Monday, October 19, 2009

River of No Return

(Otto Preminger, 1954)
It's Robert Mitchum as Civilized Man! Protecting his wheat farm, his kid, and saloon broad Marilyn Monroe from the tribulations of the (Canadian??) Wild West, including Monroe's sleazeball card sharp boyfriend, a terribly generic and perfunctory buncha Injuns who can't even shoot, some horny prospectors, and the titular river, which they must navigate by raft to retrieve Mitchum's gun and horse. Everything looks gorgeous in Cinemascope (Monroe most definitely included) and there are clever tidbits throughout, but after a spectacularly detailed opening sequence at the prospectors' encampment things do thin out, with Mitchum and co. mainly duking it out with a bunch of wholly unconvincing rear projections. If Bob is so resourceful how come he can't get more than a measly rump roast out of that elk? The original 3-D process was probably supposed to pick up some of the dramatic slack, as usual. Monroe has a bit of difficulty wedging her persona into the tough-broad routine; she looks pretty out of place on that raft. And there's little critique to be seen as Mitchum's machismo, or generational projections thereof, provide the only resolution to whatever conflicts happen to arise. In that vein, the (studio-imposed?) final scene is so objectionable that it has got to be some kind of a joke, right? Right? One more knee-slapper: Monroe's first song is called "Changing Hands", and she pretends to play it on guitar...only she doesn't change her hands.

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