Southwest Passage (1954) Poster

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Camels on the Range
dougdoepke13 March 2012
Good outdoor western with an unusual plot and a generally unpredictable storyline. Surveyor Beale (Cameron) is leading a mapping caravan through an Apache-ridden desert. Along the way he picks up two fugitive bank robbers (Ireland & Dru), one of whom poses as a doctor. Meanwhile finding water is a real problem, even for the camel pack-animals and their Arab drivers. So how will all this sort out, especially since both guys are stuck on the same girl.

I'm thirsty just looking at the barren Kanab, Utah locations. They sure look like a long way from nowhere. It's a good strong cast, particularly Ireland as a good-bad guy and Dru who really looks like she can ride and shoot. Okay, maybe budget-minded Edward Small Co. couldn't get the Duke for the big guy role, but Cameron still manages to persuade.

Some good touches add color. It's really strange seeing the Moslem Arabs doing their bowing to Mecca in the middle of a western. But there they are. The camels too, are a good imaginative addition. But note the brief scene with the wrecked wagon that Beale orders chopped up for firewood. I wouldn't be surprised it was wrecked during filming and was cleverly inserted into the narrative. Whatever, it adds a realistic touch.

My only complaint is an ending that appears pretty contrived, unlike what went before. Oh well, it's Hollywood, after all, a place where no one really dies. Still, it's a pretty darn good little western.
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Panoramic Western With A Middle Eastern Twist!
wgie19 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Actor John Ireland and his wife Joanne Dru star in this originally released 3-D color Western that was filmed in what appears to be John Ford Country (Monument Valley, Moab). Ireland met his future wife on the set of "Red River" and appeared with her again in "All the Kings Men". While this film is not in the same category with those two cinema classics, it does feature Rod Cameron and a healthy menu of great character actors such as Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, John Dehner, Morris Ankrum, etc. The story centers around Ireland, Dru and her brother (Darryl Hickman) robbing a bank. Eventually Ireland and Dru join Rod Cameron as he leads an expedition complete with camels to survey a new route to California. The group encounters a band of outlaws as well as Apaches along the way that keeps the viewers interest. What I found most interesting was the introduction of Middle East values to the wild west. A conflict result when Dehner, a mule skinner, starts a fight with the Arab camel drivers when he tries to force them to eat pork .... a custom opposed by their religion. Dehner grumbles about the camels constantly and cannot accept the fact that they are necessary for the expedition. I thought the script left something to be desired as the dialog was sometimes humorous when it was not meant to be. An example of this is when Dehner complains to "Big Boy" Williams, "What are you trying to do kill my mules? Standing out in this sun is worse than working them to death!" Williams replies, "The camels seem to be enjoying it." Dehner counters, "They ain't got sense to know better. All this map making is a bunch of buffalo chips. Can't he tell that's a mountain without looking through a spy glass?" Big Boy then shakes his head and says, "Man when they gave out brains in must have been in New Orleans!" The only thing that saves this film from being less than mediocre is the veteran group of actors, the John Ford type of location, numerous action scenes and the beautiful color employed in the filming.
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Motley crew in the desert
bkoganbing17 July 2017
Rod Cameron and the then married team of Joanne Dru and John Ireland star in Southwest Passage about an expedition to test the feasibility of using camels in the American Southwest. Purportedly after the experiment was eventually dropped and the camels turned loose on the Arizona desert descendants of them even now can be spotted to this day every now and then.

Rod Cameron plays the real life character of western explorer Edward Beale who in his life also had naval service and eventually got to be Ambassador to the Hapsburg Empire. I think his life would make one fascinating movie myself, the real story.

But here he's on a surveying party with camels, mules, and horse and the human participants are soldier, muleskinners and a few Arabs. Add to them a fugitive John Ireland posing as a doctor and his girlfriend Joanne Dru as someone they rescue in the desert you've got quite a mix facing the Apaches who eventually turn hostile.

Ireland has just robbed a bank and bottom feeding muleskinner John Dehner recognizes him. He also recognizes he's got needs when he sees Joanne Dru. She takes a liking to Cameron. The real Beale was a married man so there's no hint of reciprocation. But Ireland is not a happy camper.

