink and a trace of coral in all the decorations. Once outside, however, the rainbow pulls itself together again and things begin to look as they should. Fortunately, most of it was filmed outdoors, where the color cameras were able to provide stunning shots of Redcoats on parade, redskins in the smoke of battle, red blood running redder still and red-haired scalps drying on the tent poles without completely out-dazzling the subtler sequences of boats gliding in silhouette against the rivered reflection of a campfire, men trudging through a misty bog, the soft blues and greens of the lake country. So, if "Northwest Passage" is on the grim and gruesome side, even its horrors are attractively painted; and it makes a mighty interesting film of white men on the warpath.
NORTHWEST PASSAGE, based on the novel by Kenneth Roberts; screen play by Laurence Stallings and Talbot Jennings; musical score by Herbert Stothart; directed by King Vidor; produced by Hunt Stromberg for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the Capitol.Major


 
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Dick

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I really like this film. After first seeing it, I read the Kenneth Roberts novel. Surprise, surprise...the film only covers the first half of the book. Probably a wise decision, as the book's second half is very anticlimactic. And [SPOILER="they still never find a Northwest passage!" The real adventure/journey/Indian conflict occurs earlier on. I'd love to have a decent Blu.

What would really make extraordinary (if necessarily lengthy) films from Roberts novels would be Arundel, and its direct follow-up, Rabble In Arms. A pair of the best historical novels I've read (along with The Killer Angels, which became GETTYSBURG on film).
 
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RobertMG

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I really like this film. After first seeing it, I read the Kenneth Roberts novel. Surprise, surprise...the film only covers the first half of the book. Probably a wise decision, as the book's second half is very anticlimactic. And [SPOILER="they still never find a Northwest passage!" The real adventure/journey/Indian conflict occurs earlier on. I'd love to have a decent Blu.

What would really make extraordinary (if necessarily lengthy) films from Roberts novels would be Arundel, and its direct follow-up, Rabble In Arms. A pair of the best historical novels I've read (along with The Killer Angels, which became GETTYSBURG on film).
Would love Mr Harris to tell us if he knows if the OCN exists?????
 

Robert Harris

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The OCN does survive, reportedly with dupe sections cut in. These might either be replacement for damaged footage, or possibly the earliest example of Technicolor monopack, aka low-contrast Kodachrome.
 

RobertMG

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lark144

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mark gross
I saw an amazing Technicolor print of this--it may have even been a three-strip nitrate-at MOMA in the early 70's. The color was sublime, the reds and green so alive it was almost visionary. I bought the MOD when it came out, but the source must have been from a CRI, as the color was muddy and faded.

btw, according to the trades from the late 1930's, MGM was planning on filming the second half of the novel with King Vidor as director, but it never happened, probably because the War intervened.
 

bujaki

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I saw an amazing Technicolor print of this--it may have even been a three-strip nitrate-at MOMA in the early 70's. The color was sublime, the reds and green so alive it was almost visionary. I bought the MOD when it came out, but the source must have been from a CRI, as the color was muddy and faded.

btw, according to the trades from the late 1930's, MGM was planning on filming the second half of the novel with King Vidor as director, but it never happened, probably because the War intervened.
1974, during the MGM retrospective. Unforgettable Technicolor. What the younger generations have never experienced, alas!
 

lark144

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mark gross
1974, during the MGM retrospective. Unforgettable Technicolor. What the younger generations have never experienced, alas!
I thought it was a little earlier than that, as it was a film I was anxious to see since reading about it as a child.

We were very fortunate in the early 1970's, as MOMA had all those studio retrospectives with amazing archival prints. In addition to MGM, I recall Paramount & Warners with great fondness.
 

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