Anchor Bay presents
Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North (1961)
"Baffled by muskrats, battered by a bull elk and now mocked by a mouse. For Nikki it was a very humiliating day."- Narrator (Jacques Fauteux)
Stars: Jean Coutu, Jacques Fauteux, ...mile Genest
Other Stars: Uriel Luft, Robert Rivard
Director: Jack Couffer and Don Haldane
MPAA Rating: GRun Time: 01h:13m:15s
Release Date: 2000-02-22
DVD ReviewAs a kid who grew up in the 1960s, Disney's live action movies were an integral part of my upbringing, as the family gathered around the television for an evening of adventure. Where else could you follow various animals in the wild, and see them roaming about the great wilderness regions of the world? In Jack Couffer's directorial debut (see also The Ring Of Bright Water), he and co-director Don Haldone set off to the wilds of the Canadian northwest, to bring James Oliver Curwood's novel Nomads of the North to the screen as Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North. Narrated by Jacques Fauteux, the film has a semi-documentary feel to it, and rather than just being a whimsical look at cute young animals, will also teach youngsters a few things about the wild.
British Columbia, Canada, 1899. Fur trader Andre Dupas (Jean Coutu) navigates the mighty rivers of the Canadian northwest with his 3-month-old, part Husky, part wolf, Malamute pup along for the ride. While making a portage past some falls along the way, the ever adventurous Nikki discovers a black bear cub named Neewa hiding in a tree. As Andre tries to explain to the pup that bears and humans don't mix, he discovers the cub's mother has been killed in an altercation with a brown bear, and since he can't leave Neewa to fend for himself, Dupas decides to bring him along for the journey. After tethering the two together, Andre and the young animals take to the river once more, but it is obvious that Nikki and Neewa aren't getting along, constantly battling in the canoe. When the trio hit some rapids, the canoe flips and the pair are separated from Andre, the fur trader fears they have drowned, and continues downstream in search of them. Fortunately they survived, and begin romping through the countryside, still tied together, which makes for some hilarious moments. Now on their own, they must rely on instinct for survival, but Nikki's hunting is severely hampered by the little brown bear, who is always heading in the opposite direction. When the two finally break free of each other, Nikki begins his education as a hunter, and learns, the hard way, the pecking order of the forest. As winter sets in, Neewa looks for a place to hibernate, leaving Nikki alone again to fend for himself in the harsh cold. When he finally meets up with humans again, they are not the same sympathetic creatures he had once known, and after Nikki has been spoiling his trap lines, the cruel and ruthless Jacques Lebeau (...mile Genest) has other plans for the young dog.
I don't know if a film like Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North could be filmed today, since I would find it hard to believe that the animal rights societies would approve of pitting a dog against some of the animals faced in this film (I doubt they have a stunt wolverine), and most of these battles look pretty authentic. As with most films about young animals, these characters are painfully cute and adorable, and their encounters with all manner of foe, from muskrat to lynx, wolves, bears and caribou are both humourous and dangerous. Fortunately for kids (and me!), the carnage of the food chain is handled delicately, and deaths are not over dramatized. Parents may want to prescreen the film, especially chapter 17, before showing it to very young children, and be prepared to answer questions about survival in the wild. The majesty of the Canadian wilderness is beautifully captured, and the story is heartwarming, extremely funny in places, and overall a great family experience. Did I mention the animals were cute?
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The image is a bit soft and the print quality ranges from very clean to scenes with a fair amount of dirt and scratches. The Technicolor image is fairly high contrast in a few places, though the film looked exactly how I remember Disney films of this vintage looking. Black levels are fine, and for the most part colors are well preserved. Grain is evident, though not overly distracting, and the obvious stock footage inserts fare the worst. Another fine preservation effort.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is two channel mono, and is generally clean and distortion free. Frequency range and dynamics are limited, though this is due to the source. Some of the overdubbed language tracks sound a bit out of place, though, again this is in the source. For a film of this age, it is well presented.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Extras Review: No on disc extras to speak of, which is not surprising for a Disney license. The disc does include a heavy cardboard insert with the original poster art, which Anchor Bay plugs on the package with a paw print sticker.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThough some may say that Disney's live action films of the late '50s and '60s were formulaic, I cherish the oportunity to have them in my collection. These are timeless family films that can be enjoyed by generations, and Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North is certainly filled with action, drama and cute animals. I loved it, highly recommended.
Jeff Ulmer 2001-01-04