Caryl of the Mountains (1936)
Nate is busy training a brand-new staff member, so once again this review will be a solo effort. Left to my own devices, I chose to review a movie starring my very first crush, the handsome, romantic, and dashing -- Rin Tin Tin! No kidding, when I was six years old, Rin Tin Tin was my favorite movie star. At that time I was watching my hero in reruns of a TV series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. In this series, he was in the U.S. Cavalry sometime after the Civil War and helped fight Indians and catch bad guys and stuff. Since you can find many old movies and TV shows online today, I decided to search for the old TV series and review it. I found that at least one episode has been posted on Youtube, but when I watched it, I couldn't stand it. To my much-older eyes, the plot seems blatantly crafted to appeal to six-year-olds and no one else. The old stereotypes of "Injuns" are used at every turn. Poor Rinty is often required to be cute. And to top it off, there's that pestilence in human form that ruined so many Godzilla movies, a Kenny who seems to order everybody around. My fond memories were blasted. I couldn't bring myself to sit through the episode, but I still wanted to review something Rin Tin Tin starred in.
"You know you love me."
Fortunately for me, Rin Tin Tin has been around a lot longer than I knew when I was six, and there are many other Rin Tin Tin movies out there. The original Rin Tin Tin was born in 1918 in France and was found as a puppy by an American soldier, who brought him back to the United States. According to the Internet, he was named Rin Tin Tin after a puppet that French children gave to American soldiers for good luck. He showed an aptitude for learning tricks, and his owner decided to try him out in the movies. Rin Tin Tin starred in a number of silent movies and a few talkies, but he died in 1932 -- in the arms of Jean Harlow, according to some sources. The Rin Tin Tin we'll see in this movie, which was made in 1936, was billed as Rin Tin Tin Jr. and was in fact one of the original Rin Tin Tin's pups.
He was so popular the US Navy even named a ship after him (seriously!).
Although the movie I chose to review, Caryl of the Mountains, was low-budget, it's not all bad. The actors in this movie are somewhat better than you might expect. The Mountie is played by Ralph Bushman, billed as "Francis X. Bushman Jr," as he was in most of his movies. Although he had nowhere near as impressive a career as his father, the one-time "King of Hollywood," he acted in quite a few movies, even though many of his parts were uncredited. His part is not the most demanding one ever written, but he does a decent job, although in the early scenes he has an almost-constant smile that gets a little irritating. Lois Wilde, who plays the heroine Caryl Foray, was a Broadway actress before she entered the movies and had a brief but prolific career in the mid-1930s acting in Westerns until she was forced to retire after being injured in a car accident. The rest of the cast had extensive if not spectacular careers in B-movies, and in general they all do a good job.
We've met Bushman before, in 1961's The Phantom Planet. Poor guy.
The movie gets our attention immediately with a pretty young woman opening a safe and removing an envelope. From her furtive actions, it appears that this is something she's not supposed to be doing. She hastily folds a note and puts it and the first envelope into another envelope, crams the whole thing into her purse and puts on her hat, preparing to go out, because in 1936 adult women didn't appear in public without a hat on. However, before she can make it out the door, in walks a man. He seems to be her boss, and she claims to have been finishing up some work, but she's so obviously nervous that any idiot ought to be able to spot that she's up to something. Which the man does, and he heads over to the safe and opens it. He realizes something's missing, but instead of calling the police he goes to a window, where he sees the girl mailing the envelope.
She's sneaky, but has a heart of gold (spoiler!).
Okay, nothing like jumping right into the heart of the action. Now we're wondering who is the bad guy here, the girl or the man? Since this is basically a kids' movie, I'm going with the man, because the girl is pretty and the man is rather homely and has a thin moustache, which was an almost-certain indicator of villainy in this kind of movie. Any part played by Clark Gable was an exception, but by 1936 he wasn't acting in this kind of movie.
And his tie is soooo evil.
The girl doesn't seem to be an expert at stealing, for when she addressed the second envelope she blotted it with a blotter, leaving a mirror image on the blotter. The man spots this, and now he knows where she sent the envelope. He frowns, looks sinister, puts on his own hat since men didn't appear in public in 1936 with their heads uncovered, either, and goes out the door. We'll have to wait a while to find out what he's going to do.
