Here comes another winter Western I’d never heard of, programmed this season by Criterion Channel. And like The Secret of Convict Lake, it’s a surprisingly good film.
Stewart Granger plays a French trapper. Yes, his accent takes a little getting used to but overall it works and I’m picky about such things, especially representation of the French. Though I could have lived with him saying “baby” a hell of a lot less, Granger pulls off the character and is ultimately believable as the tough outdoorsman. Wendell Corey is terrific as his counterpart, a mountie who has to track down and capture the fugitive. After all the set up, the film settles into a thrilling survival story, focused on these two characters as they judge each other’s durability and morality. This is my kind of film: simple, without a bunch of subplots, a study of two men.
The sequence with the wolves is astonishing, perhaps the best animal attack in any Western. From there, the narrative goes in an implausible direction and that is the film’s only flaw. Because of that, I think The Wild North could actually be remade and improved upon. If I was at the helm, I’d cast the great French actor Vincent Lindon in the Granger role and Keanu Reeves as the mountie who is hunting him. I’d take the Corey character in a different direction post-wolves attack, one that might be less cheery but ultimately more believable and poignant.
That being said, this film is still a must see for Western fans.
Watched on Criterion Channel.