|Index||4 reviews in total|
THE CANADIANS is surprisingly satisfying both as a history lesson and cinema entertainment. The story tells how the North West Mounted Police came to be established in Saskatchewan. It features an anomaly in early 1960s Hollywood films: Indians played by actual Indians speaking a real Indian language, albeit this is limited and the Sioux woman that Inspector Gannon talks to is actually speaking Cree. The acting is solid, both from the established cowboy stars like Robert Ryan and John Dehner and the supporting cast which includes two people who won awards in non-acting fields( Burt Metcalfe produced the TV show "M*A*S*H*"; Teresa Stratas was a star on Broadway and the Met). Teresa Stratas is the real star of this film. Her character is the romantic love interest and her story is pivotal to the plot. She sings three songs, one of which is a Sioux lullaby which is probably meant to replicate Jennette MacDonald's "Indian Love Call" from ROSE MARIE. However, in this movie, the song is sung to her 2 year old Metis child, not to her Mountie lover. If you saw and liked "Alien Thunder" with Donald Sutherland, you'll want to watch this one which shares similar plots and settings(Cypress Hills in beautiful Cinemascope, in this case) but also fine performances from Jack Creley. THE CANADIANS was Creley's first film; his second was DR. STRANGELOVE. The beautiful scenery may also remind you of the film "Zulu" made a few years later. Even the costumes and the plot are "Zulu"-ish, with the red coat officers taming a "wild country" on behalf of the Queen. In conclusion, this is a fine film that shows an important moment in Canadian history and American cinema.
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Contemporary reviewers gave this one the thumbs down, but it's not nearly as "tedious" or "uneventful" or "dull" as Eugene Archer (of the New York Times) and company made out back in June, 1961. Admittedly, the opening patriotic plug, "This Is Canada!", is a bit off-putting. But after this low point, the scenery and CinemaScope make up for a lot. There's also a striking performance from Jack Creley, a TV actor (1952 through 1990) who made only a dozen movies of which this is the first. In fact, all the players, led by Robert Ryan (who never gave an indifferent performance in his life), John Dehner, Torin Thatcher, John Sutton and Michael Pate are excellent. I was also surprised that the London-based reviewer for Variety complained about the photography which he alleged was "fuzzy" and looked like "16mm film blown up". My guess is that he saw an uncorrected preview copy. The print I saw was beautiful. This was the first of only three movies made by the Metropolitan Opera's superb soprano, Teresa Stratas, who made many TV appearances from 1970 through 2010.
I actually saw this movie in 1961 when it was world-wide premiered at
our theatre (The Capitol Theatre) here in Regina, SK.
From this date forward, I fell in love with the beautiful Cypress Hills area, here in our great Province of Saskatchewan in Canada! You understand that, with it's altitude, only certain flora and fauna are unique to this area as The Cypress Hills area is the highest elevation in Canada East of the Canadian Rocky Mountains! Of course the Cypress Hills was the original site for the movie shoot - The Canadians! I would love to buy a DVD copy of this film. Can anyone help me ?? Thank you, Joe Lomas, Regina, SK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well-regarded western director and screenwriter Kennedy made a solid, but rather inauspicious debut with this sparse outdoor saga. Taking place immediately after Custer's last stand, the Sioux have emigrated to Canada to avoid the U.S. military, which forces the Canadian Mounties into action. Ryan is instructed to take two men with him and meet with the Sioux chief (Pate), outlining the conditions of their permission to stay on Canadian soil. Ryan gives the tribe an amount of ammunition with which to hunt buffalo on the condition that no empty shell must ever be found next to a dead man. Unfortunately, this tenuous alliance is sorely tested when horse rancher Dehner arrives on the scene, outraged that forty of his steeds have gone missing, believed stolen by the Sioux. He and his handful of henchmen attack one of the Sioux settlements and find themselves holding Stratas, a five year Sioux captive who had assimilated into the tribe. Ryan wants Dehner brought to justice for the attack, Dehner wants his horses back and Pate wants Dehner dead for killing his fellow tribes-people. Stratas is emotionally adrift, but begins to fall for the sturdy Ryan who longs to build a home of his own away from the responsibility of the Mounties. Ryan delivers his standard solid performance here, bringing authority and determination to his role. Dehner is pretty loathsome, shooting a crying child dead about seven years before Henry Fonda startled the world by doing the same in "Once Upon a Time in the West." Thatcher appears as one of Ryan's sidekicks and adopts a gruff accent and demeanor with a dot of dry humor included. Metcalfe plays Ryan's other aide, a green, sometimes bumbling officer who does get to deliver an interesting statement on the difference between the U.S. frontier and the Canadian one. Any and all credibility goes out the window with the inclusion of Stratas in the cast. She sings a song ("This is Canada") over the opening credits and then sings a hilariously operatic lullaby to her child and then AGAIN sings another song with harmonica accompaniment beside a campfire. No reason is provided as to why this girl (23 but looking 40) who has been in Indian captivity for five years wears bright peach lipstick and belts out operatic soprano songs in the middle of nowhere. Besides the preposterousness of the singing, she has the same jowly, dour expression on her face in almost every scene. She's like the offspring of Maria Callas and Anna Magnani, but without the presence. Granted, she does manage to infuse a couple of her scenes with some degree of emotion, but, generally, her performance here has to count as a misfire and a distraction. Recent Fox Movie Channel airings of this film have included a bombastic, up-tempo version of "This is Canada", complete with scenic views of such Canadian wonders as parking lots, refineries, factories and roads. It's hard to imagine that Trey Parker and Matt Stone could ever have seen this ersatz music video prior to "South Park: The Movie", but it's also tough to believe they didn't, so similar is their song "Blame Canada!" in flavor to this opus. Nary a spoken word is heard in the first five minutes of the movie and it seems for a while like the whole thing may just be a series of landscape shots with yellow crawls going on and on about the Canadian Mounted Police! The film does have its share of merits, not the least of which is the impressive scenery (greatly diminished in pan and scan prints) and a few instances of interesting dialogue, but the low budget (how many scenes around a campfire are there?!) and the ridiculous presence of Stratas bring the film down several pegs.
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