23 May 2011 | dougdoepke
Gritty Little Outdoor Drama
Pete (Graves) returns to small mountain town to reacquaint with adopted brother Ownie (Calhoun) and police chief father (Fenton). While there, the bank is robbed under puzzling circumstances.
Reviewer hschmoo is right—this is a solid outdoor film, with scenic river locations, an unpredictable narrative, and some effective characterizations. The rapport between the brothers (Calhoun & Graves) appears genuine; at the same time, Fenton is excellent as the hardened cop father. The shifting dynamic between the three makes up the story's crux. We also get a flavor of a small town as the townspeople are drawn into the local bank robbery. Frankly, I had some trouble following who was in on what and why, but maybe I'm just slow. Much of the story is told in flashback while Graves hurtles down the roaring river and we wonder why he's chasing after his cop dad.
Director Rawlins and Ventura Productions were responsible the following year for an excellent little Western, Fort Defiance (1951), also with Peter Graves. Apparently, River was Graves' first movie, but you'd never guess it. It also looks like he did his own boating down the rapids, nor, for that matter, could I spot any of the usual Hollywood process shots. I suspect the unusually despairing final scene was due to this being an independent production made a long way from Hollywood and it's conventional endings. The narrative is definitely not a series of studio clichés, which makes this gritty little oddity doubly worth watching.