Back to God's Country
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (19th April 2016).
The Film

An Eskimo prays at a small alter he has erected in the snowy wastelands of the Canadian North West. Suddenly a shot rings out and the alter is hit, just missing the Eskimo. The Eskimo flees with his sled being pulled by one dog but he is being chased by two men with a much larger pack of dogs pulling their sledge. After a brief chase one of the chasing men shoots again and the Eskimo is killed. As the men inspect the body of the Eskimo his dog pulls free and attacks the men. The dog is viciously clubbed to the ground and. One of the men pulls his rifle out to kill the dog but the other man stops him. It's the dog he wants, and he wants it alive. Back in relative civilisation Captain Peter Keith (Rock Hudson) is preparing to sail his ship, full of furs, back to Seattle where he will sell them. He has been waiting for a further load but cannot wait any longer as the weather is getting worse and he is afraid of being iced in to the port which will mean he and his crew will be stranded in the port for the next eight months. Accompanying Keith is his Wife Dolores (Marcia Henderson) the only white woman in hundreds of miles. Keith and Dolores are approached by local business man Paul Blake (Steve Cochran) and his assistant Frank Hudson (Hugh O' Brian). Blake implores Keith, but more specifically Dolores, to have dinner with him and Hudson before Keith sails at midnight that night. Keith agrees. Later on Keith receives a message from the Canadian customs instructing Keith to wait there until a customs official can come and check the cargo of his ship. Keith knows that this will take at least a week until the customs official arrives and decides to ignore the notice even if it will mean dire consequences for him. That evening Keith and Dolores enjoy the hospitality of Blake. Whilst Dolores is being shown around Blake's house she notices a draft of the letter Keith received in the waste paper basket. During this time Hudson warns Keith that Blake has taken quite a shine to Dolores and what Blake wants Blake usually gets. Blake then introduces Keith and Dolores to his latest addition to the household, a wild dog exactly the same as the one that was clubbed, not quite to death, earlier. After dinner Keith and Dolores return to the ship to find two vital crew members missing. Keith has not option but to go after them into the frozen wastelands leaving Dolores alone on the ship. Keith finally tracks his crew members down but as he talks to them his sledge is stolen. He has now has a choice of walking the long journey back to the ship or staying in the cabin where he found the crew members. With the weather closing in Keith knows that his Wife is in danger as is his life unless he can get back to his ship and soon.

'Back to God's Country' is a film based on a short story by James Oliver Curwood and originally called 'Wapi, the Walrus'. The story had been previously filmed in silent and in black and white in 1919 and this effort is a less lurid update of the story. It's the inconsistencies in this 1953 version that ultimately undermine it. In an early scene we see some of Keith's crew mentioning how they would hate to be stuck in such a pokey little town for the next eight months if they are iced in and yet two of this crew are easily bribed by Blake to leave the ship so Keith cannot sail as planned. The suspense of the film basically revolves around the danger to Dolores and yet Keith makes some rather poor decisions regarding her care although much is made about her strong character and her ability with a firearm (ably demonstrated at one point). Whilst Blake makes for a decent villain his motives are sketchy at best. We find out quite early on that he is keeping Hudson at the port basically by blackmail after finding out that Hudson was stealing from him but why would Blake want to keep a thief so close to him, especially one that has witnessed Blake murdering in cold blood? Surely Hudson now has enough evidence to hand to be able to secure his own freedom. The film is ably directed by Joseph Pevney who's main claim to fame is that he directed the most of the original Star Trek episodes in the 1960's. The studio bound sets of what is supposed to be snowy wastelands do not do the film any favours either and the whole production looks quite cramped and a bit on the cheap side. It's Rock Hudson and Marcia Henderson that drive the film and they perform well but are let down by a simplistic and, at times, nonsensical script but what derails 'Back to God's Country' most is that it's a bit dull.

Video

This DVD from Simply Media presents the feature presentation in it's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 It would be a year or two before widescreen became the norm in cinema and it's something that this film could have definitely benefited from. The production looks quite cramped throughout with characters having to stand far too close to each other. The picture quality is on the faded and soft side with colours especially quite muted. Whilst no restoration seems to have taken place on the print there are no major defects visible. Acceptable, just.

Audio

The soundtrack is provided in a simple dual mono track. There is an underlying hiss that is constantly present throughout which in the quieter moments of the film can be quite annoying. Dialogue is clear throughout with sound effects such as gunshots not packing any real punch at all. I imagine this is pretty much what viewers would have heard when the movie was originally released in 1953. There are no subtitles of any kind available.

Extras

There are no extras present.

Overall

Whilst the cast is decent the film itself makes the big mistake of being dull. The character of Blake is presented as being bad because, well because otherwise there would be no film. His motivations are obtuse at best. Captain Keith is warned about Blake relatively early on yet decides not to let this impair his decisions in any way and it is because of this that the danger to his Wife Dolores escalates to the extent that it does. Any danger to Dolores is hinted at rather than explicitly stated and, anyway, she seems quite capable of looking after herself. 'Back to God's Country' is a minor entry on the CV of Rock Hudson and with the re-release of this film on DVD I imagine it will stay that way.

The Film: C Video: C Audio: C Extras: F Overall: C

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.