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Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Jim Malden, a Vietnam veteran who has lost wife and child, lives as a recluse on an island full of rare birds. His only contacts with humanity are with Stella Clayton and her young son Adam, who have a small supply store on the mainland. One day, a mountain climber named Mike Walker brings a visit to the island to observe two very rare eagles; what he doesn't tell Malden is that he's hired by an egg collector to steal the eagles' eggs. In the end, after he's succeeded in bringing together Malden and Clayton, Walker gets a chance to lay hands on the eggs. He then decides to leave the eggs in the nest, influenced as he is by Malden. Written by
Homme A. Piest <email@example.com>
After principal filming in South Carolina has finished, the film reels were sent back by plane to Los Angeles. One reel (of 4) never arrived, so the film was substantially reorganized around the missing scenes (shot out of order) in editing. This partly explains why some sub-plots are incomplete and Malden has no back story. See more »
I watched this film when it was recently shown on British television, largely because of my interest in bird watching and nature conservation (although the looks of the young Kathleen Turner might also have been a factor). The story revolves around the doings of egg collectors (or "oologists" as they sometimes call themselves), a breed of men which I, in common with most ornithologists, struggle to understand; if, as they claim, they are motivated by a love of nature, why do they persist in endangering through their activities the very creatures they profess to love? J.P. Whittier, an obsessive and very wealthy egg collector, is trying to obtain specimens of the eggs of a newly discovered (and fictitious) subspecies of the bald eagle. In reality there are two existing subspecies of this bird, the northern and the southern, although the supposed new variety is said to be larger than either. At the time the film was made in 1984 the bald eagle was on the brink of extinction in the continental United States, although its numbers have since recovered and it was removed from the list of endangered species in 2007.
Whittier is well aware that stealing its eggs will be likely to push the new subspecies closer to extinction, but is nevertheless determined to proceed with his scheme. Because the only known nest is on top of a lofty crag, he hires rock climber Mike Walker to steal the eggs for him. Although Walker can no more comprehend Whittier's motivation than I can, he is tempted by the huge sum of money he is offered. There is, however, a problem. The nest is on land owned by Jim Malden, a reclusive and eccentric conservationist who fiercely guards both his privacy and the wildlife on his land, going so far as to attack hunters with a crossbow when he catches them poaching. To allay Malden's suspicions, Walker poses as a photographer. Turner plays Stella Clayton, a local storekeeper in whom both men are romantically interested. Stella is presumably a widow or divorcée, as she has a young son, Adam. Turner may have taken the part in order to try and play down the "femme fatale" image she had acquired after "Body Heat".
"Variety" magazine accused the film of lacking dramatic tension or emotional involvement, and there is justice in the accusation. The main villain of the piece is Whittier, and he always keeps well away from the action. Walker, even at the beginning of the film, never seems very villainous, and by the end he is not a villain at all, having been converted to the conservationist cause by Jim and Stella. Malden is not always entirely sympathetic, seeming at times too fanatical and obsessive; putting a crossbow bolt through someone's leg is not generally regarded as the act of a Christian gentleman, even if done in an ostensibly good cause.
The plot does not always flow very smoothly and there is, apparently, a reason for this. After filming had been completed, one of four reels of film went missing and the director Philippe Mora had, somehow, to put a coherent story together from the remaining three. Despite some attractive shots of the North Carolina scenery, "A Breed Apart" is a routine action thriller which is not always very thrilling, but given its strange history the finished product could have been much worse. 5/10
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