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Lieutenant Johnson, a U. S. Air Force pilot, on the tip of Alaska, a few miles from the Bering Straits from Siberia, helps foil a Soviet plot to test a new secret weapon by loyal Alaskan Eskimos. He is aided by Sergeant Koovuk, an Alsaka native Eskimo also in the U.S. military service. Along the way there is an ice-floe evacuation, an air-ice rescue and a fight with a polar bear. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
obscure cold-war programmer set among Eskimos of Western Alaska, nothing special
Here's an obscure cold-war melodrama, set among the Eskimos of Western Alaska, where the US Alaskan territory is separated by only a few miles from the extreme eastern section of Russian Siberia. Strange atomic-looking blasts (never really explained in the film, by the way) are coming from the Siberian side, causing the American military to use some of its forces of Eskimo background to investigate in their home areas and find out about any reports of Eskimos coming over from the Siberian side. The main Eskimo character is played by Ray Mala, familiar to serial fans from his starring roles in ROBINSON CRUSOE OF CLIPPER ISLAND and HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS. He isn't given a lot of lines, and the voice-over narration that is meant to be from his character is, according to the credits, read by someone else. The traitor among the Eskimos is played by well-known Korean-American character actor Philip Ahn. Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is the 25 minutes or so in the second half which takes place among the Eskimo people. A mix of location footage and close-ups shot in the studio arctic set or against an arctic rear-projection screen takes us on a hunting party, a feast, a wedding preparation, the building of an igloo, etc. The non-Eskimo military forces are filmed in a few small rooms, on a few sets in front of facades of military-looking buildings and phony snow, and in airplane cockpits. Guy Madison is top-billed, and this fine leading man brings his usual charm and wit to the role of a heroic lieutenant, but he can only do so much in a programmer such as this. Carole Mathews (best known to me for STRANGE AWAKENING/FEMALE FIENDS, with Lex Barker) is his romantic interest, and they are just about to kiss when a blast (animated) comes from the Siberian side that lights up the night. Their romance is picked up again later, but never really developed or brought to any climax. There are a few humorous moments with an enlisted man who hides his gum behind his ear when talking to his commanding officer, and who does some good vocal impressions of musical instruments like the trombone and the stand up bass, but again this humor is soon dropped and not developed. This must be one of the few films, if not the only film, producer-director Boris Petroff (aka Brooke Peters) made for a major studio (Columbia), but except for the Alaskan footage (and one wonders if that was shot specifically FOR this movie, or if the movie was written around already existing footage?), this is a VERY low budget film on a PRC level. It must have been a second feature in its day, or released by Columbia during an off-week. There is not enough cold-war hysteria here to make the film enjoyable on a camp level, and though on some levels it resembles the Sam Katzman-produced serials being made at Columbia during this period, it lacks the over-the-top and absurd elements that made those serials such fun to watch. Except for the Guy Madison fanatic, I can't imagine this film having much appeal to anyone. It's not BAD-- it's a professional though cheap piece of product, and it certainly shows respect for the native people of Alaska (which should earn it a few points when we think about how offensive it COULD have been in that department), but I can't imagine wanting to dig this film out again unless I am stranded above the Arctic Circle myself and all I have with me entertainment-wise is RED SNOW.
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