Campbell's Kingdom (1957)
Dicky Dirk is in Distress
It would be so easy for me to rip "Campbell's Kingdom" to shreds, heck any movie which features Sid James delivering a heavy American accent is opening up for a bit of ribbing. In fact with this being a predominantly British cast playing Americans there are other dodgy accents plus we have Italy masquerading as Canada as well. But whilst there is countless things wrong with "Campbell's Kingdom" the undeniable fact is that it is entertaining be it for what works or in some cases for what doesn't.
When old man Campbell is found dead in his shack on his land, Owen Morgan (Stanley Baker - The Cruel Sea), the construction manager of a nearby dam, sees it as the last obstacle removed from him completing his task. But the evil Morgan doesn't expect the arrival of Campbell's grandson Bruce (Dirk Bogarde - They Who Dare), who shows up in the Rockies looking for some mountain air after being told he has just 6 months to live. Learning all about what Morgan has been up to and his grandfather's belief that there is oil on the land, Bruce sets about claiming his inheritance and proving his grandfather right. But with Morgan having Government permission to flood Campbell's land once the dam is built it is a race against time to prove that there is oil and stop Morgan.
Whilst "Campbell's Kingdom" is not a western it has that feel of a western storyline where we have the evil businessman trying to railroad a land owner of their land for their own financial gain. As such whilst we get some back story surrounding old man Campbell and the land he spent his life searching for oil as well as a sub plot surrounding him being unpopular because everyone thought he was a crook the storyline is simply the independent good guy going up against the evil business. That means we watch old man Campbell's grandson Bruce show up to claim his inheritance and discovering that the crooked Owen Morgan lied to get permission to flood the land sets about proving there is oil on there before Morgan builds the dam and floods Campbell's Kingdom. Typically there is more to this story than that, there is back story over Bruce being told he has just 6 months to live, there is romance and plenty of adventure. But basically "Campbell's Kingdom" is a simple story, a story which has been told in one form or another countless times on the big screen.
Now to be totally honest there is a lot which is wrong with "Campbell's Kingdom" from editing through to plot holes. You can literally rip it apart on so many levels and some of the more noticeable issues include British actors delivering heavy American accents such as Sid James attempt which make them sound like caricatures. There are also gaping plot holes made worse by some heavy handed editing and this leads to the need to suspend your belief at certain points as things happen which really shouldn't. Yet ironically the faults are part of the reason that "Campbell's Kingdom" ends up entertaining and Sid James heavy accent ends up putting a smile on your face more for being wrong than right.
But for everything which is entertaining for being wrong there is also plenty which is entertaining for being right and the whole drama of Bruce and drilling expert James MacDonald sneaking all the drilling equipment onto the land is full of wonderful old fashioned adventure with bridges being blown up and roads being blocked. Whilst there are greater adventure movies the adventure aspect of "Campbell's Kingdom" certainly delivers plenty of excitement. And whilst the romantic subplot feels at times like it is thrown in because it is a required element it also adds some nice touches especially when there is a third party involved. Basically whether something is right or wrong "Campbell's Kingdom" still manages to be entertaining.
Now talking of right and wrong there is Dirk Bogarde as Bruce Campbell and the right is that not only does he have the matinee idol looks to play are hero but initially being the sickly Brit in Canada he delivers a nice touch of fish out of water. Yet when it comes to Bruce leading the fight against the evil Owen Morgan and the Dam well Bogarde just doesn't seem rough and tough enough to be believable especially as we go from a man who at one point is fainting to the next lugging heavy equipment over rough terrain. Stanley Baxter is better as his nemesis the evil Owen Morgan and whilst Baxter's accent is at times a little forced at least he does come across as being a nasty piece of work capable of doing anything to get his way. And being a very British movie there are numerous other recognizable faces including James Robertson Justice, Michael Craig, Barbara Murray and of course Sid James who ironically has a very small part but makes a huge impression because of that accent.
What this all boils down to is that "Campbell's Kingdom" has as much wrong with it as there is right but it is 100% entertaining. You may end up laughing at some of its faults but ironically the faults add to the fun and whilst the storyline is familiar the adventure aspect of it, no matter how unbelievable, it also entertaining. It's worth a watch just for the amusement of the various flaws and Sid James stealing scenes with his heavy American accent.
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