There's a nice desert shootout with the Apaches which must have been something in the original 3-D this was shot in.

Southwest Passage is a nice action packed most adult western where the camel experiment is just a side note. Nothing whatever to do with the really fascinating career of Edward Fitzgerald Beale.
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Will That Be One Hump or Two?
bsmith555214 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The "Southwest Passage" of the title is an government sponsored expedition across a desert in hopes of finding a shorter route to California. The trek led by Ed Beale (Rod Cameron)is also testing the feasibility of using camels as they had proved capable of traveling for long periods with little or no water in their home lands.

The story opens with bank robbers Clint McDonald (John Ireland), Lilly (Joanne Dru) and her brother Jeb (Daryl Hickman) being pursued by sheriff Kenneth MacDonald and his posse. When Jeb is wounded Lilly brings a tipsy Doc Stanton (Morris Ankrum) to tend his wounds. Clint learns that the Doc is scheduled to join Beale's expedition. He decides to impersonate him and joins up with the expedition with Lilly joining him later.

This picture was filmed at the end of the 50s 3D craze so most of the film is designed to show off the usual 3D "comin' at ya" effects such as rifles pointed at the screen, a bull whip cracking in your face, a pitch fork, an Indian attack etc. etc.

As for the story which makes minimal use of the camels, the deception of Clint posing as a doctor takes up most of the plot. Mule skinner Matt Carroll (John Dehner) learns of the deception and blackmails Clint. Meanwhile, Clint is forced into using his "skills", as we knew he would be on the trail guide, grizzled side kick, comic relief Tall Tale (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams).

Although Cameron is top billed, the story centers on the Ireland and Dru characters. Coincidently, they were married at the time. Cameron appeared in a similar role the following year in Republic's "Santa Fe Passage".

Given the nature of Ireland's character, I found that the "happy" ending of the story to be a little too Hollywood. But nonetheless the overall film makes for an entertaining 75 minutes.
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average western with above average screenplay
tmwest13 December 2011
Average western originally made in 3D where Rod Cameron is leading a caravan that among horses and mules,also uses camels. They are joined by outlaw John Ireland who poses as a doctor and his girlfriend, Joanne Dru. Dru and Ireland are the real stars of the film, their relationship gets into a crisis because of Dru's admiration of Cameron. Ireland convinces them that he is a doctor up to the point where he has to amputate a man's arm. They are followed by Native Americans that at the beginning believe the camels are gods, and don't attack. The story, by Harry Essex, who wrote such good screenplays as "The Lonely Man" and "The Sons off Katie Elder" deserved a better treatment.
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Cavalry tests camels in the U.S. desert
bux29 October 1998
A routine western with a hook-it's based on tests the Army conducted using camels in the Southwest desert. Cameron, Ireland and Dru(Irelands' wife at the time)handle the acting chores competently, and the action runs smoothly.
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Joanne Dru Is Lovely in Her Cowboy Hat
TedMichaelMor14 October 2010
Making the film must have taken great effort with location shooting in Utah. I would like seeing it in 3-D; the colour is vivid, well saturated. Director Ray Nazzaro knew his business; writer Harry Essex was not as skillful. The plot works but the dialogue often sounds silly.

The cast with beautiful Joanne Dru, her husband John Ireland, and Ron Cameron, along with excellent stock actors make watching this movie fun. You realise that actors like John Dehner, Darryl Hickman, and Stuart Randall enriched many films and television programs we enjoy.

I almost forgot about the camels while watching the movie. The hook works, I suppose, but that is not what makes it work. The fine cast, good direction, interesting photography, crisp editing, and great location do.

I enjoyed watching this movie.
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Based upon a true story.
weezeralfalfa10 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a little more than a 'routine' western. It has some historical basis. The romantic couple: Lilly(Joanne Dru) and Clint(John Ireland), who have the most screen time, are quite fictional. But Edmond Beale(Rod Cameron)was quite a famous trail blazer and surveyor in his day. The supposed camel trip across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona was a mix of two of his trips. The trip where he used camels was actually from Fort Defiance, central NM, straight across central AZ to the Colorado River. This became a famous wagon trail, eventually part of US Route 66 and the Santa Fe railway.

