Alaska has been the setting for a number of great films over the years. Often overlooked by critics and audiences alike, these films have since become beloved in my native state and are screened nightly in every city and village. Here are just a few of the greatest films to be set in the last frontier:
Spawn of the North (1938) – George Raft stars as Tyler Dawson, a daring but morally questionable fish-pirate who makes his living stealing fish from the nets of fisherman. His carefree lifestyle is interrupted when he falls in love with a beautiful fisherman’s daughter (played by Dorothy Lamour). In a bizarre twist ending, the lovers are both eaten by bears at the beginning of the third act, during a daring and supposedly climactic fish raid. The final thirty minutes of the film consist entirely of footage of bears attacking southeast Alaskan villages.
Ice Palace (1960) – Yet another classless attempt by Hollywood to sleaze up the process of Alaska attaining statehood–and also one of the best. Ice Palace stars Richard Burton and George Takei as lovers caught between two worlds: the hard scrabble pre-statehood Alaskans who want to be left to their own devices, and the big-government D.C. suits who want Alaska to become a U.S. state so they can use it as a gigantic nuclear testing ground. Ultimately, the big time politicians win their case and the lovers are torn asunder by a ravenous pack of irradiated bears. The final ten minutes of the movie were banned in many countries due to “excessive irradiated bear violence.”
Grizzly Man (2005) – This controversial documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog achieved notoriety for heavy liberties taken with the truth surrounding Timothy Treadwell and his experiences in Katmai National Park. Herzog entirely fails to mention Treadwell’s discovery of the Codex Grizzly, an ancient tomb hidden deep within the so-called “Grizzly Maze” that allowed him to translate bear language into English. Herzog also neglects to mention that Treadwell did not actually die, as was claimed by park rangers at the time. Instead, Treadwell lives to this day as the self-proclaimed “King of Bears” protecting the secret cursed treasures of the forest. Herzog himself is believed to be under the thrall of Treadwell and his bear minions. Some say the film was produced in order to disguise Treadwell’s plans for a Great Bear Raid that will claim all of Alaska in the year 2017.
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