Death Hunt (1981)

R | 92 mins | Adventure | 22 May 1981

Director:

Peter Hunt

Producer:

Murray Shostak

Cinematographer:

James Devis

Production Designer:

Edward S. Haworth

Production Company:

Arctic Rampage Productions
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Arctic Rampage.
       Opening credits include the following statement: “This motion picture is based on a true story.”
       End credits include the following statements: “Photographed under the supervision of the C.S.P.C.A.” and “The Producers wish to thank the government and the people of Alberta, Canada, for their cooperation during the filming of this motion picture.” Also stated is: “Portions of the main title of this picture were filmed in the Cibola National Forest, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film was based on the true life story of one of the greatest manhunts conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In 1931, a reclusive trapper, Albert Johnson, eluded his pursuers for forty-eight days during a 150 mile chase across the frigid Canadian wilderness near the Arctic Circle.
       The 9 May 1979 Var reported that the Guinness Film Group was financing the film Arctic Rampage for $8 million. Principal photography was planned for Nov 1979 and the company was negotiating with actors Peter Falk and Charles Bronson to star. However, the Guinness Film Group and Falk did not participate in the film. The 4 Oct 1979 HR announced that Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest joined with Classic Films, run by a group of German investors, to finance several productions, including Arctic Rampage, which Chow would executive produce with Albert S. Ruddy. Principal photography was planned to begin Feb 1980 and actor Telly Savalas was set to co-star, however, Savalas did not participate in the ... More Less

The working title of the film was Arctic Rampage.
       Opening credits include the following statement: “This motion picture is based on a true story.”
       End credits include the following statements: “Photographed under the supervision of the C.S.P.C.A.” and “The Producers wish to thank the government and the people of Alberta, Canada, for their cooperation during the filming of this motion picture.” Also stated is: “Portions of the main title of this picture were filmed in the Cibola National Forest, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film was based on the true life story of one of the greatest manhunts conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In 1931, a reclusive trapper, Albert Johnson, eluded his pursuers for forty-eight days during a 150 mile chase across the frigid Canadian wilderness near the Arctic Circle.
       The 9 May 1979 Var reported that the Guinness Film Group was financing the film Arctic Rampage for $8 million. Principal photography was planned for Nov 1979 and the company was negotiating with actors Peter Falk and Charles Bronson to star. However, the Guinness Film Group and Falk did not participate in the film. The 4 Oct 1979 HR announced that Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest joined with Classic Films, run by a group of German investors, to finance several productions, including Arctic Rampage, which Chow would executive produce with Albert S. Ruddy. Principal photography was planned to begin Feb 1980 and actor Telly Savalas was set to co-star, however, Savalas did not participate in the production. The 2 Nov 1979 HR reported that Lee Marvin would star with Charles Bronson, and Robert Aldrich was hired to direct.
       As tracked in articles in the 19 Dec 1979 DV, the 23 Jan 1980 Var, the 18 Apr 1980 DV, the 22 Apr 1980 DV and the 7 May 1980 Var, the producers fired Robert Aldrich on 14 Dec 1979, and a Directors Guild of America (DGA) arbitrator was called to mediate Aldrich’s twenty-one complaints. DGA arbitrator Edward Mosk ruled in Aldrich’s favor on a single point concerning budget, and ordered Chow and Ruddy to pay a penalty of $25,000 to Aldrich and $20,000 to the DGA for failing to inform Aldrich of the maximum budget. Mosk noted that Chow and Ruddy were aware that their budget was limited to $10 million, but did not communicate this clearly to the director. Aldrich, working with his production manager, Mel Deller, budgeted the film at $18 million and based his plans on that figure. Mosk did not uphold Aldrich’s complaints that this “creative rights” were violated. The arbitrator felt that any creative disputes would have been influenced by the budget, which had never been agreed upon. Although Chow and Ruddy were ordered to pay $45,000, the producers believed they were victorious, claiming that the central issue was the DGA’s 1978 creative rights clause which Aldrich asserted gave him control over all aspects of the film. Ruddy and Chow stated that the arbitrator’s decision “proved such control remains in the hands of the producers.” The 7 May 1980 Var noted that Ruddy filed a breach of contract suit against Aldrich in Los Angeles Superior Court, asking for $1 million in damages and the return of the $175,000 that Ruddy and Classic Films paid Aldrich to direct Artic Rampage. Ruddy’s suit included claims that Aldrich did not follow the producers’ orders, interfered with plans to hire Telly Savalas, and approached Angie Dickinson and Ron Howard to act in the film without consent from the producers. The outcome of the suit is unknown.
