"North West Mounted Police" is the 48th film that I have watched that was featured in Harry Medved's brilliant book "The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time"--and I just recently bought the last two, so I soon will have reviews for all of them. While I must admit that his list of 50 is flawed (a small number actually are not that bad),considering he wrote this book when he was 17 and it came out BEFORE he age of VCRs it is amazing--and an exceptionally good read--one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. While it's out of print, you can get used copies reasonably priced on the internet any bad movie buff worth their salt MUST have a copy.
So is this movie THAT bad? No...but it is bad and I think the respectable score of 6.5 and the generally positive reviews are a bit inexplicable. It seems that, in general, Cecil B. De Mille's films are thought of rather highly. After all, they often have HUGE scope, sets, lovely Technicolor (when most films of the day are black & white) and it's obvious his budgets were astronomical. However, I also think that a movie really doesn't need any of these things to be a good film. What is most important is what De Mille's films usually lacked--good dialog, realistic characters and good acting. It seems to me that this director really had no knack for human interactions on film unless they were BIGGER than life! And that is why I cannot recommend the film. Sure, it gets a few points for the sets and lovely look of the film but the rest....yuck! If I had to put my finger on what is worst about this particular film, I'd bluntly say Paulette Goddard. While several others chew the scenery a bit (such as Akim Tamiroff),she is absolutely laughably bad as 'the fiery half-breed'!!! While she was SUPPOSED to be part European and part Native-American, she sounded like some 4 year-old trying to imitate Chico Marx or Charro....on drugs! Her accent was ludicrous and her acting hammy and awful. Now some blame can clearly be placed on Goddard (who probably can attribute most of her roles to the fact she was married to Charlie Chaplin),but isn't it the director's job to notice this and coach the actor if they are missing the role this completely?! And the writing they gave her (and the others to a lesser extent) was just dumb and almost comic book-like (not a GOOD comic book but a bad one, by the way).
It's also odd how with a magnetic personality like Gary Cooper that he's practically lost in the film. Yes, he's there but he has no charisma and little chance to act. He's frankly too good for this material--as are Robert Preston and Preston Foster. Again, I blame De Mille for this.
The bottom line is that although Harry Medved was mistaken, in my opinion, for including the film, I could see exactly why he did and don't think his selection was that far off-base. And, I know this will ruffle a few feathers, but I also don't think this is De Mille's worst film. For dialog alone, his 1950s version of "The Ten Commandments" is god-awful and could lead many to convert to atheism--even though it's considered a classic and has a HUGE budget as well. I can hear Anne Baxter from this film now uttering the hilariously overdone line "...oooh, Moses.....Moooooses!!!!!" (like a cow in heat) or Edward G. Robinson bellowing "...he took us into the desert to die like dogs!!!!" for the 48th time in the film! Why is De Mille so adored? His dialog, acting and stories are often terrible--and VERY sacrilegious. Try watching "Sign of the Cross" and then try to convince me I am wrong about the sacrilegious comment, as it included scenes of bestiality, lesbianism and the like in a Biblical epic! Or how about the Claudette Colbert version of "Cleopatra" where you get to see Ms. Colbert's breasts--not exactly stuff to show your Sunday school class (and yes, I know "Cleopatra" is not a Biblical epic).
Watch at your own risk....Oh, and De Mille DID do a few very good films...and many bad ones.