Twilight Time // 1952 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // March 11th, 2013
The flaming days of the Great Cree Rebellion, when the famed "Pony Soldiers" rode and loved where no white man dared before!
Whether it takes place in Kansas, New Mexico or Western Canada, an oater is an oater, no matter how you want to slice it. That doesn't make it good or bad, but viewers will get exactly what they expect, especially from a lazy one like Pony Soldier. The only difference here is that it tackles the early days of the vaunted Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Whatever value that has is debatable, because this one is about as standard as it gets.
In 1876, the RCMP is trying to settle the western lands and keep the peace with the native tribes. They have a better relationship with the tribes than their American counterparts, but many of the natives see one invading white man as just like any other. So, when a pair of Americans is captured by the Cree, who have ventured to unauthorized hunting grounds, newly recruited Constable Duncan MacDonald (Tyrone Power, Witness for the Prosecution) must make a daring rescue attempt by proving himself an honorable man. His attempts are gravely jeopardized, however, when one of the abductees kills the brother of the chief.
Canada is an immensely beautiful place, but if there's one place it doesn't much resemble, it's Arizona. That didn't stop Fox Studios from electing to film Pony Soldier in the American Southwest. Now, a lot of films were made in locales elsewhere from their stories, but this is one of the more egregious examples of it that I can remember. It's still a beautiful region and cinematographer Harry Jackson (The Band Wagon) takes full advantage of it, but there's little else to support about the film.
Tyrone Power was a decent actor in swashbucklers, but as a nice and tame Mountie, he really doesn't work at all. He acts like he could barely have cared about being in the film and it suffers for it, but he's not the only offender. Everybody in the cast plays it like they're just bored and, as a result, I was pretty bored watching it. And Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace) as a Cree warrior is the kind of stereotypical waste of talent that ran rampant through this era of cinema.
The story plays out in standard fashion, with its only difference being the red suits of the RCMP and the fact that MacDonald adopts an orphaned Blackfoot boy who, of course, helps to save the day. Director Joseph M. Newman (This Island Earth) made some pretty good pictures over the years, but this one has absolutely no life to it. No action, no fights, not anything to make it worth watching.
In my time reviewing the limited edition releases from Twilight Time, I have been extremely happy with all of their products. Unfortunately, that time is at an end with their Blu-ray for Pony Soldier. It's not the worst disc out there and it certainly fares better than it did on video, but there is not much good I can say about it. The 1.33:1/1080p image is nearly always extremely soft, with only the tightest close ups showing any kind of clarity. Mostly, it mutes the cinematography, which is the only admirable part of the film. Colors are sometimes strong, though not always, and black levels are deep enough, but nothing special. The Master Audio track is better than the image, but still not any great mix. The dialog is mostly clear and the music comes through fairly, with little noise to find, but nothing stands out about it at all. Speaking of that score, the only extra on the disc is an isolated score track with a lossless 2.0 mix. I like the inclusion, but the score doesn't have nearly the power of others that they've released.
Pony Soldier is lifeless and dull, with little going for it beyond some good natural photography. With a disappointing Blu-ray release, it's hard to recommend the film to anybody but the biggest Tyrone Power fans out there.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1952
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Isolated Score