       The 17 Jan 1980 DV reported that Peter Hunt was hired to direct the film, also noting that actors Strother Martin and Joan Collins were hired. Martin and Collins do not receive onscreen credit, and the 19 Mar 1980 Var announced that Angie Dickinson would star in the film. An item in the 12 Mar 1980 HR stated that the film’s title was changed to Death Hunt and noted that ten weeks of principal photography on the $10 million film began 3 Mar 1980 in Banff, Canada. According to production notes, pilot Vern Ohmert was hired by the filmmakers to build a working replica of the Bristol open cockpit bi-plane used by the RCMP in 1931.
       The 22 Apr 1980 HR reported that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. acquired worldwide distribution rights for Death Hunt. The 24 Mar 1981 HR reported the film would open on 10 Apr 1981, however, the film was released in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City on 22 May 1981.
       According to the 25 May 1981 LAT, Death Hunt was the feature film debut for writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1979.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1980.
---
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1980
p. 1, 25.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1979
p. 1, 21.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1981
p. 7.
New York Times
22 May 1981
p. 11.
Variety
9 May 1979.
---
Variety
23 Jan 1980.
---
Variety
19 Mar 1980.
---
Variety
7 May 1980.
---
Variety
15 Apr 1981
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Golden Harvest Presents
A Peter Hunt Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op
Cam op, 2d unit
Focus, 2d unit
Wesscam op
Wesscam op
Key grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Re-rec mixer
SOUND
Dial ed
Sd des, "New Creative Sound"
Sd des, "New Creative Sound"
Sd des, "New Creative Sound"
Sd des, "New Creative Sound"
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des by
Opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Extra casting
Asst to the prod
Post prod supv
Asst to exec in charge of prod
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Wrangler
Photog under the supv of the
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"For You," lyrics by Al Dubin, music by Joe Burke, ©1930 Warner Bros. Inc., copyright renewed, all rights reserved."
COMPOSERS
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Arctic Rampage
Release Date:
22 May 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 May 1981
Production Date:
began 3 Mar 1980 in Banff, Canada
Copyright Claimant:
Northshore Investments, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
22 June 1981
Copyright Number:
PA107156
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Hong Kong S.A.R., United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Canadian Yukon Territory in November 1931, trappers hold a vicious dog fight. Hazel is furious that his dog is losing and attacks the animal, but a stranger, Albert Johnson, intervenes. Hazel attacks Johnson, but is quickly disarmed. Johnson announces he is buying the half-dead dog and throws $100 at Hazel, who demands another $100. When Johnson pays the additional money and loads the animal on his sled, Hazel insists the dog is worth more money and that Johnson is stealing from him. As Johnson rides away, Hazel promises vengeance, and leads his men into town. There, the group encounters new arrival Alvin Adams, a rookie Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (RCMP), who is looking for Sergeant Edgar Millen. Hazel introduces Alvin to the older, hard-drinking Millen, and becomes infuriated when Millen refuses Hazel’s request to press charges against Johnson. Later, at RCMP headquarters, Alvin meets Millen’s tracker, Sundog, and then reveals a new two-way radio, but Millen and Sundog are not impressed. When Alvin wonders why Millen did not arrest Hazel and his men for dog fighting, the experienced sergeant claims it keeps the men from killing each other. Meanwhile, Johnson stops at a trading post and purchases an enormous supply of ammunition from proprietor W. W. Douglass. At his mountain cabin, Johnson dresses the dog’s wounds, and bonds with the animal as it heals. Later, Hazel and his men discover Johnson’s cabin. Two of Hazel’s men approach, pretending to be lost and hungry. When Johnson goes inside to get food, Hazel’s men surround the cabin. As Johnson steps outside, Hazel aims to ... +


