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Friday, 23 March 2012

Classic Film Review: River of No Return (1954)

River of No Return tells the story of Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum) reunited with his young son Mark (Tommy Rettig) in the Rocky Mountains after being released from prison. Mark has formed an attachment to singer Kay (Marilyn Monroe) while waiting to be collected. The trio later meet again when Kay's gambling partner Weston (Rory Calhoun) nearly crashes the raft the pair are on and Calder saves them. Kay and Weston are trying to file the deed for a gold mine Weston won in a poker game. When Calder refuses to give up his precious rifle and horse, Weston steals them. Kay elects to stay and look after an injured Calder but the pair along with Mark are forced to flee when Indians attack. What follows are lion and Indian attacks and the trials of the treacherous river they travel on.

I was a little underwhelmed by this one. Monroe really wasn't at her best (for 'best' see There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)) and seemed out of place in a Western. There was little chemistry between her and Mitchum, although both the leads had a good rapport with Tommy Rettig as young Mark. That - along with the beautiful scenery - was the film's saving grace. The few songs were instantly forgettable and only served to show off Monroe's body. This was unnecessary, I thought, since later on she was forced to adapt to her rustic setting and male fans got more than eyeful then. The Indian scenes were as stereotypical as in any 50s Western and the script was a little bland. Monroe, especially, seemed to struggle with her but, then, her character had more to say than Mitchum's brooding one. 

I can forgive bad performances or a bad script but rarely both in the same film. This film was spectacular for the on-location shots but forgettable for almost everything else. 


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Yes, my husband and I enjoy watching the Marilyn films (Niagara and Seven-Year Itch being two faves), but this one had us rolling in our seats, laughing at the horrific acting (kind of like The Prince and the Showgirl). Add that to her total stereotypical role (okay, even more than normal), and we decided never to watch it again. Sigh.

CharmedLassie said...

Uh-oh, I've got The Prince and the Showgirl recorded ready to watch at some point! Having done a little reading on the behind-the-scenes stuff going on, it seems Marilyn was being pulled in all directions as usual. In this film it showed a little more, helped along by the bad script!