I noticed that Bactrian (2 hump) rather than dromedary(1 hump) camels were used. Historically, they were imported from Tunisia, therefore should have been dromedaries, which are the usual camel in North Africa and the Middle East. Bactrians are the usual camel in Central Asia and western China. Bactrians are notably larger and can carry or pull heavier loads, up to 1000 lbs., whereas the top limit for dromedaries is 600 lbs. and for horses and mules 300 lbs.. Although camels had various practical advantages over horses and mules in the dry rough parts of the Southwest, there was a general prejudice against substituting them for their familiar pack animals. Also, horses and mules were generally afraid of them.

Getting back to the story, the threesome of Clint, Lilly, and brother Jeb are being chased by a posse, after robbing a bank of gold. Jeb is badly wounded, but they manage to lose the posse. Lilly goes to town to find a doctor, and returns with a drunkard veterinarian who says he can't do anything for Jeb. Clint bargains with him to buy his clothes and medical bag,so that the vet. can return to the east, instead of joining the camel caravan, and Clint can impersonate him when he joins the caravan. Lilly remains behind with Jeb, who eventually dies. She then finds the caravan and is reluctantly accepted. Clint's ruse is finally discovered, and he banished from the caravan after a fist fight with Beale. But, he finds a water hole, which the caravan badly needs, and helps fight off the attacking Apache. Therefore, he's accepted back into the caravan, and gives his stolen gold to Beale to return to the bank he stole it from. Beale says he can't buy his freedom from prosecution, but he's earned interesting perspective.

I thought Joanne was especially beautiful and charismatic. She was John Ireland's(Clint) wife at this time...Shot around Kanab, Utah. See it in color at YouTube or the expensive DVD release.
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Camel Caravan!
Spikeopath18 January 2019
Southwest Passage (AKA: Camels West) is directed by Ray Nazarro and written by Harry Essex and Geoffrey Homes. It stars Rod Cameron, John Ireland, Joanne Dru, John Dehner and Guin Williams. Music is by Emil Newman and Arthur Lang and the Pathe Color photography is by Sam Leavitt.

A robber and hid girl join a Camel Caravan to escape their pursuers.

Originally filmed in 3-D, one might be surprised to find that as fanciful as the premise to this seems, it's very much grounded in facts. Edward Fitzgerald Beale (1822 - 1893) the character played by Cameron is a most fascinating person whose real life work is far more interesting than the film is! Further reading on the subject is recommended.

This is all very routine as a group of various ethnicities and walks of life trek across the desert with camels in tow to test their usage for the U.S. Cavalry. Ireland (posing as a doctor) and Dru (gorgeous but looking like she just wandered in off of a Estée Lauder advertisement) are hiding out. So they are on the bluff which keeps the "will they get caught" factor simmering away. Naturally a rapscallion fellow (Dehner) figures things out and wants a share of the couple's stolen goods.

To further complicate matters and up the peril quota, the water is running low. Add in the fact we are in Apache country and you get the drift of where the picture is heading. Cast make things watchable at least, while the location scenery out of Kanab, Utah, is a treat for the eyes. It all builds to a frantic finale, which is well staged and high on rapid gun fire, but once the "too tidy" resolution is reached it's a Western that quickly fades from memory. 5/10
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Avoid This Below Average Western
doug-balch6 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I was sucked into watching this movie because of the lead actors, John Ireland and Joann Dru. They were husband and wife at the time after they met during the filming of "Red River", five years before this movie. Despite its poor quality, "Southwest Passage" does have some interesting elements.

Here's what I liked:

  • Dru and Ireland deliver good performances, given the limited opportunity the script gave them. Dru is much better looking and has more charisma than I remember from "Red River".

  • Stalwart John Dehner makes an interesting appearance as a heavy.

  • Camel/Arab theme is unusual.

  • Interesting location shoots. Unlike what another user review claims, this is in no way Monument Valley.

Here's what ruined the movie:

  • Plot wise, it starts out OK, but quickly devolves into an absurd simplistic patch work of illogical characters, conflicts and transitions. They clearly were shooting without a script and made the story up as they went along. There's no point in going into details, since the movie isn't worth watching to begin with.
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