River of No Return (1954)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Costume Adventure, Romantic Adventure  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Not a career highpoint for either its stars or its director, River of No Return is a moderately enjoyable western (by way of genre, not geography). As is often the case, the script is the main culprit here. The story seems to be cobbled together from here and there, with little depth or realistic motivation for the characters; too often, it seems these people are behaving in this way merely to service the plot. However, there have been many better films crafted from scripts that were no better, and had director Otto Preminger been working at the top of his form, River might have been something special. Not that Preminger is asleep at the wheel -- many of the action sequences are thrilling (if sometimes too obviously faked), and a lot of viewers will bite one or two nails along the way. In addition, the director takes full advantage of his CinemaScope and stereophonic sound to create a lushly beautiful visual and aural picture. But he too often seems to have left the actors (and their characters) to fend for themselves. Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum are fine (although they've both done much better work elsewhere), but there's little chemistry between them. Many will find Monroe, cast somewhat against type, out of her element here, but she pulls it off quite respectfully -- and she gets to work some of her curious vocal magic on four songs, bringing them off very well. Equally as important, Preminger photographs her unnatural beauty as carefully as he does the scenery. Despite its flaws, River has enough entertainment value to make it worth watching.