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ALIEN THUNDER is based on the true story of Almighty Voice, a Cree Indian fugitive that eluded the Mounties for over a year. Donald Sutherland plays Mounty Dan Candy who is obsessed with "getting his man". The film is alternately sympathetic towards the white police officers and the Native Americans. Two of the First Nation stars are Oscar nominated Chief Dan George who plays Sounding Sky and, in his screen debut, Gordon Tootoosis in the title role. It is Donald Sutherland who steals the show with his role as the tall tale telling, comforting, determined N.W.M.P.. The film is recommended not for its plot, which wears a bit thin, but for it's vivid capturing of early Canadian pioneer life and Northern Cree culture.
Donald Sutherland plays Mountie Dan Candy as if the character he knew
he was in a movie and kept pushing it to be an action/adventure film,
or a revenge movie, or a revisionist Western with a hero who could make
a difference - but he's not. He's in an historical docudrama about a
series of related domestic tragedies. Which means that the outcome is
predetermined, and after insisting he has some power to effect matters
for the better, he is left with the Indians to witness the end unfold.
This is the clue to the real strength of the film, which many would find its greatest fault. It is indeed slow, in order to accommodate an elegiac visual style. Tone and effect - essentially of sorrow, and of powerlessness over the historic inevitability of it all - form the real substance of the movie.
It's understandable that such is not to the taste of many audiences. But the film makers do deserve credit for attempting to approach their material in this fashion, rather than opt for something more profitably "exciting." That said, it must be admitted that a large scale production like this is operating on what appears to be a crash budget, and that doesn't help. It certainly didn't help in the preservation of the film, the available print on DVD is pretty bad. But occasionally the cinematography rises to the majesty that the script and director are calling for it, and eerie and beautiful moments pop up in the film, often when you least expect it.
Not really a success, but by no means simply a failure.
I only gave this movie a 4, but that's mainly because it was kind of slow. I like Chief Dan George, so that was a plus right there. I read a comment from one of the commentors and he mentioned how grainy the picture was and I pretty much experienced the same thing. However I thought it added realism to the movie. The dialogue, the sets, the wardrobe, the scenery. It almost looked like someone had a video camera back in those days and actually filmed what was taking place. It's always a good thing when movies use real Indians instead of actors that are painted up to look like Indians. You would think that I would have givin' this movie a higher rating with all the positive things I've said, but it is a movie to fall asleep too. I got this movie in a 20 movie pack, so what the heck.
First of all, I have one thing to say. I was there. Between 1968 and 2002, I went to Canada quite regularly. The movie is based on the story of the Cree Indian Almighty Voice. A fugitive who killed an Agency cow, and went on the run for over a year. Almighty Voice is pursued by Constable Dan Candy. Played quite ably by a young Donald Sutherland. Set in 1885, the same year as the Metis Uprising led by Louis Real, Candy commandeers a train of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The Northwest Mounted Police, (the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,) post a reward of five thousand dollars. Candy's ordered more than once to come in. He refuses because he's close to bringing in Almighty Voice. The Northwest Rebellion was part of Canadian history. The movie illustrates the differences in the treatment of the First Nations by the Canadian people, as opposed to the treatment, (or lack thereof,) of the Native Americans, by the Americans. There are, and were, differeces. The Canadian approach was like that of Heinlein's Patrol in Space Cadet, and the Federation in Star Trek. More diplomacy. Guess what? There were actually REAL peace treaties with the Indians. Where were they? Canada. The Cree Indians who lived at the Duck Lake Agency, were close knit and didn't turn Almighty Voice in for five thousand dollar reward. The American treatment of the Native Americans was quite different. It followed General Sherman's maxim that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." We made fake peace treaties and NEVER kept them. The movie ends with____see it for yourself to find out. As another reviewer said, make sure you have a legitimate version because the beginning's grainy and most of the historical note at the end is cut off. The movie itself was filmed at the Duck Lake Agency.
