The movie DEATH HUNT turns history on its head, but in doing so it manages to deliver an entertaining movie that details the determination of two men in a manhunt across the Canadian tundra.
Directed by James Bond veteran Peter Hunt, who after working as an editor on the first few 007 pictures was promoted to director of the fan favorite ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and went on to direct such classics as GOLD and SHOUT AT THE DEVIL.
The movie DEATH HUNT provides Hunt the opportunity to reteam with his SHOUT AT THE DEVIL star Lee Marvin. Marvin plays a world-weary Canadian Mountie who is obligated (I use that word because Marvin's character seems to feel some sympathy for his quarry) to bring in a trapper (played by a quiet brooding Charles Bronsan) who is being harassed by some local thugs.
The execution of this story is excellent, the acting first-rate and the shots of the Yukon breathtaking. Where this movie does falter is in purporting to tell history by tying in the story of the Mad Trapper of Rat River into the fabric of the story - and in doing so unraveling all the history books tell us about the real incident.
Just type in `Mad Trapper of Rat River" on an Internet search engine to learn all you want to know about the 1931 incident, but everything we know about the real incident tells us that Albert Johnson was the guilty party. But here Johnson is portrayed as an innocent man whose pursuers use the charge of his being the mad trapper as an excuse to mobolize the law enforcement resources of the Yukon to catch him.
Given that nobody to this day really knows the identity of Johnson, the filmmakers invent a rather fanciful past for him. The character Marvin plays - Millen - was also shot and killed by Johnson in a shootout midway through the chase, but in the movie DEATH HUNT Marvin's character is in the chase to the very end.
Still, taken as a piece of fiction the movie DEATH HUNT is resounding stuff. I saw it on television some years ago and was hoping it would one day be released on DVD. Hunt is an expert at building suspense and a master at drama - and DEATH HUNT have both those elements in plentiful supply.
In addition to Marvin and Bronsan the movie also features an impressive supporting cast with young heartthrob of the late 1970s/1980s Andrew Stevens as a young, eager Mountie and Carl Weathers (of Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies fame) as another weary Mountie. Add to the mix Ed Lauter and Angie Dickinsoin and the pedigree of this feature is obvious.
So, the overall verdict? This is an entertaining action adventure with plenty of suspense and drama. Just don't expect an accurate history lesson.