Wind Across the Everglades (1958)

“Them Yankees like the tickle of them feathers — and we like the tickle of their money!”

Synopsis:
In turn-of-the-century Florida, an idealistic new Audubon warden (Christopher Plummer) tries to arrest a legendary bird poacher known as “Cottonmouth” (Burl Ives), who lives deep in the Everglades with his band of unruly henchmen.

Genres:

Review:
This unusual adventure tale deals with an ethical dilemma not often discussed in Hollywood films: turn-of-the-century feather poaching in Florida (!). Despite its ecological underpinnings, however, Everglades is essentially a tale of archetypal opposites, with Plummer’s young (urban) protagonist bumping up against Burl Ives’ indomitable force of nature, and both men grudgingly earning each other’s respect. Ultimately, there’s not quite enough going on here to bolster a full-fledged narrative (countless subplots — including a love affair between Plummer and Chana Eden, and some hillbilly antics by Ives’ crew — seem haphazardly thrown in), but Ives and Plummer make for compelling enough enemies to hold our attention throughout. Watch for Peter Falk in his screen debut.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Burl Ives as “Cottonmouth”
    Wind Across Ives
  • Christopher Plummer as Murdock
    Wind Across Plummer
  • The unusual Floridian setting
    Wind Across Wilderness

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look if you can find a copy.

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One Response to “Wind Across the Everglades (1958)”

  1. Not must-see – though it’s certainly an eccentric project that makes for eccentric viewing. (I had seen this once before, years ago as part of a Nicholas Ray retrospective.)

    One might think that the only reason this unlikely film got made was because, at the time, Ray and writer (also producer) Budd Schulberg had the clout to move it forward.

    But, at some point, Schulberg removed Ray from the production, apparently did not keep a percentage of what Ray shot, and took over as director and editor. …Alas, the finished film reveals a certain lack of overall vision. The story remains basically comprehensible but there’s a choppiness to it (often noticeably).

    Given the story’s time-frame and setting, one might expect a more leisurely film. But, at 90+ minutes, things seem rushed. A handful of scenes play out nicely (which helps the film’s cohesion) but lack of story arc results in the characters consorting in (somewhat unsatisfying) broad strokes.

    In a supporting role, poor Gypsy Rose Lee keeps wanting to add something significant but doesn’t get the chance. And, yes, the love story angle comes off a bit forced. ~as does some of the dialogue, which occasionally sounds preachy or unnatural (particularly when it comes to some of what Ives says near the film’s end).

    The film isn’t unwatchable; it remains compelling-enough, for what it is. But, not being a better-realized film, it’s awkward.

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