No one had any idea what would be a hit and what wouldn’t, so why not take a take a shot and do it? The result was that there were a lot of great films that simply couldn’t be made today. For example, Deliverance. A big hit when it came out in 1971, but what studio or producer would take a chance on making a film like that today?
Not bloody likely.
This also means that there are a lot of truly interesting films definitely worth taking a look at from that period, that have been forgotten and completely overlooked, for example, the 1974 Paramount film The White Dawn.
It caused something of a minor sensation when it first came out, but now no one even talks about or remembers it.
Supposedly based on a true incident which became the basis for an acclaimed novel by James Houston, the film was directed by Philip Kaufman (who went on to direct the really terrific 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff, and Rising Sun with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes).
It's a period drama set before the turn of the 20th Century about a trio of whalers (Warren Oates, Timothy Bottoms and Louis Gossett Jr.) who find themselves stranded in the Arctic in northern Canada.
They’re rescued by a tribe of Eskimos and everything goes fine at first. That is until the whaler’s evil and destructive Western ways slowly begin to negatively influence the customs and culture of the Eskimos, leading to hatred, violence and ruin for the tribe, and the whalers themselves.
Even more remarkable is that, with the exception of the three lead actors, all the other roles in the film were played by real Eskimos speaking large chunks of their dialogue in their native Inuit language.
Like I said, who would make a film like that today?
Though I haven’t seen the film in many years, I still remember it has a truly compelling and dramatic film that takes viewers into a world and culture we know so little about.
And though he had been acting in films and television for just over a decade, White Dawn was the first film to get Gossett some major recognition.
And needless to say, it was no small thing to see a black man in a period film playing something other than a slave or a servant, but his own free and independent person.
And that’s why it's a good thing that, after years of being overlooked, The White Dawn is coming out today via the Warner Home Video DVD-on-demand specialty label Warner Archive, as part of Warner’s video deal with Paramount to release some 600 older Paramount titles through them.
Here’s brief film clip from the movie: