Full page view
HISTORY

The film opens with the following statement: "In recent years, the Arctic region has been the scene of biological catastrophe. The great caribou herds that only a few years ago numbered in the millions have all but vanished. A Government agency orders a biological report be prepared that would scientifically justify extermination of the suspected culprit--a creature known from story, myth and legend as a ferocious killer, Canis lupis --the wolf. Because of the extreme difficulties involved, no scientist had ever actually observed wolves in the act of attacking and killing caribou. So the major task of "The Lupine Project" was for someone to travel to the Arctic, track down a pack of wolves and observe this behavior in detail."
       The film concludes with the following statement: "'I think over again my small adventures. My fears. Those small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing. The only thing. To live to see the great day that dawns and the light that fills the world.'— Old Inuit song."
       End credits include the following statements: "Domestic animals by North American Guard Dog and Kenneling Service Ltd., trained by H. J. McCullough"; "Special thanks to The People of Atlin, British Columbia; the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and the Red Onion, Skagway, Alaska; The Museum of Natural History, New York City; The Zoology Department, University of California, Berkeley; Brown, Farris & Associates, Vancouver, British Columbia; Robert Hughes for additional music."
       The 16 Sep 1969 HR announced Jack Couffer as director, and Millard Kauffman ... More Less

The film opens with the following statement: "In recent years, the Arctic region has been the scene of biological catastrophe. The great caribou herds that only a few years ago numbered in the millions have all but vanished. A Government agency orders a biological report be prepared that would scientifically justify extermination of the suspected culprit--a creature known from story, myth and legend as a ferocious killer, Canis lupis --the wolf. Because of the extreme difficulties involved, no scientist had ever actually observed wolves in the act of attacking and killing caribou. So the major task of "The Lupine Project" was for someone to travel to the Arctic, track down a pack of wolves and observe this behavior in detail."
       The film concludes with the following statement: "'I think over again my small adventures. My fears. Those small ones that seemed so big. For all the vital things I had to get and to reach. And yet there is only one great thing. The only thing. To live to see the great day that dawns and the light that fills the world.'— Old Inuit song."
       End credits include the following statements: "Domestic animals by North American Guard Dog and Kenneling Service Ltd., trained by H. J. McCullough"; "Special thanks to The People of Atlin, British Columbia; the Fraternal Order of the Eagles and the Red Onion, Skagway, Alaska; The Museum of Natural History, New York City; The Zoology Department, University of California, Berkeley; Brown, Farris & Associates, Vancouver, British Columbia; Robert Hughes for additional music."
       The 16 Sep 1969 HR announced Jack Couffer as director, and Millard Kauffman as screenwriter, for the film adaptation of Farley Mowat’s non-fiction adventure story, Never Cry Wolf, to be produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. The project remained in limbo for more than three years. On 14 Feb 1974, Var identified Lewis Allen and Joseph Strick as the film’s producers, and the screenwriters as Jay Presson Allen and Curtis Hanson. Principal photography was to begin Jul 1974 in Canada. No further news appeared on the production until 4 Jul 1979, when Var reported that Louis Malle would begin directing the film in Aug 1979, in Canada’s Yukon Territory and Atlin, British Columbia. Months later, the 14 Feb 1980 DV heralded Never Cry Wolf as the first independent production to be released by the Walt Disney Company, with Strick and Allen continuing as producers, and Allen’s wife, Jay Presson Allen, providing the screenplay, although her name does not appear in onscreen credits. According to the 3 Mar 1980 DV, Never Cry Wolf marked Disney’s first agreement with an outside production group, the first time the director’s name would appear before a Disney title, and the first time a director, or any creative, would receive a percentage of profits, or “points," on a Disney project. An article in the Oct 1983 Marquee stated that director Carroll Ballard was chosen by Disney chairman Ron Miller, based on the his work on The Black Stallion (1979, see entry). The $4.8 million production was scheduled to begin principal photography between mid-Apr and May 1980 in the Yukon Territory. On 14 May 1980, DV stated that principal photography would begin 19 May 1980 in the Canadian Yukon, and relocate to Nome, Alaska, in early Jun 1980. The budget increased to $8 million, and actor Charles Martin Smith was cast in the lead role. One month later, the 14 Jun 1980 HR noted that cinematographer Alan Gornick was traveling to Whitehorse, Canada, and Skagway, AK, to film an underwater sequence, accompanied by assistant cameraman Kim Guthrie and gaffer Rick Mansfield, none of whom were listed in onscreen credits.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the production was completed over a two-year period, and proved to be an “endurance test” for Charles Martin Smith. As the lone actor during much of the principal photography, Smith admitted to losing his mind on occasion. Half of the crewmembers left after the first week. Smith and the remaining crew were plagued by extreme cold in the winter, and swarms of mosquitoes and black flies in summer. Illness spread through the company, with both Smith and Ballard contracting pneumonia. Production was nearly halted by an actors’ strike, but the company was granted a waiver by the Screen Actors Guild, and allowed to continue filming through the summer. Despite the hardships, Smith maintained his enthusiasm for the project, particularly when working with Inuit actors Zachary Ittimangnaq and Samson Jorah, and author Farley Mowat. Smith told the 25 Oct 1983 LAHExam that Ballard selected him for the role of “Tyler” based on his performance in More American Graffiti (1979, see entry). Upon receiving the offer, Smith broke his contract with a television series in development, and began nine months of work on the film, which was spread over an eighteen-month period. He insisted on doing much of his own stunt work, which included falling through three feet of ice into a lake, being sprayed with ice water in a simulated blizzard, and running naked in forty-degree weather in a herd of caribou. Ballard disapproved of the screenplay, and preferred to develop the narrative during the course of production, aided by Smith and other members of the company.
