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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Classic Film Review: The Big Trees (1952)

Despite reading some fairly negative reviews, I rather enjoyed The Big Trees. It doesn't pretend to be anything it's not and is enjoyable as a lesser Kirk Douglas film. Douglas plays timber baron Jim Fallon (yes, I know that rhymes but that's the way IMDB describe him) who aims to take advantage of a new law and make a fortune by chopping down some valuable Californian redwoods. Unfortunately, a group of Quakers live on the land he intends to desecrate so he plots to manipulate them and get the wood any way he can. Two things stand in his way - Quaker Alicia Chadwick (Eve Miller) and the friends he's managed to alienate during his rise to fortune. The most significant of these is Walter 'Yukon' Burns (Edgar Buchanan), the kind-hearted man Fallon sent on ahead of him to California.

Some of the Quaker scenes are admittedly a little clich√© and I don't see the attraction between Fallon and Alicia. What does shine through, though, is the relationship between Fallon and Yukon - while I could never accept Alicia as a legitimate reason for Fallon to change, I could accept it in combination with what happens to Yukon. There are numerous forgettable characters surrounding these main three and, in all honestly, when it came to the big moments they were involved in I almost forgot who they were. The film fails a little in keeping all threads going but the main few are consistent.

There are a couple of memorable moments worthy of mention. When Alicia and Yukon are trying to think of a legal (and morally righteous) way of derailing Fallon's plans they settle on a 'cataclysm' - that is, complete chaos caused by a cat. Secondly, the runaway train with Alicia trapped in it is quite effective, although Fallon's rescue attempt is a little lengthy. It felt like the film had a double climax though, with the train crash rather diluting the effect of the explosive finale.

This isn't a ground-breaking film but it's an enjoyable one. Kirk Douglas is ideal as unscrupulous Fallon and although some of the dialogue and plot are a little clunky it works overall.

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