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Producers lost in the Wilderness!
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 05/18/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the early to mid-seventies, America seemed to reject our industrialized society wholesale. The whole post-hippie, get back to nature craze swept the nation, leading to a boost in environmentalism, a growing respect for Native American culture, a new interest in folk music/John Denver tunes, and a plethora of happy, feel-good family Wilderness movies. The apex of these kind of Wilderness shows was of course "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams," the beloved television series that purported to show the life story of a real mountain man who cared for the Wilderness. Other features like "The Adventures of the Wilderness Family" and "Mountain Family Robinson" came out about the same time. On this DVD, we are "treated" to two such low budget Grizzly Adams wannabe Wilderness adventures. In the first feature, "Legend of Black Thunder Mountain", two bad guys attack a single father for his secret gold map. Conked on the head and helpless, his two children flee into the Wilderness to escape capture. Unbeknownst to them, they have the map, and the bad guys soon follow. Naturally the Creatures of the Wilderness are very friendly and help care for our little, innocent heroes, watching over them and protecting them from harm. Yeah, right; in the REAL world, the little beasties would be dining on dopey kid the first chance they got! I guess the producers probably thought that all they needed to do was point a camera at some innocent little kids playing with some chipmunks or whatever, and the audience would have a good time Grizzly Adamsin' it. Well, even the beauty of Nature can't save some films, and this is one of them.The chief bad guy is probably the only character of any value, although he's clearly played for laughs. None of the cast is in any danger of winning an Oscar, but as a city slicker claim jumper, he's a bit fun to watch. The obligatory crazy mountain man that shows up is so poorly acted he can't even remember his lines. And by the time the kids first decide to do the cute "kid" thing of giving one of their new Wilderness friends a name (aw, how sweet!), you're ready to flip the disc and try "The Legend of Cougar Canyon"."The Legend of Cougar Canyon" is a bit better, but that's not saying much. The acting was so bad that the producers opted to go with a voiceover to cover the dialogue of the actors. There are some scenes with animals that will instantly bring to mind the staged confrontations/situations that regularly cropped up on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" or "The Wonderful World of Disney". Those are the ones that show one animal attacking (or playing!) with another animal that they would probably avoid in the real world. Rex Allen's voiceover lends to the deja vu for those of us who recall these shows ("The cougar just can't figure this little fella out," etc.).The story is half Wilderness travelogue, half human adventure in the Wild. The humans (two kids) show up in the second act, herding their sheep into Cougar Canyon and exploring some Anastazi ruins. The excuse is so that we can learn more of the fascinating life of the Native American (referred to in this 1975 opus to Nature as "Indians"). Frankly, from a 21st Century perspective, some of it is kind of demeaning to the Natives being depicted. Still, taken in context, it's better than nothing compared to some of the movies of the past. "Canyon" does feature some animal fights and some animals becoming animal-chow for another animal. "Mountain" has a brief shot of a bald eagle plastering the mountain man with eagle poo. Other than that, both movies are harmless in the extreme, so kids can watch with no danger of having their innocent little minds warped. Adults, on the other hand may suffer serious brain damage, and should exercise extreme caution when viewing these movies."