31 March 2004 | rsoonsa
YOUNG JACK LONDON IN YUKON TERRITORY.
When 21 year old Jack London participated in the Klondike gold rush in 1897, he experienced many exciting events and the closely observed knowledge he acquired of men he met with in the chilly north was used prototypically in the tales and novels that brought him far greater success than did his attempt at mining. As an opening enscripted frame makes clear, the episodes depicted in this film are fictional but in some instances they parallel occurrences of the young author's stay in the Yukon, as we watch Jack, played earnestly by Jeff East, disembark at Skagway, Alaska, rescue a dog from harsh treatment, overcome many natural obstacles to reach the minefields, woo dance hall girls, compete in a dogsled race, and make friends and enemies along the way. A rather substantial budget (for a Canadian-made film) is in place and a good deal of footage is shot, leading to post-production difficulties of editing and sound mixing (problems of asynchronism appear), but the product is never boring, and there are solid contributions from the crew; unfortunately, the work disappeared after a two week run. East has a narrow acting range but Peter Carter directs him well, with London's early commitment to Socialism being subtly addressed, while Angie Dickinson as owner of a saloon walks through her part, but Rod Steiger, employing his Method methods as principal villain of the piece, Lorne Greene as supervising Mountie in Dawson and Gordon Pinsent as an inveterate gambling man each controls his scenes. Credit must be given to those who make the work visually agreeable, notably Seamus Flannery for production design and Patti Unger for accurate costumes; a pleasing score is contributed by Hagood Hardy; all in all, in spite of its flaws, this film was worthy of being produced and is worthwhile to see.