John Beal Dangles by his one arm!
In 1960 Walt Disney studios took on an unusual adventure story for them: the true historical tale of John Wesley Powell who explored the Colorado River in 1869.
As Davy Crockett proved a few years earlier, there was no historical truth that Disney could not whitewash. Powell’s misfit crew of tough guys has been turned into a second-banana costar cast of familiar faces and comfortable stereotypes. Ten Who Dared is satisfying emotional comfort food. It falls short of classic, but will do in a pinch.
That’s not to say it isn’t a solid entry in biographical adventure.
You do have a bunch of scene-stealers around John Beal, the 1930s leading man now in late middle-age playing the one-armed Powell. His younger brother could be his son: James Drury in a pre-Virginianemesis role, complete with handlebar mustache.
Our money is on the grizzled Brian Keith, long before his TV comedy stuff, he could always be counted on to give an accounting worth watching. Up against Ben Johnson and R.G. Armstrong, you have marvelous performers. Throw in the spoiled rich kid from the Spin and Martyseries, David Stollery did one more Disney film before leaving acting entirely.
Those Disney moments feature Stollery being ordered to shoot his dog, and James Drury as a villain tormenting everyone.
By modern CGI effects, the rapids and the actors together are less than effective, as the disgruntled men begin to think Powell is searching for gold—and cutting them out of the process.
Other character flaws, amid greed and impatience, lead to more problems, making it your less than happy Disney film.
In true Disney fashion, the most hideous events are left for narrator explanation.
Yet, there is something of an experiment here for a later style of Disney movie. You cannot go awry with the Grand Canyon and notable character actors at the acme of their careers.