AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Tundra
Alternate Title: Alaska Bound
Director: Norman Dawn (Dir)
Release Date:   24 Aug 1936
Production Date:   completed mid-Jun 1936
Duration (in mins):   75 or 78
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Cast:   Del Cambre (Dr. Jason Barlow, The Flying Doctor)  
    Wm. Merrill McCormick (Trapper)  
    Wally Howe (Trapper)  
    Earl Dwire (Storekeeper)  
    Jack Santos (Half breed)  
    Fraser Acosta (Eskimo father)  
    Mrs. Elsie Duran (Eskimo woman)  
    Bertha Maldanado (Eskimo girl)  

Summary: Dr. Jason Barlow, a flying doctor in the Alaskan tundra, flies to a remote Eskimo village in Solitude Bay and saves a sick child through surgery. Two Eskimos then travel four hundred miles by dog sled to bring Barlow back to their pestilence-ridden village of Noonak. Because the men's dogs are half-starved and exhausted, Barlow must take his plane farther than he has ever traveled across frozen land. Barlow is forced to descend when he has engine trouble, and the plane crashes and burns in a bank of snow surrounded by frigid water. Barlow narrowly escapes an avalanche and a polar bear, and swims to land, carrying only a pencil, a notebook, three cigarettes, and a lighter. He continues to log his journey in his notebook and manages to start a fire in a mountain cave, which is the home of two brown bear cubs and their fierce mother. Barlow names the friendly cubs "Tom" and "Jerry" and together they elude the mother bear. Barlow and the cubs survive on muskrat and salmon, but endure prolonged periods of hunger. When a herd of musk-oxen surrounds the camp, Barlow is forced up a tree, until the cubs' growling distracts the oxen and he escapes. When Barlow has been missing three weeks, an Eskimo finds his plane propeller and a team of fliers goes out to find him. Barlow hears one of the fliers' plane, but it passes over him. Barlow then finds a group of snowshoe rabbits and catches one for dinner. Tom and Jerry get entangled with a lion cub, and when Barlow is forced to defend himself against the mother lion, he and the cubs end up in the river. Meanwhile, having no luck in the planes, the search team goes out on sleds and kayaks. The bears then start a fire as Barlow hunts porcupine and fears that he will have to kill Tom or Jerry in order to survive. He then arrives at Noonak, which has been wiped out by the plague, and finds a note from the last survivor stating that he feared he would be killed by the starving wild dogs outside his cabin. The herd of dogs arrives and the cubs are forced up a tree pole. Barlow then climbs to the top of a shack and lights a fire to smoke out the dogs. Soon the mother bear arrives and scares away the dogs, and Barlow's friend Mac arrives in a kayak. Barlow then says good-bye to Tom and Jerry, whom he says kept him from going crazy in the tundra. 

Production Company: Burroughs-Tarzan Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Burroughs-Tarzan Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Norman Dawn (Dir)
  Glenn Cook (Asst dir)
Producer: Ashton Dearholt (Pres)
  George W. Stout (Prod)
Writer: Norman Dawn (Orig story)
  Norton S. Parker (Cont and dial)
  Charles F. Royal (Adpt)
Photography: Norman Dawn (Photog)
  Jacob Kull (Photog)
  Edward Kull (Photog)
Art Direction: Charles Clague (Art dir)
Film Editor: Walter Thompson (Film ed)
  Thomas Neff (Film ed)
Music: Abe Meyer (Mus dir)
Country: United States

PCA NO: 2313
Physical Properties: Sd:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Animal
 
Subjects (Major): Airplane accidents
  Alaska
  Bears
  Hunger
  Physicians
 
Subjects (Minor): Arctic regions
  Diaries
  Dogs
  Feats of strength
  Fires
  Forests
  Glaciers
  Loneliness
  Musk oxen
  Native Alaskans
  Plague
  Porcupines
  Rescues
  Snow
  Rabbits and hares

Note: The viewed print was missing credits. The foreword to this film describes "that mighty wilderness known as the Alaskan tundra...abounding with life and sudden death," and dedicates this picture to "that dauntless brotherhood of mercy flyers [who] fly to remote settlements, annihilating time and space, carrying food, supplies, and precious medical aid to combat pestilence." The forward also describes the film as a "photographic record of a dramatic chapter in the life of one of those heroic riders of the sky, a young physician known as the 'Flying Doctor.'" The film's working title was Alaska Bound . According to HR , the film was started by Carl Laemmle, but was dropped by Universal when the studio passed to new owners. This film was shot on location in Alaska for seven months, after which, according to a HR news item, director Norman Dawn made a deal with Universal for the rights to the footage and took it to Burroughs-Tarzan for editing, who distributed it in Jul 1936 as a "roadshow special." A modern source states that the film contains large portions of stock shots from Universal's 1933 film S.O.S. Iceberg (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.5456) and other pictures. In 1949, Del Cambre starred in the RKO remake of this film called Arctic Fury . According to a modern source, that film included sequences from Tundra

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   21 Aug 36   p. 3.
The Exhibitor   1 Sep 1936.   
Film Daily   25 Aug 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jun 36   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Aug 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Aug 36   p. 1.
Motion Picture Daily   22 Aug 36   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   29 Aug 36   p. 48, pp. 68-69.
Variety   9 Dec 36   p. 13.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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