       As reported in the 9 Oct 1983 NYT, Ballard cast author Farley Mowat in a minor role as a bartender. Mowat was instructed to consume half a bottle of beer in one swallow and speak his line. After twenty-four failed takes, Mowat succeeded only in becoming intoxicated, and Ballard deleted the scene. Mowat was reportedly pleased with the completed film, and defended Ballard’s recasting of the character, “Rosie,” as a villain, citing the necessity of concentrating “all the adverse qualities of human beings into one person” to demonstrate the predatory nature of mankind. The production required ten trained wolves, one of which had to be taught to lift his leg when urinating, which was accomplished after fifty-seven takes. Five hundred caribou were assembled on the tundra, along with the trained wolves, for a scene that was completed over three weeks. Ballard described the creation of the sequence as a “big disaster” in the 24 Oct 1983 LAT. He rented the herd from “reindeer barons” in Nome, AK, who supplied caribou antlers to a Korean company that marketed the antler fuzz as an aphrodisiac. Filming needed to begin by 1 Jun 1980, when the spring thaw was complete, and end within two weeks, when the Koreans arrived to collect the antlers. Production was halted due to ten consecutive days of rain, followed by a heavy fog that impaired visibility. The crew attempted to corner the caribou on an island, but were thwarted when the animals swam away. Ballard was forced to wait until Jun 1981 to complete the scene.
       Inuit actors were acquired through casting calls via radio. Zachary Ittimangnaq, who played “Ooteck,” had already appeared in a Canadian documentary on Inuit traditions, while the inexperienced Samsom Jorah, a tractor mechanic, had difficulty reading his lines. However, Ballard believed Jorah’s portrayal of “Mike” embodied the theme of the film, which he indentified as “the loss of wildness.”
       The cost of the picture at the time of the article had reached $10.5 million, including fees for two discarded musical scores. Ballard called it “a little movie” in terms of the subject matter, although he devoted three years of his life to completing it. The director shot as much location footage as possible, then spent another eighteen months editing, according to LAHExam . After screening a three-hour-thirty-minute version for Disney executives, Ballard commissioned Smith to write narration, which proved to be a greater challenge than the actor imagined, taking far longer than the projected four weeks. Two unsuccessful screenings in Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA, were followed by further edits. The final edit was completed in early 1983 and was positively received by a test audience in AZ. The review in the 7 Oct 1983 HR stated that a sequence depicting the “wholesale slaughter of wolves” by a hunting party was deleted because it was considered too gruesome for younger audience members.
       On 28 Jan 1983, HR reported that the film would likely be released late in the year. Disney originally planned a Nov 1982 release, and blamed the postponement on continued delays in editing and postproduction. Never Cry Wolf debuted at the Venice Film Festival in Sep 1983, where it competed for best film, and for best film by a new director, as noted in the 22 Aug 1983 DV. The picture’s North American premiere was held on 6 Oct 1983 at the Famous Players Uptown theater in Toronto, Canada, as noted in the 11 Oct 1983 HR . Mowat, Charles Martin Smith, and Disney president Richard Berger were in attendance. The 5 Oct 1983 Var announced the picture’s 18 Oct 1983 U.S. debut at New York City’s Gemini Theater. Proceeds benefited the Sierra Club.