This digital transfer sucks balls.
In contrast to the nonstop action of the first scene, in the second scene we're treated to a panoramic shot of some mountains. The camera finally zooms in on a log cabin, and in it we see the star of the movie and my first love, Rin Tin Tin himself. Rather demeaningly for such a big star, he's doing tricks for treats given to him by an old man. The old man also has a moustache -- is he a villain, too? Surely not, for such a noble character as Rin Tin Tin would hardly consort with a bad guy. The old man's moustache is quite bushy, so I think he's probably a good guy.
"Ok, I played with you, now give me some bacon."
The first man and the girl had American accents, so I assumed the entire movie would be set in the United States, but I was wrong. A Mountie rides up to the cabin door, and in his conversation with the Mountie, the old man proves to have a (screamingly fake) French-Canadian accent. (The actor, Josef Swickart, was actually German.) The Mountie, who is named Brad Sheridan and is a sergeant, presents the old man with a familiar-looking letter. It seems the old man can't read, which makes me wonder why the girl sent him a letter in the first place. Fortunately Brad agrees to read the letter aloud, and we learn that the girl is named Caryl Foray, that the old man is her uncle, and that whatever she put in the envelope is important. She asks her uncle to put the papers in a safe place, which he obediently does, behind a loose stone in his fireplace.
Brad, he's dreamy.
Had you forgotten about the thin-moustached man, whose name is Enos Colvin? ("Enos" -- the man has to be a villain.) He's back again, heading toward the cabin, although he did take time to change out of his city suit and into clothing more suited for the mountains. At last, a full ten minutes into the movie, we get confirmation that Enos is a villain, when Rin Tin Tin barks and lunges at him as he enters the old man's cabin. At Enos' request, the old man puts Rin Tin Tin outside while they talk. Enos ends up shooting the old man when he refuses to tell him where he hid the papers, but this comes as an anticlimax, because didn't Rin Tin Tin already tell us Enos was a bad man? Enos also shoots Rin Tin Tin when he tries to jump in through the window to save the old man, which no doubt caused some grief among the small children in the original audience, but we, and probably most of them, knew that with only 12 minutes gone out of an hour-long movie, Rin Tin Tin couldn't possibly be dead. In fact, Rin Tin Tin's collapse looked extremely fake, and I wonder if maybe he was only pretending to be shot?
Black hat equals black heart.
Maybe, because as Enos ransacks the cabin, we see Rin Tin Tin inching along the ground. Or maybe not, because he has a hard time getting up the back porch steps as Enos gives up and leaves. I can't tell if Rin Tin Tin's actions are fake-pretend or real-pretend, so to speak. Is he a healthy dog pretending to be wounded to fool the bad guy, or is he a healthy dog pretending to be wounded because the script says he was shot? If it's the latter, I'm sorry to say that my hero isn't all that good an actor. Thank goodness he's got his looks to get him parts.
Staying by his (dead) master to the end.
He's also got brains, and he knows just where to go: to the nearest RCMP office. He alternates between crawling and hopping with one paw in the air, but he finally makes it (and still doesn't look genuinely wounded). Rinty is found and treated by the Mounties, and from the way Ralph Bushman treats him, he must have been a dog lover. For any animal lovers who are reading this, I can absolutely assure you, Rin Tin Tin was in no way harmed during this scene. I've had dogs most of my life and nursed them through assorted injuries and illnesses, and I can tell by how Rinty acts that he was fine.
Rinty gets his limp on.
