Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Renfrew Of the Royal Mounted (1937)

Today we’re starting a series which is going to run every Wednesday (except next week) to the end of the summer. We’re going to take a look at one of the most neglected and overlooked film series from the 1930’s and 1940’s, The Renfrew of the Mounties series.

Based on a series of novels the films were an odd mix of Mounties/western/mystery/ musical genres. They were the sort of thing that don’t completely fit anywhere except in the small genre of Mounties movies, and even then the films cross too many other genres to fit anywhere except with in their own series. (The novels also inspired a radio series. The 1950's TV series was simply the 8 films cut up with linking material)

The problem with the films is that they are kind of a punchline to a series of Hollywood jokes in the early 1940’s because of Renfrews tendency to burst into song for no really good reason one or twice a film. That’s all well and good but the songs stop the films dead since they more often then not, really don’t fit in the story.(Western stars like Gene Autrey or Roy Rogers more often than not seemed to fit the songs into the films more naturally) With the Renfrews the songs just happen when ever he feels like singing, usually on a long horseback ride or when wooing a girl. I’m a huge fan of the films but even I can’t justify the songs and often scan through them. On the other hand if you can forgive the songs the rest of the films are fantastic, with great action and even better mysteries. These really are super little films that you should search out. Over the next 9 weeks we’re going to look at the 8 films in the series.

The first film is simply titled Renfrew of the Royal Mounted. Some of the other films in the series begin with that and then add a qualifier after the Renfrew part.

This first time out is probably the weakest time out. Its a mixed bag film that has some of the same elements and plot points that would be reused in later films.

The plot has to do with some American counterfeiters (lead by a guy with one of the worst Italian accents you'll ever see) working out of a lodge 100 miles or so from the American border and shipping the money to the US in blocks of ice with trout frozen in them. Into the mix add an Indian and a young woman trying to find her father.

Its a hit or miss film that starts and ends with a song, has a long digression at the start concerning a picnic (time for another song) and eventually finds it's footing at which point it races to the end in a manner that is at best described as silly. Sure there is some excitement, but mostly it's a flat foot by the number action film.

I'm guessing that the series was planned and that they used this film more as an introduction to the character and set up for the series rather than an actual pilot for a potential series.

In all honesty this is the one film in the series I wouldn't bother with again. Don't get me wrong, the film isn't bad, it's just not up to the films that follow it. Films like Crashing Thru or Sky Bandits are just damn fine films on any scale, this one is just way too clunky and unsure.

The film is currently out on DVD from Alpha Video and other sources. If you skipped it it wouldn't be the end of the world.

(We'll be skipping visiting the Great White North next week as there are other things a foot. When we come back we will be On The Great White Trail.)

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