Film reviews

#377 – Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders (1953)

Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders (1953)

Film review #377

Director: Franklin Adreon

SYNOPSIS: Canadian mountie Don Roberts is teamed up with intelligence operative Kay Conway to investigate reports of spies operating in the area attempting to set up covert missile bases in the Canadian wilderness. Don suspects two members of a group of settlers travelling across the wilderness are working for the spies, and so goes undercover in an attempt to expose them. Meanwhile, Beck and Reed, the spies lackeys, are secretly working to discourage the settlers from travelling to the site where Marloff, the foreign spy, wants to build his missile bases…

THOUGHTS/ANALYSISCanadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders is a 1953 serial. I think the title alone should grab anyone’s attention, so let’s see if there’s any substance underneath it…

Mountie Don Roberts is visited by his boss and intelligence operative Kay Conway to investigate the presence of foreign spies in the area. They believe that some of the settlers moving through the town are working for the spies, and so Don goes undercover with them to try and uncover their identity and motives. The first part of the serial sees Don travelling through the wilderness with these settlers as he tries to foil the spies schemes. This leads a variety of associated perils such as avalanches, dog-sled chases and other such perils of the wilderness. These sorts of sequences you don’t see too often in these serials of the time, so it is something a little different. The main plot of the serial though is nothing too special, with a constant back-and-forth chase between the heroes and villains. The “atomic invaders” are just plain foreign spies and also not very interesting. In 1953, these kinds of serials were dwindling in number as studios turned towards the feature film (and the b-movie), and the introduction of television would mean that these serials would be viewed at home each week rather than getting people to go to the theatre. With that in mind, the chapters are all (with the exception of the first one) just over thirteen minutes long, which seems a waste of effort going to see such a short film. I suppose a positive of this is that the chapters aren’t drawn out with pointless dialogue and scenes that go nowhere…but that said, there is still plenty of it to fill out the time…

After Don foils Marloff’s (the foreign spy) plans to stop the settlers, the spy changes the location of his proposed missile sites which will destroy the U.S. cities to allow his country to invade with little resistance. This “foreign country” is never mentioned by name, but since the cold war was beginning to get underway at the time, I think it’s fairly obvious which country they are referring to. The rest of the serial involves a more usual set-up of fistfights, car chases and cliff hangers that will be familiar to serial watchers. Again, at this time, the format really had been exhausted, and it can offer no real surprises or originality. Some serials hide the identity of the villain until the very end so as to maintain a sense of intrigue throughout, but this serial does not. It might have been a good idea to keep the identity of Smokey, a village resident who is Marloff in disguise, a secret until the end. Instead, it reveals it almost instantly, and the conflict between the heroes and villains really lacks any dynamic.

Given that the film has a variety of scenes in different locations, there is a lot of stock footage used and shots in the wilderness are cobbled together in a studio with painted backgrounds that look rather unconvincing. The chase scenes in cars and boats look alright, and the explosive cliffhangers have an impact, but the format leaves every twist in the story all too predictable, and despite the bizarre title, Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders fails to contribute anything unique to a formulaic format.