It occurs to the Mounties that if Rinty is wounded, there's likely to be trouble at the old man's cabin, and Brad rides off to investigate. He finds the old man dead on the floor. The scene now fades to black, and the action reopens with a pretty girl riding up to the RCMP office. You probably won't be too surprised to find that this is none other than Caryl Foray, the girl we saw cracking the safe earlier. She and Brad seem to be pretty well acquainted already, since they hug and kiss warmly. Brad tries to cheer up the distraught Caryl with the philosophical utterance that "These things are likely to happen." Caryl seems to be a follower of the Stoic school of philosophy, because instead of punching him for this enormous display of insensitivity, she stares adoringly into his manly face and asks after Rinty. Once assured that Rinty is healing well, Caryl insists on going alone to her uncle's cabin. Despite the fact that her uncle was recently murdered in that very cabin by persons unknown, and despite the fact that Brad knows her uncle had something very important hidden in his cabin, and despite the fact that the cabin has no telephone or neighbors within earshot, Brad lets her go with no fuss. Is this a sign that he considers Caryl well able to take care of herself, or is the good Mountie a little stupid?
"You Canucks are so tall..."
If I may digress for a moment, I'd like to point out the similarity between Caryl and the heroine of Ghost Patrol, which was also made in 1936. Both of them are smart, tough, and brave, and neither one needs a man to take care of her. As Nate pointed out in Ghost Patrol, this is in complete contrast to heroines in later B-movies up to around the 1980s, when women in B-movies began to regain a little spunk. What happened? Well, I think that although women had received the vote in 1920 and were very gradually making advances toward equality, the real reason for the valiant women heroines of 1930s movies was not so much gains in womens' rights in the real world but was more based on the economic conditions of the time. It may be flattering to have a pretty girl cling to you when times are good, but in the middle of a serious depression, who wants a girl who can't take care of herself?
Ellen Ripley would approve of Caryl's spunkiness.
But back to Caryl, no sooner has she ridden off than another Mountie rides up and hands Brad a "dispatch from Headquarters," suggesting that the RCMP office has no telephone. Are there any Canadians out there? Was this realistic in 1936? Were there areas of Canada so isolated at that time that even police officers didn't have access to telephones and radios, and the only means of transportation they had was horseback? Wait a minute, no. Enos arrived at the old man's cabin in a car, so there must have been some roads in the area good enough for a car to drive on. Let's forget this for now, since the movie was probably made for an audience used to Westerns and who expected to see law enforcement officers riding everywhere. Anyway, according to IMDb the movie was filmed in San Bernardino National Forest, not in Canada.
Quite pretty, especially in the early fall.
Getting back to the Mountie office, Brad looks at the dispatch and sees to his shock that it's a warrant for Caryl's arrest. The charge is embezzlement. While Rinty whimpers in sympathy, Brad insists that Caryl can't possibly be an embezzler. Showing what must have been serious misconduct, Brad rides off to find Caryl and ask her about the charge. In addition, two of his subordinates know that there's a warrant for Caryl's arrest but make no effort either to stop him or report his actions to his superiors. One of them mentions that Brad's engaged to Caryl, but I doubt his superiors would have considered this an adequate excuse.
"Say's here that Canadians hate Communists."
By now Caryl's at the cabin, rummaging around trying to find where her uncle hid the bonds. Brad walks in and wordlessly hands her the arrest warrant. Caryl surprises me by admitting that she took the bonds, but immediately adds that she did it to save them from being stolen by Enos Colvin, who was planning to run off to Europe with them. Brad falls for this hook, line, and sinker, and says happily that there's no problem, then, Caryl can just return the bonds. However, Caryl throws a monkey wrench into Brad's suggestion, because she can't find the bonds. She thinks the man who killed her uncle found them and took them. Brad looks downcast at this news but still refuses to arrest her. However, he does say he'll send another Mountie to do this and exits, leaving her alone in the cabin. There's a closeup of Caryl just after Brad leaves, and the expression on her face makes me wonder, is she really on the level after all, or did she actually steal the bonds for herself? I remind myself that Enos did in fact kill her uncle and that this is a 59-minute low-budget B-movie, which suggests that the filmmakers probably would have rejected a plot that made the beautiful girl the villain and her Mountie boyfriend her dupe, since the target audience was unlikely to accept so great a deviation from the conventions of this kind of movie.
Brad has bad taste in women.
