7.1/10
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8 user 8 critic

Eskimo (1933)

Passed | | Drama | 10 January 1934 (USA)
The happy life of an Eskimo is disastrously changed when he mingles with an unscrupulous white trader.

Director:

W.S. Van Dyke

Writers:

John Lee Mahin (translated to the screen by), Peter Freuchen (from the books "Der Eskimo" and "Die Flucht ins weisse Land")
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Edgar Dearing Edgar Dearing ... Constable Balk (uncredited)
Peter Freuchen ... Captain (uncredited)
Edward Hearn ... Captain's Mate (uncredited)
Lotus Long ... Iva (uncredited)
Mala ... Mala, aka Kripik (uncredited)
Joe Sawyer ... Sergeant Hunt (uncredited)
Harold Seabrook Harold Seabrook ... Minor Role (uncredited)
W.S. Van Dyke ... Inspector White (uncredited)
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Storyline

Mala leads a contented life as the best hunter in his Canadian Arctic tribe, providing meat, fish and birds with his great skill. When another tribe member returns from trading furs with the white men for items such as a gun and an iron needle, Mala's wife, Aba, urges him to make the 500-mile trek across the frozen tundra to do the same. After the long night of winter, Mala does go with his family to the white man's "floating house" in Tjarnak. The friendly captain makes trade for Mala's excellent furs, but upsets Mala when he insists that Aba sleep with him that night. "He didn't even ask me!" Mala complains. Afterwards, the captain suggests that Mala go whale hunting and promises not to touch his wife, so Mala agrees. But news of a successful catch spurs a celebration on board ship, and the captain has Aba forcibly removed from her tent, plied with liquor, and then he rapes her. In the morning, the still-drunk Aba staggers from the ship, but collapses in the snow, where she is ... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Inuktitut

Release Date:

10 January 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Esquimó See more »

Filming Locations:

near, Teller, Alaska, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$950,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film's initial telecast took place in Honolulu Friday 7 June 1957 on KHVH (Channel 13), where it soon became a popular favorite and enjoyed repeated telecasts in the months that followed; elsewhere, aged and forgotten, with an unknown cast, sponsor interest was minimal and it was only occasionally taken off the shelf in the less predominant markets. It first aired in Norfolk VA 7 July 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), in San Francisco 11 January 1958 on KGO (Channel 7), in Cincinnati 13 March 1958 on WLW-T (Channel 5), in Adams MA 18 March 1958 on WCDC (Channel 19), in Spokane 13 April 1958 on KHQ (Channel 6), in Cleveland 29 April 1958 on KYW (Channel 3), in Albuquerque 26 June 1958 on KOAT (Channel 7), in Tucson 14 July 1958 on KVOA (Channel 4), in Akron 30 November 1958 on WAKR (Channel 49), and in Salt Lake City 14 April 1959 on KTVT (Channel 4). Today it's lodged in the Turner Classic Movies film library, but still only rarely taken out for an airing on cable TV on TCM, despite a deservedly high rating by vintage film enthusiasts because of its unique and valuable documentation of a moment of time now nearly a century long past. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Behind the Movie Lens (1938) See more »

Soundtracks

Night on Bald Mountain
(1867) (uncredited)
Excerpt music by Modest Mussorgsky
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User Reviews

 
Wife-swapping in the Great White North
10 March 2002 | by Jim TrittenSee all my reviews

Eskimo is a serious movie about the cultural chasm between an indigenous population and the encroaching white man. Although filmed in a documentary style seemingly with non-professionals, Eskimo is a skilled production that contains a believable story the audience will want to see through to the final shot.

The native Eskimo simply has different beliefs and behaviors about women and life than do the whalers that darken his landscape. When an Eskimo man loses his mate, it is natural that other men share their women with their friend. It is also usual for their women to want to take the place of the missing spouse. All of this seems natural in the context of the desolate foreboding Arctic setting. The trusting Eskimo falls prey to unscrupulous white whalers (with heavy European accents) that do not view these natives as their equals. Deceit, drunken orgies, rape, and death occur after the Eskimo men depart for work on the icy cold seas. Eventually the lead Eskimo (Mala) realizes that he has been duped and he takes his revenge. The audience would have cheered in the 1930's theaters.

Enter the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the moral dilemma of whether to bring back Mala for trial. The Mounties are played as feeling policemen that know this is not a cut and dry case. Will the Mounties get their man? Is it fair to hold Mala to a code of behavior outside of his traditional society? Is there a way out that does not punish Mala? Is it inevitable that the white man's law must prevail? Is there no hope for innocence?

This is not a great movie, but one that you will enjoy for the depth of the issue addressed in a very different setting. I suspect that the filming of the sequences with animals was done before today's disclaimer that none were injured in the making of the film -- so beware of the raw nature sequences. Highly recommended.


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