The Shadow of the Wolf (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
This film is also known as Agaguk.
|Agaguk is a film about the Inuits, or more precisely about the interface between the Inuits and white Canadians in the 1930s. The tribal kingpin-slash-shaman is played by Toshiro Mifune, king Samurai himself, who started off the drama by claiming an unattached young woman (Jennifer Tilly!!) as his concubine, until his claim was overridden by his son's claim to take the woman as a bride. Father and son engaged in a power struggle, and the boy got the woman, but also got banished from the tribe by the ol' Samurai.||
The son is played by Lou Diamond Phillips. You read
that right. Jennifer Tilly, the Big Samurai, and Richie Valens are the
three main Inuits. They actually filmed this movie in Inuit country,
so right away you have to think that the casting director may have
lost his reason from a mind-altering combination of too much blubber
and firewater. Phillips plays Agaguk, which means "one-hit wonder".
Tilly plays Igiyook, or "the chick with the silly voice and those
great cans". Mifune plays Croomak, or "he who would be called Cromak
except that all Inuit names have to include a double o sound". Those
three, and all of the other Inuits in this film, seem to have learned
their accents and syntax from watching old episodes of George of the
Except that all the cartoon characters on George of the Jungle had more sensible voices than Jennifer Tilly.
Amazingly enough, although they did film in real Inuit camps, those camps were apparently designed by the Inuits after watching and re-watching their timeworn copy of Paint Your Wagon.
Back to our story ...
Richie, before his banishment, had single-handedly killed the largest polar bear ever seen, which led to a big misunderstanding. Richie gave the Big Samurai the impressive polar bear pelt, but Mifune traded the priceless pelt to some unscrupulous white guys for some pretty plastic beads and a bottle of cheap hootch. On his way out of the tribal camp, the freshly-banished son saw one of the white guys leaving with the hard-earned pelt. Unaware of his dad's canny trade for the rotgut, Richie thought the man was stealing the pelt, challenged him, and to make a long story short, killed him. It seems that the Canadian legal authorities didn't usually care back then what the Inuits did amongst themselves, but a dead white guy tended to increase the ante exponentially, so a police investigator showed up. The copper was played by Donald Sutherland, with his hair dyed the same shade of red that Harvey Keitel used in The Last Temptation of Christ. I think Clairol even calls it Keitel Red.
At that point the film stopped pretending to be Dances With Wolves North and assumed its true identity as a regular old crime film with a backdrop of Inuit life. Unfortunately, it didn't have any merit as a crime story. There was no tension or mystery, for example, and the resolution of the story was entirely lame, taking the story out of the realm of the natural world and suddenly becoming magical realism. The Samurai Dad suddenly had a change of heart, developed a paternal instinct, and inexplicably "took the rap" for his son. When the authorities packed Mifune in a plane and flew him off to justice, he leapt from the plane, did a quick shape-shift to the form of a hawk, and flew to freedom. I didn't make that up. You can't make up shit that crazy. The movie ended there, but I suppose the Canadian authorities probably followed up by spending years in a fruitless attempt to put handcuffs on that birdie.
The plot details are laughable, but no worse than some of the dialogue. Richie said stuff to Tilly like, "a woman does not ask questions". No diggity. On the day when the language teacher covers the question mark, the girls are allowed to skip class and practice their baby seal clubbing. This undoubtedly explains why so few Inuit women work as talk show hosts on the Far North Network. Apparently there is no Inuit equivalent of Oprah or Barbara Walters. And a tip for you Inuit gals reading this - don't even think about making a living by translating the SATs into your language.
The whole "no chick questions" ethos is kind of a cool cultural phenomenon, though, when you think about it. I guess those ancient cultures really do have a wisdom white men do not possess. I mean women have to take out the garbage, fix the plumbing, and even repair the carburetor in their 1964 Chevy Impala. They can't ask men to do it, because "a woman does not ask questions".
Although I think they make an exception for rhetorical questions.
And also, women are allowed to ask "do these walrus-skin pants make my ass look fat?"
At one point in the story line, Richie traveled five days to the general trading post, hoping to trade his pelts for life's other necessities. This worked out pretty much like these things always do in the movies.
Jennifer Tilly sings in this film and does so quite well, if we can believe it is really her own voice. Unfortunately, she is singing Inuit music, and their ditties make the Barney the Dinosaur song sound like Beethoven's Ninth. We can only hope that in the years between 1935 and now, they have discovered a second note.
If you can ignore the plot and characters and acting,
there are some worthwhile elements of this film. What's left? Well,
it's interesting to see how the Inuits construct their shelters, and
the photography of the frozen North is striking. Some of the nature
action in this film is spectacular. There is a communal whale hunt
captured on film, and it sure looks like the real thing, as do some of
the scenes in which humans interacted with wolves and bears. If you
remake this movie by taking out
the actors and filming the real Inuits, you'd have an awesome
The director of this film couldn't convince anyone to let him to helm another one for nearly a decade, and when he did, he made one much worse! This is the same man who directed Vercingétorix, a movie starring Christopher Lambert wearing an 80s hair band wig! He looked like he was auditioning for Joe Dirt 2, but was actually playing Caesar's opponent in the Gallic Wars. Although Agaguk is rated a puny 4.8 at IMDb, Vercingetorix is rated an abysmal 2.7.
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