HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: North To Alaska
HTS Overall Score:69
For some reason, John Wayne is about as iconic in American culture as baseball and hotdogs. Not a great actor, by any means, his charisma and boyish looks, along with a VERY speech pattern created an actor who spanned dozens of films over the course of 50 years. Starting back in the 20’s with a myriad of uncredited role he launched a career that most actors could only dream of, ending in the late 70s. Himself along with Clint Eastwood, are two of the most recognized names in the Western genre. While he didn’t star in a lot of comedies, “North to Alaska” is one of his few ventures into the genre. While he didn’t direct it personally, rumor has it that he had a LOT of creative input into the film’s creation. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like his creative talents came to fruition here. While the movie is an entertaining romp, it lacks the focus and grip of a good comedy, shifting wildly from slapstick humor, to situational comedy to a straight forward drama.
Sam McCord (John Wayne) and his partner George Pratt (Stewart Granger), have both struck it rich in Alaska. Striking a huge claim that has made them literal millionaires overnight, the boys have it made. Sam goes back to Seattle to pick up George’s fiancée, Jenny, only to find out that the girl has gotten bored waiting and instead decided to marry someone else. Depressed and frustrated, Sam ends up a bar where he meets “Angel” (Capucine) whose charms as a French bar maid makes Sam decide to take her back to Alaska with him as a “consolation prize” for George. The only problem is that Angel thinks she’s going back to Alaska with Sam rather than FOR George. Once she sets foot on Alaskan soil she’s not sure what she should do. Sam, deluding himself into thinking that he has no feelings for the girl, sets her up with George and ends up driving himself nuts with repressed Jealousy. Realizing that Sam is head over heels for her, George devises a ruse to try and get Sam into admitting to Angel AND himself that he may actually have human emotions.
While the romantic hullaballoo is going on, Frankie Canon (Ernie Kovacs), a slick con artist, is trying his best to wheedle all those millions away from the partners. Winning a hotel in a poker game he sets himself up as an “honest” businessman and devises a scheme to get the rights to the mine. Only problem is that Angel and Frankie were both romantic partners back in the day and she can see right through him. With a little help from George’s infatuated kid brother, Billy, they have to make sure that the mine rights stay in the right hands as well as entrapping Sam into holy matrimony.
I’m a fan of goofy westerns, and have chuckled my way through quite a few. “North to Alaska” carries all the trappings of a good movie, the cast is there, the production is there, the actors have some nice chemistry, but the plot ends up too messy and over bloated for its own good. It’s unsure on its feet and tries to be too many things at once. A comedy subplot with Billy and Angel goes nowhere fast, and the Conman Frankie and Angel’s relationship is barely touched on. The romance brewing between Sam and Angel is pretty well done, except for the classic cliché’s but it’s still quite enjoyable. The overly physical “boing” and “biff-pow” type fist fight antics seem out of place and you can see that the whole vehicle is spinning its wheels in the mud, which is too bad, considering the cast. During the whole second act it started to pick up with the romance between Sam and Angel, but it devolved back into goofiness for the 3rd act. It’s still an entertaining flick and will garner a few chuckles, but unfortunately fails at its main goals.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14071[/img]The 2.35:1 cinemascope film looks excellent for its age. There’s little to no print damage and the clarity is very good for the most part. The detail level is very nice, with a thin layer of film grain covering the image, giving it a nice natural look. Skin tones are smooth and the contrast levels are spot on perfect. It’s obvious that they used a sound stage for most of the outdoor scene shots, some super imposition was done, but that’s more of a filming technique than a complaint. There are some soft scenes in there and I wish there had been a bit more detail in the close ups, but the picture itself seems to be free from most digital anomalies due to compression or tinkering. A very solid video presentation for fans.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14072[/img]The 4.0 DTS HD MA track for “North to Alaska” sounds very solid with excellent fidelity. The fidelity is crystal clear for the most part with only a few moments near the end where the dialogue fades away from the recording device. I thought at first that I was just hearing things but the volume for the dialogue dips for the last 5 minutes or so of the film while the effects and surrounds stay pitch perfect. Other than that slight issue, the rest of the sound track is gold. There’s some nice rich surround usage, especially with the musical numbers, the throbbing of a steam boats horn and the crashing of debris during a fist fight. The front sound stage sounds excellent and well balanced with an impressive score. This isn’t an LFE heavy film so don’t expect much low end volume here. There’s a little bit, but nothing to write home about.
• Theatrical Trailer
• Fox Movietone News: "North to Alaska" Premiere Besieged by Broadway Throngs
I’m not a wild John Wayne fan, but I still find most of his movies enjoyable enough, I was just surprised how the film seemed to have all the elements of a fun film, but just couldn’t seem to find its traction. It tries to be a comedy at some points, a romance at others and during the center portion of the film it actually seems enjoyable as a simple western. For some reason it just can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to be and ends up floating right in the middle of the spectrum. Still enjoyable for mindless entertainment or for John Wayne fans, just something that’s not going to get a lot of repeat viewings, in my opinion.
Starring: John Wayne, Stewart Granger
Directed by: Henry Hathaway
Written by: John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 4.0, German, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DD Mono, Spanish, Italian DTS-HD MA Mono,
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 122 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Dec 3rd, 2013
Buy North To Alaska Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
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