In 1935, after forty years in a West Virginia prison, three released convicts wish to open a legitimate business using the twenty-five thousand dollars earned in jail, but a crooked prison guard in cahoots with the town banker plans to defraud them.
So so story about timber rustling and a young romance.
Happened to catch the first part of this 1960 budget adventure film on the Fox Movie channel. It's based on the once very popular turn -of-the- 20th century novel of the same name, by naturalist Gene Stratton- Porter. Her primary playground as a naturalist was the then huge Indiana swamp and quagmire known as the Limberlost, named after a hunter, Limber, who vanished in the swamp. This area was drained around 1915. Although the name Limberlost is retained in this film, clearly the forested area is not a swamp, but rather a mountainous area of mostly conifers. In fact, it is the Bear Valley, north of San Francisco, which has been used as a location in various films, including "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine". This was the second talkie film adaptation of this novel: the first in color, though it doesn't appear to be a very good grade of color. Clearly, the story is set in a contemporary '60s world, with recent motor vehicles and contemporary hair styles, rather than the horse and buggy world of the novel.
Freckles is a freckly, red-haired city-bred, young man, who shows up at a logging camp, inquiring about a possible job. He has no experience relating to logging and is missing his left hand. Hence, his prospects for a job with this outfit would appear nil. However, he lucks out that the boss, John McLean, takes a liking to him. Thus, he is given a chance to serve as a guard for this timbered property. His chief adversary is Duncan and his loggers, who have been a thorn in McLean's side for years. Apparently, Duncan used to log this area before McLean showed up with a claim on it. Freckles spots Duncan's bunch cutting some valuable trees, but McLean's back up is too late to late to catch them. Later, Duncan encounters Freckles alone and tries to convince him that he is the good guy. But Freckles doesn't buy it. Meanwhile, freckles has struck up a friendship with teen Chris Cooper, who lives in that area. But he's hurt when he learns she will be leaving for college, without telling him. He tries to argue that she belongs here, not in some city college, but to no avail. Just before she leaves, Freckles has a firearms battle with Duncan and some of his crew. I don't know the rest of the story.
In the novel, an important theme is that Freckles spent most of his childhood as an orphan, with the nature of his parents and birth uncertain. Thus, he feels unworthy to become Chris's husband, because of his background. I didn't get that impression from the portion of the film I saw.
Dramas relating to logging seem to have been rather rare among Hollywood films. This is the only Hollywood film I know of that deals with the subject of timber rustling, in contrast to the ubiquitous films including livestock rustling or minerals claim jumping. The several other films I'm aware of that center around logging feature problems of loss of aesthetic or spiritual value of a forest of giant trees("The Big Trees"), or conflicts over the damaging environmental effects of clear cutting on steep slopes("Guns of Timberland"). Although star Kirk Douglas rates "The Big Trees" as perhaps his least favorite film role, and Alan Ladd was miscast as the star in "Guns of Timberland". I rate both of these films as clearly more entertaining than the present film.
Historically, timber rustling has often been accidental, involving neighbors and unclear property boundaries, or sometimes intentional cutting on a neighboring property. Unlike in this film, illegal logging often has taken place at night, to reduce the chance of being caught. Successful prosecution is usually difficult, hence the tactics of intimidation, and vigilante armed conflicts, is dramatized in the film, as being more effective.
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