In the next scene, Brad's back in his office, with Rinty still recuperating in a box by Brad's desk. Brad is pretty depressed by the recent turn of events, and he gets even more so when two Mounties, one an Inspector, ride up and announce that they're there to take the prisoner back to headquarters. Seriously, two men on horseback are going to convey a prisoner somewhere? And a woman prisoner, at that? Caryl's pretty small, but even so, if she really wanted to escape she could make it hard for two men to hold on to her. And wasn't there any requirement for a woman prisoner to have at least one woman escort? However, all this may be moot, because the Mountie who went to arrest Caryl arrives with the news that Caryl was gone when he got to the cabin and left a note for Brad pinned to the front door. The Inspector reads the note aloud, and to no one's surprise, it says that Caryl has run away to escape the disgrace of arrest and to find evidence that she is innocent. In a slight nod to the real world, he then chews Brad out for letting her get away and tells him he can either accept a reduction in rank or resign from the RCMP. Brad chooses the reduction in rank, gets his sergeant's stripes cut off, and takes a seat in a corner of the office, looking mournful.
Brad and Rinty.
Rinty surprises us by barking and lunging at the Inspector, who is reading a letter written by Enos Colvin. The Inspector is understandably upset and accuses Rinty of being dangerous. Brad speaks up in Rinty's defense and says that it was Colvin's letter, not the Inspector's hand, that Rinty was snapping at. The Inspector doesn't buy this and I certainly don't blame him, but I can't help but wince when he orders Brad to take Rinty outside and "destroy him." The Inspector orders the Mountie who just tried to find Caryl to go back out and track her down, while outside Brad carries a whimpering Rinty away from the RCMP building. Brad puts Rinty on the ground, draws his pistol, and...we cut away to the front of the building where the Inspector and two Mounties are getting on their horses as a shot rings out. Oh, no. Poor, poor Rinty. Was that the end? By now the youngest members of the audience were probably on the verge of tears, but we more experienced Rinty fans know our hero hasn't bitten the dust. And indeed, we almost immediately cut back to Brad, who has once again disobeyed the orders of his superiors and fired a shot into the air, leaving Rinty alive and if not well, at least no worse off than he was before. Brad then carries Rinty off to sanctuary with "Indian Joe," who will presumably use his special Indian skills to nurse Rinty back to health.
The Inspector is...wait, is that Grand Moff Tarkin?
The next scene opens in an office, where Caryl is promising to show some files to a man she calls Captain Edwards. These files, she assures him, will prove her innocence. The Captain is looking through the files when they hear a key in the lock, and they promptly hide in a closet, which seems a peculiar thing for a law-enforcement officer to do. I'm not sure what a police officer had to do in 1936 to gain access to files suspected to hold proof of a crime, but it's possible he could just barge in and help himself. If not, the Captain must have had some sort of legal right to be there. Of course, right now Caryl's the only one who's actually committed a crime, which brings up the question of why a police officer is helping her find evidence instead of arresting her. Is Captain Edwards also her fiance? The key is in the hand of Enos Colvin, who else. He tries to make a phone call but shortly leaves the office when he can't reach whoever he was calling. However, Captain Edwards was astute enough to count the clicks (it was a rotary-dial phone, of course), so he knows the number Enos was trying to call. Caryl recognizes it as the garage where he keeps his car, so they hurry back to the files to search for evidence before Enos gets away.
"Hold on, let me write this down...you want pepperoni on that?"
Back at the RCMP office, Brad is wrapping up some food to take to Rinty. He and another Mountie are wondering just why Rinty snapped at the letter, and they wonder if maybe Rinty hated the smell because Enos Colvin had something to do with the old man's murder. In another slight nod to the real world, Brad says he'll look for more evidence since the letter passed through a lot of hands before it got to the Inspector. If this were any other dog, I'd say he couldn't have picked out Enos Colvin's smell from all the other scents that must have been on the letter, but come on -- this is Rin Tin Tin! Of course he's figured out who murdered his master and tried to kill him! He probably recognized Enos' handwriting.
Indian Joe back there never gets a close-up, wonder why?
Brad rides to Indian Joe's cabin to visit the invalid, and they both seem glad to see each other. (I notice that Brad's greeting is a little too enthusiastic for a genuinely wounded dog to put up with, and once he actually pats Rinty on top of the "wound.") He promises Rinty to check up on Enos Colvin, then goes back to the office to dispatch a letter requesting Enos' whereabouts on the day of the murder. A letter? Did the RCMP really have no faster means of communication in 1936 than letters? Teletype machines certainly existed in 1936, but these Mounties don't seem to have so much as a telephone.
