The Moviegoer

At the Valencia

In a series of technicolor flashbacks, "North Forty" tells the occasionally exciting, occasionally plodding story of the resistance of an isolated band of Wyoming sheep ranchers to the usurpation of their grazing land for a Navajo reservation.

Dealing with uncommon insight into the problem of the displaced white settler, "North Forty" mirrors forty years in the turbulent history of the Snopes family and its fight for survival. Pioneer settlers, the Snopes are forced to sacrifice first their flocks, then their land, then even their daughter to the alien customs of immigrating Navajos. The movie is climaxed in an effective juxtaposition of the old and the new; the last of the Snopes attempts to shear their few remaining sheep while an 11,000 man, three-day Navajo fertility rite sweeps over the fields. Only an act of Congress finally saves the settlers.

Boris Pascuniak's sensitive directing keeps the story probable and well-placed; he is helped out a great deal by a delightfully pastoral musical score by Bonar Gillis. The acting, unfortunately, is less competent. Jane Cruikshank plays the Snopes daughter with a sheepish grin, while Basil Mange is never convincing as the anthropologist-congressman who finally settles the inter-racial strife. "North Forty's" technicolor sheep are wonderfully convincing, however, and they leave the moviegoer with a true sensation of the old West.