The Big Sky (1952)

"The Big Sky" is an adventure tale, simple and sweet. It's the story of one of the first voyages up river towards the American northwest. A group of men are going there to trade with the Indians and they will meet many perils along the way—this much is told to us before the movie even begins, so it comes as no surprise when everything pans out the way it does.
Jim Deakins (Kirk Douglas) is cheerfully going across the country with a corpse in the back of his wagon. His inquisitive mind gets the better of him when he spots something in the bushes and he just has to go investigate. What he finds there is Boone Caudill (Dewey Martin) a rough-tough-no-nonsense pretty boy. After saving Jim's life and punching him twice in the face, Boone decides to tag along with Jim as they head into town, looking for Boone's uncle, Zeb.
They trade their mules, they drink whiskey, their flirt with the bar maids, they dance around, they sing, and they get in a fight that lands them both in jail...convenient seeing as that's exactly where Zeb is. Call it fate or luck, but now Zeb is teamed up with the two men and he shares his plan with them—go upstream, past the fur traders and trade directly with the Indians.
This sounds like a good idea to them, so they come along with him. He has a boat and a large crew...everything seems to be in order and running smoothly...until.
There's a woman on board! Gasp!
Just like "King Kong", "The Big Sky" has this horrid notion that a woman on board will corrupt the men's minds. Just being sexual creatures who want to bang everything they see, these men are told to back off the girl, because she happens to be a very prominent member of the Black Foot see, she's an Indian.
This isn't good, because Boone has a vendetta against see, he's a racist.
Yet the girl is vital to the whole plan. Without her, there is no certainty of trading so she must be kept around.
We seem to already know what happens—the men make their way up river, dodging obstacles. Although it is sort of the opposite of this movie, "Aguirre, Wrath of God" was brought to my mind. In "The Big Sky" there are a lot of victories whereas in "Aguirre" there are a lot of losses...but moving on.
As the men get further up the river, the climate because more dangerous, metaphorically speaking. Everything now seems to want to kill them and they aren't even in Australia.
Kirk Douglas is likable as Jim Deakins and Dewey Martin is a little unbearable; but they both do respectable jobs. My problem with the movie is how unexciting it is. It's a tried and true motif, there is nothing brought here that hadn't been done before in better ways. Women are treated poorly, which gives us reason to trace back the thought of acceptable sexual violence to films like this...yet "The Big Sky" just doesn't merit enough intelligence to be worthy of analysis. It's just a movie, and a somewhat entertaining one.
It's kinda sorta maybe good....I guess?

Score: ★★½

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