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To Preserve The Wilderness, They Must First Take Action To Save Themselves.
Beginning in the late 1940s, a good many films have been produced with a rousingly scenic background of white water rafting, enough indeed to constitute a cinematic genre, and this work fits well within that classification. A low budget action melodrama, with retakes not easily to be managed due to the rushing waters that give some of the principal characters an appearance of drowned rats, it is a scenery propelled affair with some able stunt work from performers following that vocation. Action opens in a suburb of Washington, D.C., at a garden party where is seen a Justice Department attorney, Charles Duke (Robert Urich) being manipulated into agreeing, although reluctantly, to provide guide service for an Oregon senator, Jim Corbin (Paul Burke) and his assistant Jane (Lee Purcell) while accompanying southern Oregon native Duke on his planned vacation rafting trip, this a ploy to allow the congressman to garner support for his pending wilderness preservation legislation. Duke and his new companions then travel to Charley's home town, Hell's Gate, fronting the Rogue River, where he visits old friends Jack and Anna, and they decide to join with the others for a white water adventure, a trailing craft to carry Corbin and the two women, albeit the lawmaker and his secretary have no rafting experience. At this point, a trio of disgruntled local loggers enters the plot, their employer, a lumber mill, having closed because of the conservation efforts of Corbin and others, the woodsmen additionally resentful of Duke's career success after he opted to leave the Pacific Northwest in order to enter Federal government service. Serious complications arise when the now intoxicated loggers, filled with despair at losing their source of employment, spontaneously endeavour to sink the rafts with rifle fire, inadvertently killing one of the rafting party and leading to a lengthy sequence of stalking and fleeing as the desperate rurals intend to kill the surviving four rafters, thereby cancelling all witnesses to their act of manslaughter. The rapid river that jars the voyagers (and cameras) clearly becomes a storyline character in its own right, added to a cast that includes the somewhat cretinous villains although the latter are blessedly spared by the script those psychosexual excesses given to others of their breed that frequent this particular cinematic category; Deborah Raffin earns acting laurels here with a nicely layered turn as a woman uncertain as to from which direction her happiness should be sought. The longstanding conflict between Oregon's wilderness conservationists and logging interests is handled with proper concern for both sides, with even the generically moronic Forces of Evil furnished a concrete point of view, while the politician played by Burke is given an uncommonly positive image as a man who regrets that his legislative reforms will bring hardship to many whose gainfully employed days are possibly at an end. Shot entirely on and near the Rogue River the film, despite standardized exploits from its hero. and a prominent made for television pedigree, is a better than average effort thanks to, amid its virtues, a refreshing and total lack of gratuitous gore. Director Jerry Jameson, a specialist in helming productions that showcase people facing great physical danger caused by non-human factors, handles well the better than standard dialogue, wisely utilizing moments of silence in a natural fashion and to a viewer's satisfaction.
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