What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Spawn Of The North (1938)

For today’s movie, we have that 1938 film Spawn Of The North, starring George Raft, Henry Fonda and Dorothy Lamour! Of course, to precede that, we have an Ant And The Aardvark theatrical short, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber. Once past that, we then have today’s main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… I’ve Got Ants In My Plans (1969)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

The aardvark has to contend with a green aardvark chasing after the same ant. At first, this one starts out looking like it’s going to be the usual formula, with the aardvark trying to catch and eat the ant. Then the green aardvark shows up, and everything changes. With the ant captured, we now have the two aardvarks trying to take each other out. The gags may not be the most original, but they’re still worth quite a few laughs, making this cartoon fun to watch every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Alaskan fisherman Jim Kimmerlee (Henry Fonda), who is now the owner of a salmon cannery, is reunited with his friend Tyler Dawson (George Raft), who had been off hunting seal. However, Jim is having trouble with Russian fisherman Red Skain (Akim Tamiroff), who is trying to steal fish from one of his traps. Tyler comes between them, and prevents them from fighting. Afterwards, Tyler returns to town, where he is living in a hotel owned by his girlfriend, Nicky Duval (Dorothy Lamour). While Jim and Tyler are hanging out together, Dian Turlon (Louise Platt), who is the daughter of local newspaper editor Windy Turlon (John Barrymore) and also an old friend of theirs, returns to Alaska. They both try to ask her to the local dance for the night, although she turns them down. However, at the dance, she starts warming up to Jim. Tyler wants to go in on a partnership with Jim, but Jim’s business with the cannery leaves him unable to do so. Not long after, when a bunch of fisherman (including Jim and Tyler) are getting some ice from an iceberg, they have to save somebody else when too much ice falls and destroys another ship. While they are helping the other fisherman, Jim realizes that some of the fish in Tyler’s boat must have been stolen, and he tries to warn Tyler that anybody caught stealing fish from someone else’s nets will be killed, but Tyler shrugs it off. Not much later, Jim and some of the other fishermen catch some of Red’s men stealing their fish, and they deliver their dead bodies to Red’s place (where Jim also sees Tyler hanging out). When Jim celebrates his birthday, Tyler is noticeably absent. Jim is warned by the other fishermen that Red is trying to steal more fish, and has Dian try to get Nicky to warn Tyler not to go anywhere. Unfortunately, Tyler doesn’t listen to Nicky, and her attempt to sabotage his boat doesn’t stop him, as he joins Red with another boat. Jim and the other fishermen arrive at the nets while some of Red’s crew and Tyler are taking some of the fish. Tyler starts shooting harpoons at them while his compatriots try to get away. Jim reluctantly has to shoot Tyler to get him to stop. The badly injured Tyler somehow ends up back with Red and his gang, but they leave him to die. Jim finds him, and brings him back to the hotel, where Tyler is able to receive some medical care. Red, however, soon comes to town, and tells Jim there is only room for one of them in town. Tyler overhears, and wants to find a way to help his old friend Jim.

Spawn Of The North was based on a novel of the same name by Florence Barrett Willoughsby. For this movie, Paramount Studios put together a steel and concrete tank which could hold 375,000 gallons of water, in order to do close range shots of fishing boats and power cruisers. There were also some scenes shot on location at Lake Arrowhead, Lake Tahoe, Balboa Island and on the coast of Southern California. The movie proved to be popular with audiences at the time, and Paramount Studios would make use of the property again when they remade it in 1954 as Alaska Seas.

Now, I am coming off my first time seeing Spawn Of The North, and I will readily admit that it’s a movie I saw mainly for one reason: actress Dorothy Lamour. Admittedly, I mainly know her from the seven Road films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, the handful of movies she made with Bob Hope alone, and her cameo in Here Comes The Groom. So, this being more of a non-comedic role for her was different than I’m used to, and yet still satisfying! She was wonderful here as a woman with a bit of a past, and yet, as mentioned in the story, she has reformed somewhat. She certainly has a history with George Raft’s character, which allows for some humor there in the way they interact. Yet, when all is said and done, she cares for him, and tries to do what she can to save him, even when he doesn’t want her to.

And, of course, Dorothy Lamour is hardly the only reason for the movie, either! There’s some fun to be found in the idea of this being an Alaskan western (you know, with fish pirates instead of cattle rustlers, and fisherman instead of cowboys, etc.). I wouldn’t say that this is one of Henry Fonda’s better films, but he does well enough here as something of a heroic character. But, one of the better and more fun characters is the college educated newspaper editor, as played by John Barrymore, who is prone to showing off his knowledge of words, usually simplified for everyone else by his assistant Jackson, as played by Lynne Overman. Only complaint there is that we don’t get to enjoy enough of the character’s eloquent speaking here! This was a fun movie, and one I felt was worth seeing!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie is using at best an HD scan of the film, and the lack of a restoration shows. I certainly wish this movie could have been treated better, but, at the same time, I’d be surprised if it was popular enough to warrant the cost of restoring it in the first place. As I said, it’s far from perfect, but, all things considered, it’s good enough for me to still enjoy the film.

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

George Raft – Each Dawn I Die (1939)

Jezebel (1938) – Henry Fonda – Jesse James (1939)

Dorothy LamourRoad To Singapore (1940)

Akim Tamiroff – The Great McGinty (1940)

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