There may have been something of a good chase film here, based on a
true story about a Cree Indian who turned cop killer when confronted by
the Mounties over a stolen cow, but the version I saw from Digiview is
so amazingly badly transferred that it's almost unwatchable. It's too
bad, simply because a clean, crisp version--not edited by some lunkhead
in Lower Slobovia--may have saved it from my donate-to-the-library
On the whole though, it's not a bad story. A mid-thirties Donald Sutherland appears to have made this movie as a favor to his native Canada; he couldn't have been paid much because the whole movie looks as if it was made by a university film class rich with a grant from a provincial arts endowment. Sutherland is believable, and so are the group of Canadian actors and actresses, both Native and European.
The only bad performance is by a great screen presence--Chief Dan George. It was either the transfer and lack of scan and pan or no direction for the chief that robbed George's character of doing much more than looking inscrutable, usually almost off screen (because of the lack of scan and pan). In fact, there are whole chunks of the movie where you can hear people cooking or slogging through slush or gurgling from a gunshot wound, but you can't see them because nobody taught that guy in the transfer booth how to operate the doohickeys on the master board.
I had a heart procedure done last summer--nothing huge, but I'm good for another 40,000 miles. Anyway, while I was getting zapped by a high-tech soldering iron, I was strapped down on this table called an ironing board. I couldn't move my head; my vision was confined to the thousand-pound x-ray machines above me. Very unpleasant (except for the end result). Not having scan and pan is something like that. You so want to look around the sides of your screen to see what the hell you're missing. I wanted to sit up, push the x-rays out of the way, and ask the cardiologist what he was up to.
I think that's why they strapped me down.
Oh, well. What you can see, from time to time, is the provincial equivalent of some beautiful plains-state wilderness. Cold and raw, inviting to visit.
It's still not worth the buck. If this sounds appealing, try to find a decent copy.
Donald Sutherland who was Canadian never misses a chance to boost the
film industry in his native country. With this in mind he starred in
Alien Thunder about the true story of Cree Indian who was arrested for
some minor charge, but resented confinement and escaped. The Cree,
Gordon Tootoosis kills Mountie Kevin McCarthy who is Sutherland's
In Canada as well as in the USA when you're partner is killed you're supposed to do something about it. That's what The Maltese Falcon teaches us. Sutherland feels the same way, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were never in the same kind of numbers that our US Cavalry were, they didn't need to be. It was a more solitary occupation with them having to cover the vast wilderness in this case of Canada's Northwest Territory.
I didn't see a particularly good print of the film, it had a really grainy and washed out look to it. That could have been corrected, but the rather dull telling of the story was not something better cinematography or editing could have remedied. The performances by the cast were sincere and the Indians were as realistically portrayed as ever been on screen.
An interesting story that was ruined with a dull treatment.
I feel like this would have been a much better film if it had been filmed more clearly. I am a fan of revisionist westerns and I like the bare bones story that this particular film told. My only complaint with it is that it was filmed poorly. The actors were excellent and there aren't nearly enough stories about the northwest mounted police, outside of some 1930's era horse operas. I feel there are hundreds of stories that could be told about the northwest mounted as they are famous worldwide for always getting their man. This, in my opinion is a fine story of a man seeking vengeance for his friend but I also think that it would have been a much better, if not far more recognized film if it had only been filmed better. I understand that westerns of this particular era were filmed in a more grainy way to conjure up a more authentic air the same way we would look at photographs of this era but this film unfortunately just seems to say that the producers were short on money and were trying to cut corners. It's really a shame because I truly believe that it was a fine story with very great actors and filled with historical and exciting events.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Can a movie actually be painful to watch? I was already hitting the
pause button at the eighteen minute mark to see how much of the picture
was left and that's never a good thing. Up until now, "Cry Blood,
Apache" has been the worst Western I've ever seen, but this one
replaces it handily. Not a Western you say; merely a technicality. Not
an American film, fine, the Canadians made some duds as well. By the
way, I saw the picture under the title "Dan Candy's Law", not that it
makes any difference. Dan Candy was Donald Sutherland's character, just
a couple years after he appeared as Hawkeye Pierce in "MASH". So I have
to ask, what was he thinking?