       Articles in the 7 Nov 1983 LAT and the 8 Nov 1983 DV reported a dispute between Disney and the Mann Theatres chain, following an alleged breach of promise concerning the film’s opening at the Regent Theatre in the Westwood district of Los Angeles. Never Cry Wolf was expected to play from 21 Oct through 8 Dec 1983, but closed after only two weeks in deference to Paramount Pictures Corp., which opened its production, Testament (1983, see entry), on 4 Dec 1983 at the Regent, despite assurances to the contrary from theater chain president Larry Gleason to Charles Good, president of Buena Vista Distribution. Mann film buyer James Sheehan attributed the cancellation to coercion by Paramount, which released more than ninety-five percent of its pictures through the chain. Paramount denied the allegation. Although Mann offered Buena Vista another Westwood venue with 100 additional seats, Good felt the cancellation was detrimental to the picture’s reputation. Buena Vista moved the film to the nearby Avco Theatre, while Mann erroneously advertised the continued engagement at the larger theater. A temporary restraining order was filed by the distributor to prevent Mann from playing the film in another venue, but the theater chain’s attorneys stated that no closing date was ever confirmed with Buena Vista, and a judge ruled on Mann’s behalf.
       The 13 Feb 1984 NYT estimated the total cost of the production at $13.2 million. Disney’s Tom Wilhite described the target demographic as “urban professionals,” aged twenty-five to forty, who would be attracted to the concept of escaping civilization for the wilderness. Advertisements depicted Smith “as a solitary figure surrounded by ice,” to indicate that the film was not another of Disney’s wildlife documentaries. The studio opened Never Cry Wolf at one theater each in five major cities between Oct and mid-Nov 1983, followed by two-month engagements at fewer than forty theaters “to allow word-of-mouth and good reviews to build.” At the time of the article, the film was playing in 500 theaters with earnings of approximately $16.6 million, and projected earnings of up to $30 million.
       The 27 Jun 1984 Var reported that Never Cry Wolf won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Western Heritage Award for best theatrical film. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Oct 1980.
---
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1980
p. 1, 12.
Daily Variety
14 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1983.
---
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1983
p.1, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1983
p. 3, 29.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1983.
---
LAHExam
25 Oct 1983
Section C, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
5 Mar 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1983
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Oct 1983
Part Vi, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1983
Part Vi, p. 1, 4.
Marquee
Oct 1983.
---
Moviegoer
Dec 1983
p. 7.
New York Times
9 Oct 1983
p. 1, 21.
New York Times
14 Oct 1983
p. 8.
New York Times
13 Feb 1984
p. C14.
Variety
14 Feb 1974.
---
Variety
4 Jul 1979.
---
Variety
7 Sep 1983
p. 24.
Variety
5 Oct 1983.
---
Variety
27 Jun 1984.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Carroll Ballard Film
An Amarok Productions, Ltd. Production
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc.
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr
Narr wrt by
Narr wrt by
Narr wrt by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
2d unit cam op
3d unit cam asst
Key grip
Best boy
Best boy
Underwater unit
Cam, Underwater unit
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dept
Art dept
Art dept
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop master
COSTUMES
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus prod & supv
Addl arr & prod
Synthesizer programming & performance
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd asst
Sd ed
Assoc sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main titles des
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Casting
Wildlife consultant
Driver capt
Driver capt
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Loc auditor
Loc auditor
Prod liaison
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst, Underwater unit
Asst, Underwater unit
Asst, Underwater unit
Addl diver, Underwater unit
Addl diver, Underwater unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord/Double
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (Boston, 1963).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 October 1983
Premiere Information:
premiered in Toronto, Canada: 6 October 1983: New York opening: 14 October 1983
Los Angeles opening: 21 October 1983
Production Date:
19 May 1980--summer 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
3 November 1983
Copyright Number:
PA192619
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26768
SYNOPSIS

Tyler, a Canadian biologist, is assigned by his government to the “Lupine Project” to determine whether wolves are responsible for the depletion of the caribou population in the Arctic region. He arrives at a small town in the Yukon Territory and hires airplane pilot, gambler, and real estate tycoon “Rosie” Little to fly him 300 miles into the wilderness. Many of Tyler’s supplies are left behind because they weigh down the aircraft, although the biologist manages to sneak aboard twenty-four cases of beer. The harrowing flight concludes with Tyler standing alone on the frozen landscape as Rosie’s plane disappears in the distance. Tyler quickly discovers that many of his supplies, such as government paperwork, are useless, but he is able to construct a shelter from wooden crates. He requests help from a passing dogsled driver, who ignores him. Later, an elderly Inuit named Ootek finds Tyler unconscious in the snow, and transports him and his supplies to a thatched hut, then continues on his journey. While exploring his new environment, Tyler falls into a frozen lake and saves himself by puncturing the ice on the surface with the barrel of his rifle. With the spring thaw underway, Tyler makes camp near a wolf’s den, and observes the behavior of a white wolf he names “George.” Tyler establishes boundaries with the animal by marking his territory with urine. He also discovers George’s mate, which he names “Angeline,” and their three cubs. Despite the absence of caribou and other game, the wolves appear to thrive on a diet of mice. With his own food supply nearly exhausted and his ... +


