Entertainment » Movies

The Spoilers

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Sep 16, 2019
The Spoilers

Rex Beach's novel "The Spoilers" was adapted five times by 1955 to varying degrees of success. The original story is timeless in that it depicts a time in American history that feels vivid and filled with detail. It's also just a hell of a good piece of pulp entertainment. A time when law and order rarely existed amongst the gold rush in Alaska. You seriously couldn't ask for a better story to have John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, and Randolph Scott act out, yet when they do it falls incredibly flat. Director Ray Enright's 1942 adaptation is always moving, whether it's reveling in Dietrich's ornate costumes or Wayne's comfort in righting wrongs. It's just that the movie rarely rises to the occasion of the source material, ending up being a truncated version of something so emotional and sprawling.

The proceedings are set in Nome, Alaska during the gold rush. Saloon owner Cherry Malotte (Dietrich) sort of runs the lawless town, backing gold claims for men she can trust. That is until the new gold commissioner Alex McNamara (Scott) rolls into town and uses a dirty judge to take over claims from local prospectors. In rolls Cherry's former flame Roy Glennister (Wayne), the only man that can stop McNamara from taking over the town.

The thing with "The Spoilers" is that it has one of the strongest supporting casts of any John Wayne westerns ever made. Harry Carey and Richard Barthelmess eat through the scenery whenever they're on screen. Dietrich may be the main focal point, but the movie only briefly takes flight when it's clear that she's no interested in the main story. She kind of just riffs and tears through men with her sardonic wit, which brings levity to a story that so desperately needed it. Unfortunately, Scott is incredibly miscast as the heavy and thus, the main villain remains kind of formless. The climactic fist fight between Wayne and Scott may be fun, but it certainly doesn't feel like it's wrapping up a narrative you've been invested in.

Luckily, for fans of Wayne and Dietrich, this new Blu-ray of "The Spoilers" does show off a great HD transfer of the film. The big train sequence that starts the final act still looks incredible all these years later. There's an audio commentary with film historian Toby Roan, which gives some interesting context to where Wayne and Dietrich's careers were at the time. Other special features include:

• Animated Image Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

"The Spoilers"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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