North To Alaska
Serious John Wayne fans have cause to rejoice this Christmas. Under their trees, they may uncover a recently released Blu-ray featuring one of his Westerns. Finding the same package, movie buffs less enthralled with "the Duke" may have serious issues with Santa this year.
Among 20th Century Fox's new, high-definition offerings is a failed attempt at a comic Western, the 1960 "North to Alaska." Bombastic and strident, it stars Wayne as a Yukon gold-miner who has "struck it rich" with partner, Stewart Granger. Attempting to affect a rowdy demeanor, elegant Brit Granger is badly miscast. One reason for the film's success was pop idol Fabian, cast as Granger's kid brother -- he attracted droves of worshipping teenyboppers. While Granger watches the mine, Wayne goes off to fetch his partner's fianceé, but picks up saloon-girl Capucine as a substitute... only to fall for her himself. Out of her realm, the frigid French import struggles to appear animated.
Throughout the film, the male characters maintain a curious habit of first punching each other squarely in the face, then asking questions later. Were such behavior a tradition up north, Alaska would scarcely have achieved statehood. To make matters worse, the interminable brawls are accompanied by cartoon sound effects. Obviously "North to Alaska" was meant to be a rugged "man's picture," but proved a sad misfire for veteran director Henry Hathaway.
On the technical front, the new release is a success, though not quite up to the par of Fox's new Blu-ray of "The Undefeated." The overall picture quality is excellent, with the vivid costumes and sets dazzling in rich color. Likewise, the widescreen photography impresses in the fine transfer. The absolute best feature of the film is the hit, title song, sung by Johnny Horton over the opening credits. From then on, it's downhill. The extras are mercifully few, and include only a newsreel snippet of the theatrical premiere, and the trailer. There is no spoken commentary; however, in this case, the less said the better.
"North to Alaska"