Tyler, a Canadian biologist, is assigned by his government to the “Lupine Project” to determine whether wolves are responsible for the depletion of the caribou population in the Arctic region. He arrives at a small town in the Yukon Territory and hires airplane pilot, gambler, and real estate tycoon “Rosie” Little to fly him 300 miles into the wilderness. Many of Tyler’s supplies are left behind because they weigh down the aircraft, although the biologist manages to sneak aboard twenty-four cases of beer. The harrowing flight concludes with Tyler standing alone on the frozen landscape as Rosie’s plane disappears in the distance. Tyler quickly discovers that many of his supplies, such as government paperwork, are useless, but he is able to construct a shelter from wooden crates. He requests help from a passing dogsled driver, who ignores him. Later, an elderly Inuit named Ootek finds Tyler unconscious in the snow, and transports him and his supplies to a thatched hut, then continues on his journey. While exploring his new environment, Tyler falls into a frozen lake and saves himself by puncturing the ice on the surface with the barrel of his rifle. With the spring thaw underway, Tyler makes camp near a wolf’s den, and observes the behavior of a white wolf he names “George.” Tyler establishes boundaries with the animal by marking his territory with urine. He also discovers George’s mate, which he names “Angeline,” and their three cubs. Despite the absence of caribou and other game, the wolves appear to thrive on a diet of mice. With his own food supply nearly exhausted and his tent overrun with rodents, Tyler decides to emulate the wolves. He observes the deferential behavior of other wolves in the den, and determines that George and Angeline are leaders of their pack. Among them is a brown wolf Tyler names “Uncle Albert,” because of his affinity for the cubs. Tyler imitates the sound of howling wolves with his bassoon, and joins the animals as they call to each other. Ootek returns, accompanied by his adopted son, Mike, who acts as his father’s translator. Tyler tries to teach Mike to play the bassoon, but the young man is prevented by his lack of front teeth. One night, Ootek tells the story of how a wolf saved him from the cold and became his “helping spirit.” Later, Mike describes the proper technique for hunting wolves, explaining that he and many others earn a living from selling wolf pelts, which are valued at $350 each. However, Mike promises not to kill George and his pack, out of consideration for Tyler. Other members of Ootek’s family visit during the last week of August, and as the group sits around the campfire, Mike narrates the Inuit legend of the caribou, and how the hunters left only the weak and sick among the herds. When the wolves appeared, they attacked only the weakest animals, allowing the caribou to regain their strength, and provide food and clothing for the Inuit. As wolves howl in the distance, Mike informs Tyler that the caribou are coming from the north, and the hunting will soon begin. Ootek’s family travels north, Mike travels south, and Ootek guides Tyler on a three-day journey to the tundra, to observe the wolves as they hunt caribou. Shortly after their arrival, Tyler lies naked in the sun after a swim in the river, and suddenly finds himself surrounded by caribou. He follows a pack of wolves as they give chase and kill one of the fleeing animals. Later, Tyler examines the carcass and discovers a disease of the bone marrow. As he watches Ootek disappear in the distance, Tyler follows the sound of gunshots to an encampment, where Rosie and two companions roast caribou meat over a fire. Rosie is glad to see Tyler, whom he expected to have died in the wilderness. He tells the biologist of his plans to build a resort around a nearby hot spring, then offers to fly Tyler back to civilization. Noticing that the airplane is loaded with wolf pelts, Tyler refuses. Rosie is indifferent to Tyler’s outrage and promises to come back for him in the next few days. Three days later, Tyler returns to his campsite, and finds George and Angeline’s cubs alone in the den. Rosie’s plane flies overhead and Tyler fires his rifle to dissuade the pilot. As Rosie flies away, Tyler hears a radio playing in a nearby shack and discovers Mike inside, preparing to travel north for the winter. When Tyler asks about the missing wolves, Mike advises him to worry about his own survival, explaining that the slaughter of George and Angeline are a sad reality. Mike smiles as he invokes the phrase “survival of the fittest,” displaying a new set of false teeth. In retrospect, Tyler concludes, “There were no simple answers; no heroes, no villains, only silence.” However, he also understands that his pioneering study of wolves would change humanity’s perception of the animals. As autumn arrives, the cubs are adopted by the pack and taken to a distant location. Ootek returns to guide Tyler out of the wilderness. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.