Northwest Passage Review

Image for Northwest Passage

In colonial America, frontiersman Major Robert Rogers (Tracy) sets out to blaze a trail through uncharted territory, taking along a mixed bag of callow youths (Robert Young) and grizzled pioneers (Walter Brennan).

In shining 1940 Technicolor, Tracy pits himself against the elements and the injuns, notably in classic fording-the-river and massacring-the-hostiles sequences. Though it seems to be a conventionally heroic (and racist) version of the winning of the West, the vehemence of Tracy's anti-Indian attitudes - one of his men keeps a redskin's head in a bag and eats bits of it - is deliberately disturbing.

It bears the subtitle Book One: Rogers' Rangers because King Vidor intended to film the rest of the hero's life in another film, which explains why the plot never actually gets around to the Northwest Passage.

More from Empire