NORTHWEST RANGERS. MGM, 1942. James Craig, William Lundigan, Patricia Dane, John Carradine, Jack Holt, Keenan Wynn and Grant Withers. Screenplay by Gordon Kahn and David Lang, story by Arthur Caesar. Directed by Joseph M. Newman (as Joe Newman.)

   MGM’s notorious Manhattan Melodrama, re-made with Mounties.

   Yeah, well, okay so it’s Mounties. I mean if that’s what the kids are doing these days…

   Actually, Northwest Rangers ain’t all that bad except in comparison. It has all the gloss MGM lavished even on its B-pictures, John Carradine and Grant Withers make a fine pair of villains with plenty of screen time, Jack Holt is tough as ever, and Keenan Wynn does well with rather less as comic relief.

   If you’re not familiar with the story, you’ll recognize it right off: two pals, orphaned as boys, are adopted by doughty old Mountie Sergeant Jack Holt. One (William Lundigan) grows up to be a doughty young Mountie, the other (James Craig) makes his way as a gambler and general rakehell, and with all of Canada to bounce around in, they just naturally come into conflict with each other when Craig wins the local gambling hall from John Carradine, and his girl falls for Lundigan. Small world, ain’t it?

   Director Joseph M. Newman had his moments, and he handles this predestined obscurity with more class than it really deserves. The problem here is with the leads.

   In the 1950s, James Craig matured into a pretty good actor in bad-guy parts. But in the 40s he was MGM’s back-up for Clark Gable — or maybe for Gable’s 1st-string back-up — and all he does here is grin and try to look roguish, an effort clearly beyond him at this stage.

   As for William Lundigan, well, he was always William Lundigan.

   With these two carrying the story – unlike William Powell and Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama — it’s hard to give a damn, and about the nicest thing you can say about Northwest Rangers is that it passes the time easily and nobody famous got shot leaving the theater.