Never Cry Wolf (film)

Never Cry Wolf (film)
Never Cry Wolf

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Carroll Ballard
Produced by Lewis Allen
Jack Couffer
Joseph Strick
Ron W. Miller (executive)
Screenplay by Curtis Hanson
Sam Hamm
Richard Kletter
Ralph Furmaniak (uncredited)
Based on Autobiography:
Farley Mowat
Narrated by Charles Martin Smith
Starring Charles Martin Smith
Brian Dennehy
Zachary Ittimangnaq
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Hiro Narita
Editing by Michael Chandler
Peter Parasheles
Studio Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) October 7, 1983 (1983-10-07)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million
Box office $27,668,764

Never Cry Wolf is a 1983 American drama film directed by Carroll Ballard. The film is an adaption of Farley Mowat's 1963 autobiography of the same name and stars Charles Martin Smith as a government biologist sent into the wilderness to study the caribou population, whose decline is believed to be caused by wolves, even though no one has seen a wolf kill a caribou. Although Smith is the only actor starring in most of the film it also features Brian Dennehy and Zachary Ittimangnaq.

The film has been credited as being responsible for the creation of Touchstone Pictures. At the time Walt Disney Productions, then under the guidance of Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron W. Miller, was experimenting with more mature plot material in its films and the following year started Touchstone Pictures.

The narration for the film was written by Charles Martin Smith, Eugene Corr and Christina Luescher.



In Northern Canada, a young government biologist named Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) is assigned to travel to the isolated Arctic wilderness to study the area's population of wolves. His orders are to gather proof of the wolves' ongoing destruction of caribou herds.

Contact with his quarry comes quickly, as he discovers not a den of marauding killers, but a courageous family of skillful providers and devoted protectors of their young. Tyler is befriended by two Inuit who tell him their own stories about the wolves. As Tyler learns more and more about the wolf world he comes to fear, along with them, the onslaught of hunters (Brian Dennehy) out to kill the wolves for their pelts and exploit the wilderness.


  • Charles Martin Smith as Tyler, a biologist without any survival skills, yet brave enough to study wolves in their environment.
  • Brian Dennehy as Rosie, the bush-pilot, a care-free type who exploits the region for money.
  • Zachary Ittimangnaq as Ootek, an Inuit who helps Tyler survive the wilderness.
  • Samson Jorah as Mike
  • Hugh Webster as Drunk
  • Martha Ittimangnaq as Woman
  • Tom Dahlgren as Hunter #1
  • Walker Stuart as Hunter #2


The film's fundamental premise is that life in the Arctic seems to be about dying: not only are the caribou and the wolves dying, but the indigenous Inuit people as well. The animals are losing their habitat and the Inuit are losing their land and their resources while their youth are being seduced by modernity. They are trading what is real, true, and their time-honored traditions for the perceived comforts of the modern world.

Never Cry Wolf blends the documentary film style with the narrative elements of drama, resulting in a type of docudrama. It was originally written for the screen by Sam Hamm but the screenplay was altered over time and Hamm ended up sharing credit with Curtis Hanson and Richard Kletter.[1]

The picture is the first Walt Disney film to show naked adult buttocks. (of actor Charles Martin Smith).[2]

Smith, who had previously worked with Disney on films such as No Deposit, No Return and Herbie Goes Bananas, devoted almost three years to Never Cry Wolf. Smith wrote, "I was much more closely involved in that picture than I had been in any other film. Not only acting, but writing and the whole creative process." He also found the process difficult. "During much of the two-year shooting schedule in Canada's Yukon and in Nome, Alaska, I was the only actor present. It was the loneliest film I've ever worked on," Smith said.[3]

L. David Mech, an internationally recognized wolf expert who has researched wolves since 1958 in places such as Minnesota, Canada, Italy, Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, and on Isle Royale, criticized the work, stating that Mowat is no scientist and that in all of Mech's own studies, he had never encountered a wolf pack that regularly subsisted on small prey, as related in Mowat's book or in the film adaptation.[4]

Filming locations

The film locations included Nome, Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and British Columbia, Canada.[5]


Critical response

When the film was released, a review in the Los Angeles Times called the film, "...subtle, complex and hypnotic...triumphant filmmaking!"[6]

Brendon Hanley of Allmovie also liked the film, especially Smith's performance, and wrote, "Wolf's protagonist [is] wonderfully played by the reliable character actor Charles Martin Smith...The result is a quirky, deceptively simple meditation on life."[7]

Ronald Holloway, film critic of Variety magazine, gave the film a mostly positive review, and wrote "For the masses out there who love nature films, and even those who don't, Carroll Ballard's more than fits the commercial bill and should score well too with critical suds on several counts."[8]

Some critics found the premise of the film a bit hard to believe. Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, wrote, "I find it difficult to accept the fact that the biologist, just after an airplane has left him in the middle of an icy wilderness, in a snowstorm, would promptly get out his typewriter and, wearing woolen gloves, attempt to type up his initial reactions.[9] Canby added, the film was "a perfectly decent if unexceptional screen adaptation of Farley Mowat's best-selling book about the author's life among Arctic wolves."

The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 100% based on reviews from 17 critics, with an average rating of 7.7 out of 10.[10]




Box office

The film opened in limited release October 7, 1983 and went into wide circulation January 20, 1984.

The film was in theaters for 192 days (27 weeks) and the total US gross sales were $27,668,764. In its widest release the film appeared in 540 theaters.[13]

Comparisons to book

There are several differences in the film when compared to Mowat's book. In the book, Ootek and Mike's roles are reversed, Mike is actually Ootek's older brother (Ootek is a teenager) and Ootek speaks fluent English and communicates openly with Mowat while Mike is more reserved.

The film adds a more spiritual element to the story while the book was a straightforward story. The film also isolates the characters while in the book, Mowat meets several people from different areas of the Arctic.

Also in the book, the wolves are not killed and neither did the bush pilot bring in investors to build a resort.[14]

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  1. ^ NNDB/Soylent Communications web site.
  2. ^ NNDB/Soylent Communications, ibid.
  3. ^ "Charles Martin Smith interview". Official John Carpenter web site. Archived from the original on 2001-04-22. 
  4. ^ Shedd, Warner (2000). Owls Aren't Wise and Bats Aren't Blind: A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies About Wildlife. p. 336. ISBN 0609605291. 
  5. ^ IMDb, ibid.
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times, Calendar Section, October 7, 1983.
  7. ^ Hanley, Brendon. Allmovie, film review. Last accessed: February 7, 2011.
  8. ^ Holloway, Ronald (September 1, 1983). "Never Cry Wolf - Film Reviews". Variety. 
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent. The New York Times, film review, October 14, 1983.
  10. ^ "Never Cry Wolf". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  11. ^ "BSFC past winners:". Boston Society of Film Critics. Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. 
  12. ^ "The 56th Academy Awards (1984) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  13. ^ "Never Cry Wolf". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 2011-02-07. 
  14. ^ Mowat, Farley (2001). Never Cry Wolf. Back Bay Books. ISBN 0316881791. 

External links

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