Wednesday 30 March 2022

Movie Review: Green Fire (1954)

A quest-for-riches romantic adventure, Green Fire is more stodgy than fiery. 

In Colombia, mining engineer and adventurer Rian Mitchell (Stewart Granger) discovers a long-lost mountainside emerald mine in rugged terrain. He is attacked by local bandits working for El Moro (Murvyn Vye), rescued by Father Ripero (Robert Tafur), and recovers from his injuries at the nearby fledgling coffee plantation owned by Catherine Knowland (Grace Kelly) and her brother Donald (John Ericson). 

Rian's business partner Vic Leonard (Paul Douglas) is ready to give up on the adventurous life and settle down in Canada, but Rian convinces him to stick around and help activate the mine. Rian starts a romance with Catherine, although she is displeased when Donald gains an interest in mining and redirects resources away from the plantation. The emeralds are elusive, the mine is dangerous, and El Moro claims the land as his own and demands a cut.

Director Andrew Marton reunites with star Stewart Granger after the success of 1950's King Solomon's Mines, but the results in Green Fire are less impressive. Co-writers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts adapt the 1942 memoir by Peter W. Rainier, with the on-location filming providing undoubted authenticity and CinemaScope suggesting a grand scale. But the plot and characters are far from memorable, and the details are handled poorly.

The deficiencies are many. With the mine stubbornly yielding nothing and no real adventure to pull the drama along, Rian, Catherine and Vic are caught repeating the same conversations. A rather desperate romantic triangle is tossed into the mix to create artificial tension. The costumes and make-up departments insist on a glamorous look for Grace Kelly no matter the context, and so she is ridiculously dressed in the most expensive outfits while toiling the fields. The climax impressively ignores both physics and engineering by conceiving a plan to blow up a mountain and redirect a river without the slightest nod to even napkin-level calculations.

Somewhere on the mountainside is a half-decent cautionary tale about the destructive dangers of unchecked greed, the limits of friendship, and the nature of sacrifice. But the happy ending imperative means that a silly gun fight is wedged into the plot to produce stock heroics, before love conquers all despite the flies buzzing around the fresh corpses littering the landscape.

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