The Cariboo Trail (1950)
The first thing I should point out while spotlighting this Randolph Scott western is how fortunate we are to be able to see it thanks to it’s recent reconstruction and restoration. The film looks as good as I could possibly hope for via Kino Lorber’s blu ray release of this title originally distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.
Western legend Scott is once again riding tall in the saddle when he and pals Bill Williams and Lee Tung Foo are moving a cattle herd into the mountains of British Columbia during the latter days of a gold rush. It’s while nearing a small frontier town that Scott will run afoul of familiar screen heavy Victor Jory while connecting with attractive Karin Booth who owns and operates the one saloon in town that Jory doesn’t have a stake in.
That should clearly draw the picture and plot direction for one and all over the course of this 81 minute outdoor adventure.
Injecting some added drama into the plot occurs when Williams, who would rather be panning for gold then running cattle, loses an arm in a stampede caused by Jory’s gang of ruffians and Jim Davis in particular. Davis being another long time western heavy. Scott and Foo will leave the brooding Williams in town minus their stolen herd when who should they meet? George “Gabby” Hayes who invokes just a touch of Walter Huston’s Oscar winning role as the old time prospector seeking the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But then Gabby always seemed to be playing that old prospector so maybe I’ve got it half assed backwards.
Hayes who always had a way with words “My stomach’s crowding my back bone.” convinces Scott and Foo to go panning for gold. With little prospects of his own, Scott leads the trio higher into the mountains and Indian territory. They’ll find both nuggets and Indians on the warpath. Back to town but with gold in his pockets. Scott will once again be the focus of the shifty eyed Jory. Jory’s look as the villain here is a welcome change from what we might expect. He’s a well dressed city slickster hiding behind a pair of specs who hires his killings while trying to convince lovely Miss Booth that a marriage between them would be both exciting and profitable. Sorry Vic, once a woman’s laid eyes on Scott, she’ll wait him out. Literally till the cows come home when Scott once again hooks up with another herd that he buys into.
There’s plenty of plot crammed into this Edwin L. Marin feature that will see the angry Williams take up with Jory blaming Scott for the loss of his arm and western regulars like Dale Robertson and James Griffith also turning up by the time the gun smoke settles at the fade out.
Supposedly taking place in the province of British Columbia here in Canada, it would seem as if this was actually filmed in both Colorado and California with maybe a slight bit of second unit work done north of the border. Like Johnny Weissmuller never journeying to Africa for the Tarzan movies, I suspect Randolph never made it into the interior of B.C. during this production. There’s a nice score to accompany the action from composer Paul Sawtell. Not a household name as in a Franz Waxman or a Ennio Morricone I agree but after a quick look at the man’s credit list at the IMDB, I was shocked to see a total of 331 listings to his name ranging from the year 1939 till 1971, the year that saw his passing.
Another background item that leaped off the screen at me were the totem poles. Full marks to the set director, Al Orenbach, for bringing the backdrop to life of the frontier town which doesn’t amount to much more than a trading station and saloon. Either way it has a different feel/look than most westerns that were to come during the genre’s peak years over the next decade. The director Edwin L. Marin who would pass away prematurely in 1952 was no stranger to Randolph Scott features. Of the final eleven films he helmed between 1947 and 1951, seven starred the man who would one day be remembered in the song, “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?”
Of those seven Scott films, Victor Jory, would appear in three. This one as well as Fighting Man of the Plains and Canadian Pacific. No stranger to the western, Bill Williams, was also in Fighting Man of the Plains. George Hayes who most of us know as Gabby played his final western here retiring from the movie screens and aside the odd TV appearance as himself all but retired from appearing in front of the camera.
Should you pick up the Kino Lorber blu ray be sure to read the opening explanation on how the film’s reconstruction came about as well as the 30 minute featurette on it’s restoration. Thankfully Canadian Pacific underwent the same treatment so I’ll look forward to watching that one as well for the first time.
Now let’s sit back and enjoy the scenic view of British Columbia right alongside Lee, Gabby and Randolph.