"Say's here that Commies should be shunned and caged, very good."
Caryl, it seems, is still free and active and sitting in a nice apartment going through some papers, when Captain Edwards appears at her door. He informs her that her case is scheduled for trial next week, which dismays her as she still hasn't come up with evidence of Enos' guilt and her innocence. Not to worry, though, Captain Edwards has evidently been busy off-camera, as he reassures her that he'll present his evidence to the District Attorney tomorrow, which will result in Enos Colvin's arrest and will prove her innocence. I hope she's out on bail, and that Captain Edwards hasn't been concealing her whereabouts.
"Say's here that the Rooskies control Hollywood, as I thought."
Some time must have passed, because Brad is back at Indian Joe's cabin and Rinty is all well now. Brad has enormous faith in Rinty's powers, because he takes Rinty back to the old man's cabin to search for clues. Well, of course he needs Rinty, if the Mounties don't have a telephone they probably have no idea how to search a crime scene for evidence, and in fact, far as I can tell they never bothered to. Rinty goes off with Brad but unfortunately forgets his fingerprint kit.
Dude, you on the horse, you're in-frame, move.
However, he doesn't need a fingerprint kit, he has his nose. He finds a button on the floor, out in plain sight, which Brad deduces must have come off the murderer's coat. Since he has no evidence at all of where it came from, and a number of people have been in the cabin since the old man's death, he must have enormous faith in Rinty. But Rinty's good work isn't done. After handing over the button, he goes over to the fireplace and immediately spots the loose stone under which the old man hid the bonds. However, this feat isn't that impressive, because the stone is so clearly not mortared into place that anybody who isn't blind could have spotted it. The bonds are shortly revealed, and Brad leaves with them, not neglecting to praise Rinty.
He'll sniff anything if you smear enough peanut butter on it.
Now back to Caryl. Captain Edwards has a warrant for Enos Colvin's arrest, so he goes to Enos' office to arrest him. For some reason he takes Caryl with him, so she knows as soon as he does that Enos is no longer there. Most conveniently the Captain finds a crumpled telegram on the floor, which announces that the stolen securities have been found. Caryl has deductive powers only slightly inferior to Rinty's, and she immediately knows that Enos has gone to get the bonds. A quick call to the garage confirms that his car is gone. The Captain wants to send a telegram to the Mounties to warn them that Enos is on his way, but Caryl overrules him (!!!) and says they need to go after him since it can take days to deliver a telegram, which is probably true in this case since from what we've seen it would have to be delivered by horse. Okay, just who is Caryl and why does the Captain listen to her? Oh, I know: she's actually a high-ranking member of the police department! Think about it, this would explain everything. She was working undercover in Enos Colvin's office, so the police know she didn't really steal the bonds, and it would explain why all the law enforcement groups have been treating her so well.
"Say's here that McCarthy was right, the Reds are out to get us."
They head out the door, while back in "Canada," Rinty and Brad are out in the woods looking for clues. They spot a tire track, and at first Brad looks as though he doesn't know what it is, which would fit in with what we've seen of the transportation situation in the area, but he does finally recognize it. He and Rinty go back to the RCMP post, which seems to be only the small office building we've already seen. Just then Caryl and Captain Edwards arrive, see the car track, and drive off. At approximately the same time, Enos arrives at the Mountie office. He is told where the bonds were found, and he says that now they've been found, he'll dismiss his charges against Caryl. But why? She stole them, even though they were later found. Her letter to her uncle, plus the fact that they bonds were found in her uncle's cabin where she told him to put them, ought to be enough proof to convict her.
"I just know I buried a bone here back in '27..."
