Big Sky, The (1952)


Theirs! The horribly postered
Theirs the horribly postered

Genre: Western

Starring: Kirk Douglas (Paths Of GloryAce in The Hole), Dewey Martin (Land of the Pharaohs)

Directed By: Howard Hawkes (Rio BravoGentlemen Prefer Blondes)

Overview: A band of fur traders decide to cut a trade route north up the Missouri river. With a wealthy trading company out to stop them and Blackfoot Indians blocking their path, theirs will be a perilous journey indeed.

Howard Hawkes. Turns out I've seen quite a few of his films in the last couple years. The Big Sleep, Sergeant York, Rio Bravo, Only Angels Have Wings. And there's more on my list to be seen as well: Bringing Up Baby, Scarface (1932), His Girl Friday. Clearly Howard's the kind of guy who makes movies with staying power, but I'm finding that Howard Hawkes will forever be one of those middle of the road directors in my books.

Perhaps it's the era he worked in. Perhaps his subjects were far more hard-hitting in that day than they are today. I mean take The Big Sky for example. What daring Hawkes must have been displaying by including in his cast of characters a bunch of French Canadian coureurs-de-bois! Perhaps he just liked exploring pioneering spirit as long as there's frequent moments of singing Frenchmen, who knows. Either way, that's what you're going to get with The Big Sky, though a young and full-of-song Kirk Douglas may surprise you in a scene or two.

Ultimately, I can't wrap my head around the fact that The Big Sky is a film I just had to see before buying the farm because it's about how men are going north with a kidnapped Indian princess to break the trading ice. A few of you may enjoy the sarcasm and embellishment of my words on occasion, but I assure you that is precisely their plan. Since the Blackfoot usually attack white folk on sight, these guys get the brilliant idea of bringing along a "hostage" - not "rescued captive" or "merciful translator" or any other word to describe a noble young Blackfoot Princess - but "hostage". What makes it sting that much more is that we get a couple noble speeches along the way about white man's greed.

I don't get it.

I need to remind myself that breaking into song is normal in 50s' Westerns and given that I have to sit and listen to it, it's a nice change of pace having it be a bunch of my French Canadian ilk.

"Tradum Wampum Whisky Princess?"
"Tradum Wampum Whisky Princess?"

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 6 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 68% (Regular Sky, Trust Me)

With antagonists that are your typical "strong ox goon bad guy" and "foppish powerful rich trader dude", the originality of the story, though enticing, is certainly not something I'll be thanking the heavens I went out of my way to find this gem on eBay, given its rarity.

Did I mention it could only be found on videotape? Or that it was colourized?

Right. Let's stop there.

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