In the Canadian Yukon Territory in November 1931, trappers hold a vicious dog fight. Hazel is furious that his dog is losing and attacks the animal, but a stranger, Albert Johnson, intervenes. Hazel attacks Johnson, but is quickly disarmed. Johnson announces he is buying the half-dead dog and throws $100 at Hazel, who demands another $100. When Johnson pays the additional money and loads the animal on his sled, Hazel insists the dog is worth more money and that Johnson is stealing from him. As Johnson rides away, Hazel promises vengeance, and leads his men into town. There, the group encounters new arrival Alvin Adams, a rookie Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (RCMP), who is looking for Sergeant Edgar Millen. Hazel introduces Alvin to the older, hard-drinking Millen, and becomes infuriated when Millen refuses Hazel’s request to press charges against Johnson. Later, at RCMP headquarters, Alvin meets Millen’s tracker, Sundog, and then reveals a new two-way radio, but Millen and Sundog are not impressed. When Alvin wonders why Millen did not arrest Hazel and his men for dog fighting, the experienced sergeant claims it keeps the men from killing each other. Meanwhile, Johnson stops at a trading post and purchases an enormous supply of ammunition from proprietor W. W. Douglass. At his mountain cabin, Johnson dresses the dog’s wounds, and bonds with the animal as it heals. Later, Hazel and his men discover Johnson’s cabin. Two of Hazel’s men approach, pretending to be lost and hungry. When Johnson goes inside to get food, Hazel’s men surround the cabin. As Johnson steps outside, Hazel aims to shoot, but the dog attacks him. In the ensuing gunfight, one of Hazel’s men, Jimmy Tom, shoots the dog to death, and Johnson kills him. Hazel’s men retreat, rush to town, and interrupt Millen’s New Year’s Eve celebration to demand that Millen arrest Johnson for Jimmy Tom’s death. Bound by RCMP rules requiring an investigation into a death, Millen, Alvin, Sundog, and Hazel’s gang visit the trading post and learn from W. W. Douglass that Johnson purchased 700 rounds of ammunition and paid with cash. Douglass believes Johnson attained his wealth as the “Mad Trapper,” and relates the tale of a trapper who kills men to steal their gold teeth. Meanwhile, Johnson hunts in the mountains and encounters Bill Luce, an old trapper who questions why Johnson returned to the area, and learns that Johnson returned after his father died in prison. When Luce suggests his friend head south to avoid the murder investigation, Johnson refuses, insisting he has no place to go. Luce heads higher into the mountains as Johnson returns home and digs deep into his cabin floor. When Millen’s posse reaches the cabin, Millen orders the men to hold their fire, approaches alone, and attempts to reason with Johnson. Millen claims Hazel and his men do not want Johnson’s side revealed, but Millen guarantees Johnson’s safety if he will go into town to address the situation, and promises Johnson will be back home within three days. One of Hazel’s men shoots at them, and Johnson returns fire, killing the man. Furious that his orders were disobeyed, Lee returns to his men, and orders them to fire on the cabin. After a heavy round of gunfire, Hazel’s men are certain Johnson is dead. However, Johnson dug his floor lower than the cabin’s walls, and when a hunter rushes inside, Johnson shoots his attacker from the lower vantage point. In the following round of gunfire, several of the posse are killed or injured. As night falls, Millen’s men assemble a dynamite bundle and toss it into the cabin, which explodes. Hazel and his men rush forward and are surprised when Johnson comes out shooting. In the morning, the posse searches the cabin, but Johnson is gone. Millen’s men return to town with the dead bodies, then get Hazel’s sled dogs and enough supplies to follow Johnson for two weeks. As the posse tracks Johnson through the frigid mountains, Millen and Johnson spot each other through binoculars and smile, before Johnson moves on. He crosses an icy stream, climbs a rocky mountainside, and rests in a small cave as night falls. Elsewhere, as the posse camps, Hazel ridicules Alvin and kisses him. The rookie attacks Hazel, punching him several times before Millen allows Sundog to break up the fight. The next day, Captain Hank Tucker, a pilot from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), flies into town and announces that he will capture or kill Johnson. When two local men offer a $1,000 bounty on Johnson’s head, almost everyone joins the chase. Tucker flies up the mountain and meets Millen’s team, warning them of the coming onslaught of bounty hunters. Tucker also shares the information that Johnson was a member of the U.S.’s intelligence squad during World War I and is highly skilled in survival tactics. Tucker plans to stop Johnson before he escapes into the chain of rivers, but Millen insists Johnson plans to escape through the Sunshine Pass to Alaska. The pilot disagrees, calls Millen’s ground maneuvers a failure, and claims it is a new era where pilots will prevail. Elsewhere on the mountain, Bill Luce comes upon the campsite of Clarence and Deke. They offer to let Luce join their hunt for Johnson, but Luce shoots the two men and steals Clarence’s gold teeth. The next day, Tucker flies overhead, sees Johnson on the mountainside, and fires the plane’s mounted guns. Johnson falls down the incline and heads into the trees as Tucker circles back. Millen and his men approach on foot as Johnson reaches a cliff edge, and leaps off into a tree. Tucker flies toward Johnson, shooting indiscriminately and killing Sundog. Infuriated, Millen and Alvin shoot at the plane. Johnson drops out of the tree as the plane passes overhead and crashes into a nearby cliff. Hazel sees Johnson on the ground and aims, but Johnson shoots first, hitting Hazel in the leg. Millen takes a moment to mourn Sundog, then warns everyone to stop chasing Johnson, and promises to shoot anyone who follows them. Millen tells Alvin that Johnson only killed to protect himself, and admits he would have done the same. Later, Johnson spots Luce hunting for him on the mountain, and also notices Millen and Alvin approaching. Luce sees Johnson’s coat and shoots it in the back, only to discover it is a dummy. Johnson steps out of hiding, aims a gun at Luce’s head, and admits his father warned him not to trust the trapper. Millen orders Alvin to cover him as he runs to investigate the gunshot. A figure wearing Johnson’s coat shoots at Millen, and runs away as Millen and Alvin open fire and kill him. When they reach the dead body, the face is shot off. Realizing the man did not run like Johnson, Millen looks up the mountain, sees Johnson in the distance, and aims a rifle at him. Johnson stops, and looks back at Millen, who lowers his weapon. Alvin looks through the binoculars and sees Johnson disappear over the mountain. Millen insists that the dead body is Johnson, and leaves Alvin in charge to decide if the killing stops here. As a group of bounty hunters reaches them, Alvin credits Millen for killing Johnson. They discover a bag of gold fillings on “Johnson,” and Alvin leaves with Millen as a newspaper photographer takes pictures of the “Mad Trapper.” On the mountaintop, Johnson walks away, free. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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