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Anchor Bay presents
Never Cry Wolf (1983)

"This place doesn't belong to man, it belongs to the wolves."
- Tyler (Charles Martin Smith)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: July 06, 2000

Stars: Charles Martin Smith
Other Stars: Brian Dennehy
Director: Carroll Ballard

MPAA Rating: PG for (Nudity)
Run Time: 01h:45m:00s
Release Date: February 22, 2000
UPC: 013131099096
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Farley Mowat is a name synonymous with Canadian literature. His true life accounts of the Canadian wilderness are required reading in school, and even today, they shed new light on the creatures who are otherwise misrepresented through myth and popular fiction. Released as a novel in 1963, Never Cry Wolf recounts Mowat's journey into the Canadian Arctic to study wolf behavior for the Canadian government, to back its claims that the wolves (Canis Lupine) are responsible for the dramatic decline of the Caribou population, and to lend scientific support to the growing commercial hunting industry opening up in the north.

As the film version opens, we find Mowat (named Taylor in the film, played by Charles Martin Smith: American Graffiti, The Untouchables) questioning his decision to participate in The Lupine Project, especially now that the reality of his mission becomes clearer as he descends into the isolated and frozen north country. Airlifted into a remote region of the Arctic, he is left alone with crates of supplies that, for his situation, are quite impractical. Even his stash of Moose brand beer succumbs to the frozen landscape he now inhabits. After being rescued by an Inuit hunter (Zachary Ittimangnaq as Ootek), Taylor discovers a lone wolf, and sets up an observation post to begin his studies, but soon find that he is also being studied by the wolf, who has accepted Taylor's intrusion into his territory. Instead of the vicious killers he was sent to report on, Taylor discovers an intelligent species that is not at all like he imagined. As the story progresses we learn more about the behavior of these animals and their true purpose in the Arctic ecosystem.

The film for the most part is narrated, with onscreen dialogue kept to a few exchanges between Taylor and bush pilot Rosie (Brian Dennehy), or the translations of Ootek's stories by a young, toothless Inuit hunter, Mike (Samson Jorah). Hiro Narita's cinematography, which won a 1983 NAFC award, beautifully captures the harsh majesty of the Arctic, from its snow covered winters to its lichen covered summers. The landscapes are stunning and compositions are wonderful. Wolf activity is poignantly conveyed, as we learn to understand the contrast between true nature of what Taylor has been sent out to accomplish, and the reality of wolf life. The film brilliantly portrays the expedition with a perfect blend of comedic interjection and stark imagery of the world these creatures inhabit. It is a remarkable story, which, even though its authenticity has been challenged recently, demonstrates man's impact on nature and exposes many facts about the workings of the Arctic ecosystem.

This film should be suitable for all family members. The film's PG rating is garnered by an extended sequence which Smith spends running about the landscape naked, so a prescreening of chapter 16 might be appropriate for parents.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Never Cry Wolf is presented in both nonanamorphic widescreen and Pan & Scan. Although the source print has a fair degree of wear visible in certain scenes, overall the transfer is very good. Color and contrast are well rendered, and elements like fog are presented with no artifacting. Very slight line structure is evident when the widescreen image is zoomed for viewing on a widescreen TV. The breathtaking visuals will easily distract you from any other anomalies present. This is a wonderfully photographed film, and is fairly well preserved here. The full frame side consists of a primarily open matte transfer, though some cropping is evident in a few scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround soundtrack is near perfect for the film, with the exception of a couple of minor pops heard on edit points. Mark Isham's original score is very Tangerine Dream-like, and is rendered with a wide dynamic and frequency range. There is not a lot of directionality to the soundtrack (nominated for an Oscar®), but it suits the film very well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like Anchor Bay's other Disney licenses, this disc has no on-disc supplements. For a film with as much background as this story has, it is disappointing that it would not include anything more than a small 4" x 6" printed insert card with a message from Charles Martin Smith as production information. As a book, this is a landmark of Canadian literature, and as a film, the nine months of filming in the Arctic would have been ample source for a featurette or commentary. In the extras department, this film is not done justice, though Anchor Bay is not to blame on that account. The card mentioned above is accompanied by a full size card with the one sheet artwork backed by the disc's chapter listings.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A very well executed account of Mowat's experiences. Spectacular photography and an involving soundtrack enhance the story, and Smith's portrayal of Tyler is finely delivered. For anyone interested in true life wilderness adventures, Never Cry Wolf is a must see. Highly recommended.


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