Enos is requested to sign a receipt for the bonds, and while he's doing this, we get several shots of Brad riding toward the Mountie office, and Caryl and Captain Edwards driving toward it. Brad arrives while Enos is signing, and he sees that the tire track matches the one Rinty showed him. Instinctively he knows to open the car trunk, which conveniently isn't locked. Did car trunks not lock in 1936? Anyway, he pulls out a coat which is, big surprise, missing a button. (There's a goof here when Brad holds the button up to the coat twice. Then again, maybe he's just slow on the uptake.) Enos is not happy to see Brad rummaging through his trunk, and he may be in the right here. Were law enforcement officers allowed to do this in 1936? Possibly they were, but from the Inspector's reaction, it does seem that Brad is overstepping his authority a little here.
Hey, whoa, can you say "illegal search and seizure", buddy? Can I see your warrant?
The Inspector goes out to speak to Brad just as Caryl and Captain Edwards show up. Of course, once Enos spots everybody he knows the jig is up, so he leaves by the back door and steals a horse. Brad takes a shot at him and misses, and if you pay attention you can hear that the sound of the shot was foleyed in a second after the pistol went off. The Mounties gallop off after Enos while Caryl and Captain Edwards drive to head him off, and Rinty, who has been hiding from the Inspector, emerges and also pursues Enos. The Mounties lose Enos, but Rinty climbs a tree, waits until Enos rides underneath it, and leaps on him, knocking him out of the saddle!!! My hero!
Enos and Rinty wrestle on the ground as Rinty growls, but Rinty seems to be too much of a gentleman to bite Enos. The wrestling scene is well done, and I wonder how long it took to train a dog to jump on a man and mouth him but not actually bite as the man rolls and shoves at him. It's probably a stuntman doing this, since you can't see the man's face very well, but whoever he is, he doesn't seem to be wearing any padding, so I hope Rin Tin Tin was as well-trained as he seems. However, before too long, the pursuers converge on Enos, and Rinty backs off. Since this is 1936, when Brad accuses Enos of killing the old man, Enos admits it and doesn't even ask for a lawyer. He claims it was an accident, though. There's an awkward pause as the Inspector looks at Rinty and sees that he most definitely isn't dead, but the Inspector thaws and admits he was wrong to think Rinty was vicious. He even asks Rinty to forgive him. Now that everyone's happy, the Inspector returns Brad's chevrons. As the movie ends, Brad and Caryl are sitting side by side, and Rinty politely faces the other way so they'll have privacy. Aww!
"I got 'em, I got 'em, I got 'em! Grrr!!!"
There's plenty of action in this movie, so it's not boring. Anyway, when a movie's slightly less than an hour long, there isn't much time for filler. The actors are okay, and Rin Tin Tin is his usual handsome self. It is, however, possibly the most simple-minded movie MMT has reviewed to date. Like the TV series I remembered so fondly, whoever wrote it must have reasoned that since the audience was mostly children, there was no need to sweat the small stuff, such as plausibility. I'll be fair here, it's less sappy than the TV series because there's no annoying little kid, and it would probably still appeal to small children today if they didn't mind watching a black-and-white movie. However, any law-enforcement officers in the audience would want to throw a rock through the screen.
Hey, even big time movie stars need some down-time.
The movie was based on a short story written by James Oliver Curwood, once a very popular American writer although he's nearly forgotten today. He was known for his tales of wilderness adventure. Although this particular short story doesn't seem to be available online, the stories of his that are suggest his talent was at the level of Albert Payson Terhune rather than Jack London, so it probably isn't worth your time to try to track down a copy. I must admit I'm a little curious to find out if the law enforcement personnel in the story acted as unprofessionally as they did in the movie, but I'm too lazy to try to find the story.
Of course, Rin Tin Tin was in a lot of books and magazines over the years, just troll eBay.
Any comments, Nate? I suppose your interns flatly refuse to watch a movie starring a dog.
Well, Pam, you are right about that, the Interns were pretty uninterested in this one due to the canine subject matter. That kinda bothered me, I have to admit, and I'm thinking now I need to have (yet) another Workplace Diversity Seminar with them, I just can't have them being so blatantly Feline-centric while on the clock, it's bad for MMT's public reputation. Oh, and a kick-ass review, Pam, well done.
Intern Kelby rebuts that, while he does hate Canis lupis familiaris, he's perfectly ok with Triceratops horridus.
Written in November 2011 by Pam Burda.
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