TEN WHO DARED (1960)
So, who here knows the story of John Wesley Powell and his harrowing adventure down the Colorado River? No one? Oh, that’s probably because it was uneventful and exceedingly dull. Ten Who Dared was the first and unsurprisingly the last film to depict his watery feat. Directed by William Beaudine (of Westward Ho, The Wagons! fame), this movie manages to make even the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon dreary and tiresome. Hooray!
In the case of Ten Who Dared, warning against spoilers would be misleading; it would imply that by giving away what happens in this film I could in some way diminish your eventual enjoyment of it. Believe me when I say that by detailing the plot, and thereby reducing the likelihood that you will ever watch the film, I am merely sparing you from 90 wretched minutes of monotony. I will now proceed to list everything of interest (I use the term lightly) that occurs in Ten Who Dared.
Ten men led by John Wesley Powell (John Beal) set off on a trip down the Colorado River. The other nine men are more or less indistinguishable.
Pictured: Ten, in the act of daring.
It soon comes to light that one of the ten has smuggled a dog on board. So he’s told he has to shoot it, ’cause thems the boat rules.
Tragically, the movie totally wimps out, and they don’t shoot the dog.
Meanwhile in another boat, one guy is smuggling booze down the river (also against the boat rules) but it turns out his boatmate is a recovering alcoholic. As we all know, any man, once hooked on Satan’s beverage, will go batshit insane at the mere sight of booze. A boat crash was, therefore, inevitable.
Sadly, nobody dies.
Oh, then one guy is a real asshole to some other guy. To be fair, the guy he’s being a dick to used to be a Confederate soldier, but you can tell he’s trying to move on with his life. Whatever. So, the asshole tries to shoot the rebel, but things get turned around and the asshole nearly gets himself Mufasa’d
Unfortunately, the Confederate guy takes mercy on him, and they keep going down the river like nothing happened.
Later they meet a trapper who warns them that the river is deadly, so one of them calls it quits. Once they get a bit further and run out of biscuits, three others decide to try their luck in the desert instead of staying on the river. So, the remaining men just kind of reach the bottom of the river. The epilogue vaguely informs us that the three who went off into the desert died at the hands of hostile Indians. The End.
Six Who Dared, One Who Quit, and Three Who Died Somehow would be a more accurate title.
This film was lazy and sloppy, so I will be too. I’m going to go ahead and say that the river represents life, because why not? John Wesley Powell is a scientist. He’s an educated man with a well-organized plan on how to go about his trip. He even has a chair strapped to the top of his boat so he can see what’s going on around him. He’s got his shit together.
The Colorado’s first lifeguard?
But what happens? People fuck his shit up. They get drunk and wreck his boats. They bring dogs on board. They quit on him. Hell, one of them goes nuts and spits on a rattlesnake for no good reason, before grabbing it by the neck and twirling it around like a jackass. Powell warns him not to do it again, and he goes and finds another rattlesnake. Powell asks him, “Were you taking chances again, tormenting the snake like that other time?” “Yep, and I’ll do it again,” the man replies.
Some people are just assholes.
Time and time again, Powell’s men fail him. It’s a wonder he makes it down the river at all. The moral of the story? No matter how good your plan in life, the people around you will find stupid ways to fuck it up.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
Is there any reason why anyone would like it? With a dull-as-dishwater plot and indistinguishable characters, the only attraction I can imagine drawing anyone to the film is its promise of rapid-running adventure. Sadly, even this is beyond lackluster. While many wide shots actually involve replicas of Powell’s boats floating down the Colorado, all close-ups are poorly green-screened shots of the actors having water thrown at them from offscreen.
Oh, the peril!
To make matters worse, every protracted “action” scene is endlessly padded by making sure to linger for several seconds on each and every cast member until all sense of urgency is lost. Fun for the kids indeed.
- The nine who weren’t John Wesley Powell were played by Brian Keith, James Drury, R.G. Armstrong, Ben Johnson, L.Q. Jones, Dan Sheridan, David Stollery, Stan Jones, and David Frankham, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you which of them was which.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Ten Who Dared contains one of the laziest exposition devices I have ever encountered. As the film starts and the boats are leaving the shore, an unnamed reporter runs up and unceremoniously starts asking each character to give their name. This might work with an expedition with one or two members; with ten it is beyond ridiculous.
“You in the bow, who are you?”
“Jack Sumner, chief boatsman.”
Now repeat this nine more times.
I think you know how I feel by now. Ten Who Dared? More like Ten, Who Cares?
Moon Pilot (1962)