A woman’s lips set the frozen north aflame.
Northern Puruit is a fairly standard potboiler spy movie from the early forties. Directed by Raoul Walsh, Pursuit tells the story of a Canadian Mountie named Steve (Errol Flynn) who captures a downed Luftwaffe pilot (Colonel Hugo von Keller played by Helmut Dantine). Von Keller, the leader of a secret spy ring, is sent to a prison camp from which he and the other members promptly escape. In order to dissolve the spy ring, the Mounties create a fictitious incident whereby Flynn is apparently drummed out. By portraying Flynn as sympathetic to the Nazi cause, he is taken into the ring’s confidences. And of course given the era, the good guys win and the evil Nazi plot is foiled.
Northern Pursiut is the first of three films in rapid succession that Flynn made with director Walsh – the next two being Uncertain Glory (1944) and Objective Burma! (1945). As such it is fairly typical of the middle portion of Flynn’s career. His swashbuckling days are for the most part behind him but he still doesn’t show the ill effects of his drunken and addictive lifestyle. Flynn is in fact perhaps the best part of this film, even though his performance isn’t his best.
Of the three Objective Burma! is by far the strongest of the three, as long as one buys into the misconception that the British did nothing in the Burmese theater. In fact that film wasn’t released in the United Kingdom until well after it’s American release. Flynn considered it his best work.
Dantine’s portrayal of the Nazi spymaster is rigid and unmoving. In many scenes his actions are noticeable out of tune with what the urgency of his plot would dictate. There are also many scenes in which he is talking with Steve (Flynn) but not actually looking at him- it’s obvious he’s looking off camera for something, perhaps lines.
And even though sometimes marketed for it’s love story at the time, the supposed romance Flynn has with his fiancé Laura (played by Julie Bishop) never holds waters and feels forcefully inserted into the action.
Overall though fairly pleasing entertainment and there is some nice footage from Idaho (posing as Canada) and a well filmed ski chase which only has a touch of the ever present rear projection.
Northern Pursuit is not available on DVD so catch it on TCM where it is on from time to time or find an old VHS copy. But if you miss it don’t loose any sleep.