The "Great White Hunter" subgenre was on the wane by the early-to-mid 1960s, and Rampage was part of that last gasp, trying to bridge the old-fashioned jungle adventure yarn with more modern sensibilities about the appropriateness of big game hunting and sexual politics amongst the decadent European jet set. In a reverse twist on Mogambo (1953), here it's one woman who finds herself torn between two men, but unlike the earlier John Ford film, the romantic triangle this time out is far less interesting. Rampage does have several things in its favor, however, including some great scenery (Hawaii standing in for Malaysia), a nifty title tune and memorable score courtesy of Elmer Bernstein, a couple of nice, tense stand-offs between man and beast, the alluring presence of Elsa Martinelli and one of the last appearances by the one-and-only Sabu.
Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Stanton, commissioned by a German zoo to head to Malaysia and capture two tigers and, especially, the elusive "Enchantress," a local legend purported to be a combination of a leopard and a tiger. Zoo manager Schelling (Emile Genest) has also hired aging big game hunter Otto Abbot (Jack Hawkins) to accompany Stanton. Otto has experience in the Malay territory and knows the local tribal dialect; he also has a stunning young mistress, Anna (Elsa Martinelli), who, it's rather salaciously implied, he took under his wing when he found her wandering alone as a war orphan at age 14. Harry gets one good look at Anna (and she him) and the game is on (you can practically see Mitchum's nostrils flare). Since Anna is Otto's "general staff," she'll be going along on the expedition. Otto is amused by the sparks flying between the two, as well as Stanton's preference for catching animals alive rather than killing them. The dichotomy in their personal philosophies is summed up in an early exchange, in Otto's vast trophy room:
There is a river
called the River of No Return
Sometimes it's peaceful
And sometimes wild and free
A straightforward, scenic and exciting "A" western with the lean, get-in-and-get-the-job-done running time of a "B", River of No Return put major stars Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe together for the first and only time, and the Cinemascope frame can barely contain their combined high-wattage screen presence.
Against the awe-inspiring mountain peaks and wide river valleys of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, River opens with widower Matt Calder (Mitchum) - recently released from prison for killing a man - riding into a booming mining camp to collect his nine-year-old son, Mark, who he has arranged to pick up there. He soon finds the boy, wandering around on his own amid the chaos of the camp.
The boy has struck up a friendship with sultry saloon gal, Kay (Monroe). While Matt takes Mark back to his small cabin and they bond over the hard work of making it a homestead, Kay's no-good gambler boyfriend, Harry (Rory Calhoun) rolls into town. Somehow, Harry's got his hands on a gold mine claim and, with no horses available, he and Kay head off down river on a raft to cash in. Conveniently, they run into trouble on the rapids near Matt and Mark's cabin and are rescued by father and son.
Matt advises Harry to not attempt going any further down the treacherous river. In his desperation to get to his claim in Council City before the original owner can take action, Harry callously repays Matt's hospitality by stealing his horse and rifle. When they scuffle and Harry bludgeons Matt with the rifle butt, Kay refuses to leave the wounded man and his boy alone, so Harry rides off with an empty promise to come back for her.
Defenseless without his rifle, and the river the only means of escape, Matt flees on the raft with Mark and Kay as some Indians close in and burn the cabin to the ground. From then on, Matt's all business, his main goals to keep them alive and exact his revenge on Harry. Kay is equally intent on protecting her tarnished beau. The two do the usual fighting, bickering and slowly burgeoning romance thing, while contending with not only the deadly rapids but attacks from cougars, Indians and rapacious miners on their way to a fateful showdown in Council City...
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