Movie Review "The White Dawn"
Houston lived with Eskimos for 12 years and the story was told to him by the descendants of the Eskimo clan.
In 1890 a whaling ship sent out a boat with 4 men which harpooned a big whale. The boat was destroyed and the
men lost to the Arctic Sea with one dead. The Whaling ship's captain left heading south believing all had been killed.
The 3 survivors were the harpooner a strong black man from Portugal, a teenage cabin boy and the ship's 2nd mate.
They were found nearly frozen to death by an Eskimo clan's hunting party and were brought back to camp on a
North Eastern Island off of Canada where they were nursed to health, living with the clan nearly 2 years.
The movie was made 44 years ago and I had never heard of it. Odd because it's so good. IMO 4 out of 5 stars.
Maybe because only the 3 speak English, the rest is sub titled or dialogue is in the native tongue of the Eskimos.
True Eskimos were cast instead of actors and they were better in the roles than any actor I can imagine.
Spoiler Alert from here on out.
These Eskimo clans of 1890s had never encountered "civilized men" before.
After the 3 recover, a polar bear comes into camp to attack the sled dogs and the clan leader kills it with a spear in
a face to face battle amazing them. As the bear is being butchered a wandering Shaman from another clan arrives.
Telling them bear spirits have warned him of trouble. The clan leader offers the Shaman the bear's heart to eat.
He refuses and after a quick ceremony the Shaman declares the 3 are cursed with bad luck, and warns any that eat
of the bear's meat and doesn't send the 3 away will be cursed with trouble and leaves.
The clan leader laughs at the Shaman's warning, telling the others the 3 men will bring them good luck.
Portagee the harpooner proves to be a good hunter and the leader rewards him by sharing 2 of his wives with him.
Billy the teenager adapts, befriending a fellow his age, learns the language and the customs by sharing with the clan.
He is rewarded by the leader who shares his youngest wife with him and they fall in love.
The 2nd mate is a jerk and having been the 3rd man on the ship tries to boss everyone around. He teaches the clan
how to gamble by knife throwing which he is good at, but fakes his skill to cheat a man out of 2 of his daughters.
He dreams only of getting rich by getting off the island and returning to cheat all of the clans out of seal hides.
The Shaman's clan meets up with the other clan for a friendly wrestling match among the youngest men.
2nd mate sees a chance to take advantage of the other clan and challenges their champion to wrestle Portagee.
Portagee gets beat and Mr jerk demands a rematch, which is against custom. (Only children wrestle twice)
Portagee loses a 2nd time and becomes enraged. Turning violent he jumps fellow from behind, chokes him out
and throws him to the ground. Shaman's clan leaves in disgust, vowing never to return to visit a clan that would
live with Savages.
Jerk and Portagee brew alcohol, they get drunk with a young girl and she freezes to death outside in the snow.
Jerk and Portagee seize an opportunity to steal the clan's largest boat and all of the clan's food to get off island.
Forcing Billy the Kid to help them. The clan starts to starve going without food for 5 days until a herd of walrus
(perhaps sent by shaman's prayers???) comes along.
The boat gets ship wrecked and the 3 end up back on the island. The Shaman's clan hunts them down killing Mr
Jerk and Portagee. Billy the Kid's best friend shows up and makes an impassioned plea for his life.
The Shaman's clan is moved to spare his life and turns to leave. Remembering the Shaman's orders; 3 men turn and
gut shoot Billy with arrows killing him. In the distance a tear rolls down the cheek of the clan leader's youngest wife (pregnant with Billy's child???)
I found it to be a very original and interesting movie. Low budget with good camera work, a good but sad story.