This film, set in the Northwest American states, features Robert Mitchum as widower Matt Calder, newly released from prison and hoping to live a quiet life on his farm, with his young son Mark. Gambler Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun) and his girlfriend Kay (Marilyn Monroe) arrive at the farm, racing to get to the nearest town so that Harry can register his claim to some land which he won in a poker game. When Calder refuses to let Harry take his only rifle and his horse, Harry steals and leaves Kay behind with Matt and Mark. Unable to defend themselves against an impending attack by Native Americans, Matt, Mark and Kay are forced to take a dangerous journey down the river, on the raft that Harry left behind. Hostile territory, the ever-present threat of ambush, and a clash of personalities guarantee that this will not be an easy journey…
Considering that this film stars two movie greats – Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum – one might wonder why it is not better known. I suspect that it’s because it isn’t anywhere near the best film from either star. I’m personally in two minds about this film, and would compare it to eating cheap chocolate – you know that it’s not really very good, but you can’t help enjoying it all the same! Because that’s the thing about this movie…despite the hokey storyline, Marilyn’s less than stellar performance, and some very dodgy stereotyping of Native Americans, it is still quite an enjoyable movie. And while it’s not a great performance from Marilyn, it is interesting to see her playing (somewhat) against type. She may be a bar room singer, but she doesn’t play the whole dumb blonde thing here – instead, she’s a resourceful, feisty woman. Robert Mitchum meanwhile, is fine in his role, which is no more than you would expect. Rory Calhoun plays only a small part as Harry Weston, but he makes the most of it, and young Tommy Rettiq is impressive as Mark Calder.
The making of this film was not without its problems. Monroe and director Otto Preminger fell out during filming, and would only communicate through Mitchum (who had originally met Monroe back when she was Norma Jean Baker). Mitchum meanwhile was arrested for Marijuana possession during the filming of the movie (perhaps he needed it because of his role as go-between!)
All in all then, this is certainly not a memorable film, and if you want to watch either Mitchum or Monroe, then there are better films to see either of them in. However, it’s entertaining in its own way, and an enjoyable enough way to fill an hour and a half.
Year of release: 1954
Director: Otto Preminger, Jean Negulesco
Writers: Frank Fenton, Louis Lantz
Main cast: Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Rettiq, Rory Calhoun