Anchor Bay presents
The Bears And I (1974)
"If you live here my friend, you got a lot to learn. Our tribe is a bear tribe. The bear is our brother."- Oliver Red Fern (Michael Ansara)
Stars: Patrick Wayne, Chief Dan George, Michael Ansara, Valentin de Vargas
Other Stars: Robert Pine, Andrew Duggan
Director: Bernard McEveety
MPAA Rating: GRun Time: 01h:28m:33s
Release Date: 1999-09-28
DVD ReviewIn the last of his three feature films for Disney in the early 1970s Bernard McEveety took on the task of directing bears, after his previous work on Disney films with a lion (Napoleon and Samantha) and a camel (One Little Indian). This time he set up shop in the wilderness of Chilco Lake in British Columbia, Canada, to tell the tale of The Bears And I, based on Robert Franklin Leslie's novel. Shot over a two year period so he could capture the bears' development, the production also included building a town for the nearly 100 crew members, since their shooting location was over 130 miles from the nearest settlement.
Patrick Wayne stars as Bob Leslie, a war veteran just three weeks out of the service, heading into the wilderness to the home country of Larch A-Tas-Ka-Nay, his now deceased army buddy, who had told him many tales of his life in the mountain region surrounding White Bird Lake. When he arrives at the Indian settlement where his friend was raised, he is eyed with suspicion by the locals, but is cautiously accepted once he has a chance to explain himself, and meets up with the boy's father, Chief Peter A-Tas-Ka-Nay (Chief Dan George). The town's shopkeeper, Oliver Red Fern (Michael Ansara), offers Leslie a cabin on the far shores of the lake, which turns out to be a major fixer-upper. After evicting the family of racoons and other critters in residence, Leslie begins to set up his new home, and becomes increasing involved in the overwhelming beauty that surrounds him. He soon discovers his neighbors include a family of bears, and when the sound of gunfire pierces the wilderness, Leslie learns that the three young cubs are now orphaned. Accepting his new responsibility as the cubs' parent and mentor, he lures them back to the cabin, where eventually they learn to trust him. Despite his good intentions, Leslie's involvement with the bears angers Chief A-Tas-Ka-Nay, as the bear is his tribe's guardian spirit. When government officials (Robert Pine, Andrew Duggan) arrive with plans to claim the Indian settlement for a national park, the Chief blames the tribe's fortunes on Leslie's involvement with the animals. Bob soon has to act as intermediary between the forestry people and the Indians who are being asked to leave their homes. As tension mounts between the two sides, Leslie is forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his life.
The Bears And I is an exceptional film, combining the fun and folly of young bear cubs with the very real issues of Indian affairs and their relationship with the white man. The film is well balanced without being preachy, and doesn't paint either side in an entirely innocent way. As someone who appreciates these older Disney films, I am very happy Anchor Bay has chosen to bring them to DVD. The presentation here will ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and learn from these well produced and surprisingly timeless productions.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||no|
Image Transfer Review: The Bears And I is presented in both a nonanamorphic widescreen version and an open matte 1.33:1 version. The color on the widescreen image looks somewhat dated, but holds up well with good contrast and well-saturated color. When zoomed in for viewing on a widescreen set, only faint scan lines are evident. The source is fairly free of noise or other anomalies, with only deep blue skies showing any real sign of grain. Overall, a very decent presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in two channel mono, which for the most part is well preserved. Only occasioanally did I feel the dialogue clarity was compromised. John Denver's Sweet Surrender, the film's theme song, sounds wonderful.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Extras Review: No on disc extras, but a four page insert gives a bit of background on the production.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA thoroughly enjoyable story set against the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, The Bears And I comes highly recommended as another of Disney's live action adventure films. The native issues raised in the film are as applicable today as they were in 1974 when the film was produced. A worthwhile family film for all ages.
Jeff Ulmer 2001-01-02