Based on a true story apparently, I could basically make out it had to do with Dan Candy tracking a rogue Indian after he shot Candy's partner, fellow Mountie Malcolm Grant (Kevin McCarthy). What made the story difficult to follow were the frequent and abrupt scene changes, almost always disconnected, and editing that was fond of showing headless characters, half faces and the sound of voices with no one on screen. Any episode of 'Sergeant Preston of the Yukon' blows this film away, so string three of them together and you have a better hour and a half spent.
Besides Sutherland, this one also had Chief Dan George in the cast, probably my favorite Native American actor. However even he couldn't salvage the story, because as he himself stated in "Little Big Man" - "...sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't". He had a memorable quote in this picture as well, speaking to Dan Candy on the whereabouts of his son Almighty Voice (Gordon Tootoosis) - "You've become hunter, but there's nothing to hunt". However he was trumped by Corporal Bellringer, who was probably speaking about the picture when he stated - "The whole thing is sloppy, beginning to end". That's what I thought too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SOME SPOILERS**This 1974 north western stars Donald
Sutherland in the title role as Dan Candy, a Royal Canadian
Mounted Policeman on duty in the plains of Saskatchewan. He is a
little immature, a little annoying, and perfectly balanced by his
family man partner Kevin McCarthy. The duo arrests Gordon
Tootoosis for stealing one of the government's cows out of
desperate hunger. Chief Dan George is Tootoosis' father.
Sutherland takes the whole thing as a big joke, until Tootoosis
escapes from jail and kills McCarthy. Sutherland spends the rest
of the film tracking down the now dangerous criminal, with little
help from his fellow constables or the native people.
At ninety minutes, the film is way too brief, and takes short cuts in
its story to get to the action scenes. This means that Sutherland
goes from party doofus to vengeful rogue cop in about twenty
seconds. Tootoosis goes from hungry martyr-like indian to cold
blooded killer in record time. McCarthy is in just three scenes.
When the film tries to be an action film, it fails as well. Sutherland
is usually screaming as his superior for the umpteenth time, then
rides out into the woods and is shot at...again and again. The
finale, when the criminal and friends are trapped in the woods, is
equally puzzling. The RCMP higher ups do not seem to care about
catching the killer of one of their own, but suddenly arrive with
cannon to root out the villains. Even McCarthy's funeral scene is
messed up, as Sutherland thinks about McCarthy's murder, even
though he was not there.
Sutherland, for being given such an impossible part to play, does
a good job. One amazing scene has him trying to tell McCarthy's
orphaned son a funny story about crows and an outhouse roof
while he slowly breaks down in grief.
Fournier catches some of the amazing vistas we are lucky to
experience up here in the Great Plains, and his fog enshrouded
opening credits are dazzling, but with the lousy editing and dull
script, he is as creatively bound as Sutherland.
"Dan Candy's Law" should have been a rumination on revenge,
and a comment about how the United States does not have a
monopoly on mistreating its native peoples, but instead this film
went for the cheap action thrill without an action thrill to exploit. I
cannot recommend it.
This is rated (PG) and contains strong gun violence and strong
Alien Thunder (whoever came up with that title should have been pistol
whipped) is just plain dull!
Donald Sutherland (in a wooden, unlikable performance) plays Dan Candy, a member of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police who arrests an Indian for slaughtering a government alloted cow without prior approval. The Indian escapes and kills his partner.
Most of this excruciating movie consists of Sutherland walking into the woods, coming back empty-handed, and arguing with his superior officer.
There's no suspense and what little action there is (before the climax) consists mostly of pot shots taken by and against Indians on his various trips to the reservation.
Considering the talent involved, (Sutherland, Kevin McCarthy, Chief Dan George) this should have been good. I suggest you watch Thunderheart instead.
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