- Movie Rating -

Never Cry Wolf (1983)

| January 27, 1984

I am a tenderfoot, I’ll admit it.  I’m not an outdoor type.  I would rather be at home with my TV and my snacks and my faithful dog then probably anywhere else in the world.  Sadly, that may be the case with most of civilization, but it certainly isn’t the case with Tyler a U.S. government research scientist who treks deep into the Alaskan arctic to study the habits of wolves and how they are affecting the population of caribou.

Directed by Carole Ballard who made The Black Stallion, this is yet another film about the union between man and animal, about the savage meeting the civilized in the wild terrain.  What is special is that this is the kind the movie that clears off all of the predictable elements found in most films about nature – such as the singular villain who wants to dump toxic waste – and just lets the environment tell the story.

Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) is dropped into this landscape with several crates of supplies in the middle of the godforsaken Artic tundra after a scary journey on a rickety seaplane piloted by Rosie (Brian Dennehy) whose seen a lot of young whippersnappers like him.  Reasonably fearing that he is not prepared for this journey, he never-the-less has landed with his canned food, his radio, his pipe, his tent and his bottles of Moosehead Beer.  He’s a babe in the woods, so to speak.

Fortunately, he has the old movie reliable to help him get started: a native named Ootek (Zachary Ittimangnaq) who gives him survival skills and builds his fire for no other reason than because he’s native to the soil and Tyler is not.  He disappears from the movie just as quickly as he came in.

Tyler settles in and begins studying the white wolves of the Arctic, how they live, how they move and how they survive.  From this observation comes a newfound respect for these animals and for a new perspective on how man is treating the planet, how it is pushing these magnificent creatures out of the natural wilderness and killing them off with mass industrial manifest destiny.

This is a beautiful film, one of the best films I’ve ever seen about the relation between man and animal.  Ballard, just as he did with The Black Stallion doesn’t overload the film with dialogue or overplot the film’s message.  He simply lets us be in the moment and feel the natural environment that Tyler has entered.  And through Charles Martin Smith, we feel this.  Tyler is a good man, a man willing to bring along his pipe and his radio but also willing to let himself be the player in nature.  He’s not the dominate here and he’s smart enough to realize it.  This is a special film.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Drama