A family saga: In a stunning mountain valley ranch setting near Aspen, complex and dangerous family dynamics play out against the backdrop of the first big snowstorm of winter and an ... See full summary »
A family saga: In a stunning mountain valley ranch setting near Aspen, complex and dangerous family dynamics play out against the backdrop of the first big snowstorm of winter and an enormous panther with seemingly mythical qualities which is killing cattle. An arrogant, pitiless son (Robert Mitchum) and a rigid pharisaic mother side against a moral eldest son and and a defeated alcoholic father while the youngest son tries to lay low, hoping against hope to persuade his family to allow him to marry a girl he has brought to visit. The girl however draws venomous condemnation and the two elder brothers set out in the midst of a violent snowstorm on a dangerous mission to kill the deadly panther. Written by
An interesting failure, but too often better in theory than execution
William Wellman's long unavailable Track of the Cat finally makes it to DVD in a good but not exceptional widescreen transfer. Sadly, it proves to be one of those films better remembered than seen, failing to live up to fond memory and revealing itself to be an ambitious but largely unsuccessful experiment. William Clothier's Scope "black and white" color cinematography is largely successful, especially in the surprisingly few location scenes, but the art direction on the all-too obviously artificial studio sets makes it feel like two distinctly different movies: a stagebound pseudo Eugene O'Neill drama about a house of secrets torn apart by a long day's journey into light and an assembly of second-unit footage of Robert Mitchum adrift in a snowy landscape as his bravado and ego break down in the face of an unseen enemy (in this case a deadly "painter") and hostile elements. Unfortunately we get far more of the homestead theatrics than the tracking, and there's none of the menace and dripping dread so prevalent in the novel.
It's not exactly a bad film, and once you get past the wildly overlong and stagey opening 22 minutes it picks up steam, but it's hard to shake the feeling of a missed opportunity here. Mitchum, Tab Hunter and Teresa Wright all offer good performances, but Val Lewton or Charles Laughton could have made so much more of it.
The extras package on Paramount's R1 DVD is good, although there's surprisingly little about the actual making of the film aside from the excellent audio commentary and the theatrical trailer advertised on the sleeve is nowhere to be found on the disc itself.
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