Released theatrically in 1954, "The Far Horizons" is an entertaining film about the Lewis and Clark expedition at the turn of the ninteenth century, a pivotal event in the history of the United States. I suspect that historians will roll their eyes at the "Hollywood" version of this famously long, arduous but important expedition that ultimately ensured that America would reach from "sea to sea". Personally I have no problem with actual events being "enhanced" for the entertainment, as well as the enlightenment, of an audience.
President Thomas Jefferson (avuncular Herbert Heyes) has just completed the massive Louisiana Purchase deal with Napoleon, greatly expanding the territory of the United States. However, this vast area now needs to be explored and mapped. The President decides that his loyal secretary, Meriwether Lewis (steadfast Fred MacMurray), is the man for the job, along with a soldier experienced in fighting Indians, William Clark (a driven, intense Charlton Heston). The Lewis/Clark partnership gets off to a rocky start since both men are in love with the same woman, Washington socialite, Julia Hancock (long-suffering Barbara Hale--Della Street on TV's "Perry Mason").
Fortunately, these necessary but rather dull opening scenes soon give way to the expedition itself, at which point the film remains consistently engrossing. Of course, this new territory is by no means uninhabited--many Native American tribes have long established themselves, and regard the coming of the "white man" with great suspicion, even outright hostility.
Clark, a veteran of various "Indian wars", has little patience or sympathy for these people. It is Lewis who must use all of his diplomatic skills to gain their trust, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. They meet the Shoshone maid, Sacajawea (lovely Donna Reed), a prisoner/slave of an enemy tribe. After a few "hurdles" are overcome, she agrees to serve as their guide--as it turns out, the trip would not have been successful, and they would not have survived without her. Her intelligence and beauty soon melt Clark's hard heart, and Lewis finds that he has the distraction of a romance on his hands, as well as more hostile tribes and natural disasters to contend with.
There are many scenes in this film which are gorgeous--the natural beauty of America's plains, rushing rivers, lush forests and snow-capped mountains more than compensate for the hardships that our intrepid explorers must endure.
The DVD is presented in widescreen format with outstanding colour--the sound is mono--don't look for extras.
"The Far Horizons" is a rousing adventure that the whole family can enjoy. Mr. MacMurray, Mr. Heston and Ms. Reed are all highly watchable stars, and kudos to Paramount for releasing this lovely disc.