In 1952, many “outdoors” adventure films would be shot on the studio back-lot, with fake-looking backgrounds and interior sets masquerading as exteriors. The Wild North benefits greatly from the fact that much of it was shot on authentic locations (the American state of Idaho standing in for northern Canada). The film also benefits from a clutch of strong leading performances from Stewart Granger and Wendell Corey, plus the ravishing Cyd Charisse (cast – some might say miscast – as a native Indian). The whole film is smartly presented by Andrew Marton, whose last film prior to this was another outdoor adventure with Stewart Granger, the 1950 version of King Solomon’s Mines.
Wise, handsome and resourceful fur-trapper Jules Vincent (Stewart Granger) is accused of a killing, and an inexperienced Mountie named Pedley (Wendell Corey) is the man who must bring him in. Vincent knows the rugged wilderness like the back of his hand, so he heads off into the snowy wastelands to hide from his pursuer. Pedley is determined to prove that he is suited to the dangerous Mountie’s work for which he has signed up, so he chases his quarry into the frozen wilds regardless of the risk to his life. After a long and arduous chase, Pedley finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere, totally exhausted and half-mad after his hair-raising journey. As winter closes in, it looks like the Mountie is facing certain death… but during their cat-and-mouse chase Vincent has grown to respect his pursuer. As a mark of this respect, Vincent helps Pedley to survive the winter, after which the mismatched pair make their way towards civilization.
MGM used to be able to knock out these stirring adventure flicks in their sleep, and this one is a pretty entertaining example of their output. Granger and Corey share a good on-screen chemistry, while director Marton successfully makes the scenery against which their adventures occur look suitably wild and beautiful. Within its 97 minute running time, the film is very fast-paced and crammed with incident. Amongst the more thrilling segments, Granger and Corey find themselves in one sequence attacked by a marauding wolf pack. Looking at the film nowadays, it has an old-fashioned style about it that viewers of a certain age and taste might not appreciate. And there have been so many films set in barren, far-flung corners of the world that some of us might no longer find the icy plains of Canada as fascinating as we once did. But, on the whole, The Wild North is a highly enjoyable chase adventure, worth watching for its nostalgic pleasures and its strong performances. As a wise man once said, they don’t make ’em like this any more….