Carroll Ballard's 1983 adaptation of Farley Mowat's autobiographical novel turns his life-changing experience studying the wolves in Canada's inhospitable North into a moving drama of one man's courage and discovery of nature's majesty. Charles Martin Smith plays green biologist Tyler, sent by the Canadian government to "prove" that the wolves are depleting the caribou herds, but what he finds is a natural world in perfect harmony where he becomes a tolerated outsider. Dumped unprepared in the wilds by a hard drinking bush pilot (Brian Dennehy), Tyler learns survival skills from the aged Eskimo who saves his life and the rules of coexistence from a neighboring wolf (which results in a literal pissing contest as man and beast mark their respective territories). Tyler's journey culminates in the majestic run with the wolf pack, an exhilarating sequence where for an instant he becomes one with natural environment of the wilds. For all its beauty, however, Tyler's experience becomes a bittersweet lesson as the encroachment of hunters, tourism, and the social landscape threaten the natural order. As in his previous film, the delicate and lovely The Black Stallion, Ballard's astounding visual treatment captures the awesome natural beauty of the Canadian wilderness with power and poignancy. Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves explores many of the themes presented in this film, but without the resonance or beauty of Ballard's unsung masterpiece. --Sean Axmaker
We're all of us prospectors up here, eh, Tyler? Scratchin' for that... that one crack in the ground. Never have to scratch again. I'll let you in on a little secret, Tyler: the gold's not in the ground. The gold's not anywhere up here. The real gold is south of 60 -- sittin' in livin' rooms, stuck facin' the boob tube, bored to death. Bored to death, Tyler.