Back to God's Country (1919)

Nell Shipman, Charles Arling, Wheeler Oakman, Wellington A. Playter,
A woman finds herself all alone in a remote harbor with the man responsible for the murder of her father. With seemingly nobody around to protect her, she has to be resourceful.
  • 6.2 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • James Oliver Curwood, Writer:
  • David Hartford, Director:
  • Producer:

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7 / 10

A strong, early Canadian film

I taped this film for three reasons - one) I wanted to see whether an early silent film from Canada would be any good. two) it's a restored print, and though I heard the old print of this was horridly damaged, this one was supposed to be MUCH better (it isn't half bad). And with the freshly recorded piano score, it didn't seem restored, either. three) It's supposed to be a well-regarded but highly underrated (and unknown) film, and that made me curious.

This film should be a classic! (At least in Canada). One of, if not the first Canadian films, and with a fairly low budget, it's actually rather impressive. Yet no one I know has heard of it, or even realizes film was being made in Canada this far back.

The story is a touch cliche, and there's a fair amount of schlock (prevalent in many silent films of the late teens/early twenties), but the story is interesting enough to keep my interest and the scenery is quite taking. And I was most surprised at the cinematography and editing, which is far more advanced then I expected.

It's not Birth of a Nation, it's not Metropolis, it's not Nosferatu. But it's well worth watching, and should really be shown more, if not at the Rep houses, then on TV at least. 7/10.

5 / 10

Canada's oldest feature film still available

Hard to rate this thing on anything other than a funny reminder of

how Canada was and will always be renowned for Mounties,

snow, and wildlife. The scandalous "nude scene" where Nell Shipman is bathing

under a waterfall is what gave this film an audience, but definitely

not why it's still around today. It's actually a decent story where the

spirit of a dead Eskimo is incarnated into a husky, but that angle

doesn't really have any significance until the end of the film when

it's revisited. Most surprisingly, I found, was how progressive of a role Nell had

way back in 1919. She drives the plot and essentially rescues

herself from a lot of the danger, something Hollywood is still

reluctant to do. It wasn't actually the first feature film made in Canada

("Evangeline" was in 1913), but it's the earliest one left that has

been preserved. If for no other reason, you gotta check it our just

for that!

6 / 10

Shocking for the time

It is interesting to see Dolores LeBeau (Nell Shipman) participate in two roles in this movie, one being the pseudo-nude scene, and other being the role of female heroine. The former was certainly written into the script to draw male viewers to the movie houses. It cannot be seen that she is wearing a body suit, so one is given to their imagination. More importantly, however, is the latter - the female heroine - which was rare during that time.

The movie has several questional elements in the plotline (why does 'Sealskin' Blake have no trouble killing a Canadian Mountie, but cannot bring himself to overtly kill Dolores LeBeau's husband?), but the movie has several special effects (tinted film, scene within a scene) that make it worthwhile viewing.

6 / 10

Your basic snowy melodrama?

Contrived story surrounds a woman who is being blackmailed by a ship's captain who has killed her father and threatens to kills her ailing husband. She's saved by a dog. This is lifted a level above most of its ilk by the quality of its dark, harsh vision: from the first, we're in an arctic canada wher ruthlessness is the rule, as a dog's owner is killed in a bar for no reason (except that he's a "chinaman") much to the amusement of the bar's denizens. Good atmosphere.

7 / 10

Derivative of Jack London's "arctic" novels, but interesting

This story is based loosely on a novel, not by Jack London, but similar to his "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild" in genre. It has been freely adapted to give most exposure to Nell Shipman who even in the flat lighting usual in the 1919 era comes across as a very capable "Jane Alexander" type. The simple story of villainy stemming from single-minded lust is confusingly told. That may be the result, though, of the difficulties of "restoration" of the old film. There are some excellent scenes that evoke the dreadful loneliness of the arctic winters. It's not a great old museum piece, but interesting and worth a watch.