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The White Dawn (1974)

Warren Oates , Timothy Bottoms , Philip Kaufman  |  PG |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Warren Oates, Timothy Bottoms, Louis Gossett Jr., Joanasie Salamonie, Simonie Kopapik
  • Directors: Philip Kaufman
  • Writers: James Houston, Martin Ransohoff, Thomas Rickman
  • Producers: Don Guest, James Houston, Martin Ransohoff
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: August 31, 2004
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000291Q4I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,328 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The White Dawn" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Introduction by the Filmmaker
  • Welcoming the Dawn
  • Commentary by Director Philip Kaufman
  • A Way of Life - The World of the Inuit Eskimos

Editorial Reviews

In THE WHITE DAWN, three sailors find their boat capsized while in the arctic hunting for polar bears and walruses. Rescued by Eskimo, the sailors are welcomed into the village and immediately notice that this world is much different from the society they’re used to. Daggett (Bottoms), the youngest of the group, adapts to his new style of living, while Billy (Oates) and Portigee (Gossett Jr.) have a much harder time. Without giving up hope of being rescued, they start to bring their own culture into the village, introducing the Eskimos to alcohol and gambling. The Eskimos at first tolerate this behavior, but soon after become angered.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good April 7, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This story of three sailors marooned on the ice who were rescued and taken in by the Inuits reminded me of something I read in my cultural anthropology class in college, and was one reason I was interested in the movie. In the readings for the class I came across a statement that occasionally sailors on whaling ships in the 19th century would jump ship and go to live with the Eskimos, where, except for the rigors of arctic living, their new lives among the Inuit seemed far preferable to what they had left. Many of them took Eskimo wives and stayed the rest of their lives with their adoptive tribes. So I was interested to see how the movie might portray such a story.
The three sailors in this story, however, aren't so lucky. After their good fortune of being rescued and taken in by the generous and well-meaning Eskimos, things gradually turn sour from there. In contrast to the innocent and generous-to-a-fault Eskimos, the sailors are exploitative, deceptive, and manipulative of their Inuit hosts. After stealing a canoe in an abortive and ill-fated attempt to return to civilization, they're again rescued by the Eskimos and returned to the village. Instead of learning their lesson, the three sailors begin to cause even more trouble for their new tribe.
At this point it becomes clear that in the clash of the two cultures we have an unavoidable tragedy in the making, and that it's only a matter of time before something terrible happens. Then during a bout of drinking a young Eskimo girl becomes intoxicated and crawls off into the snow, where she freezes to death. That's just the beginning of the end, however, and I won't mention anything else in the way of a spoiler, so you'll have to see the movie to see how it all turns out, but the movie builds from there to the final, tragic climax.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film lost in time June 29, 2006
The White Dawn was a film both ahead of and behind its time. In the early 70s a film about the fatal culture clash between three stranded whalers (Warren Oates, Lou Gosset and Timothy Bottoms) and a tribe of Inuits at the turn of the 20th Century was too early for the eco-friendly green lobby and far too late for either the hippies or the slew of early pseudo-documentary adventures like Nanook of the North and Men of Two Worlds, although a fight with a polar bear did manage to infuriate animal rights activists despite the animal being rather too-obviously unharmed. The film made barely a ripple at the box-office or with the critics before quietly disappearing and causing Paramount to cancel Philip Kaufman's intended follow-up for the studio, a Star Trek movie spin-off

Being a Kaufman film, the emphasis is on an alien, more spiritual way of life rather than high adventure as the trio of "dog-children" bring their saviors nothing but bad luck, their not necessarily hostile inability to understand and abide by a different set of cultural and moral values ultimately corrupting their hosts and ending in an uncharacteristic act of premeditated violence (the moral of the tale: never accept a pair of mittens from an Inuit). There IS a certain element of contrivance underpinning the story, most notably their conflict with a hostile travelling Shaman, but the film generally manages to avoid National Geographic voyeurism and patronising melodrama, taking its pace from the seasons and the move from hunting ground to hunting ground. Unlike The Savage Innocents and its all-too-obvious studio shooting and dubbing, it also benefits immensely from being shot entirely on location with non-professional actors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clash of Culture to the Core August 22, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
White Dawn is one of those rare films which is deeply rooted both in realism and mysticism. The whalers who become marooned on the artic ice are unable to comprehend the goodness of the Inuits who save them. With typical white man's arrogance and stupidity, they con the Eskimos with paltry dishonest little tricks. To be dishonest, however, is not a part of the primitive innocence of the Inuits, and they are easily duped. Worse, they are made to lose face. Tim Bottom's youthful character is closest to civilized innocence (being capable of love), but he caves to peer pressure and first steals, then deserts a starving village. But the white men are out of their element as they steal an umiat and try to row away through ice infested waters. They are again saved by the people who they have shamed. A second time they are brought back and again they show themselves unworthy to live. Tribal justice is meted out but without triumph. The people have become sad for they have lost their innocence. The folklore and folklife of the Inuits is well researched. The honestly of the directing is a high achievement. This film is exciting, and sometimes difficult, to watch as white western sensibilities are exposed. -- Joel R. Rudinger -- 1999
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting tale of the acrtic August 3, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
In the late 1800s three whalers are marooned in the far north. They are rescued by a migrating Eskimo community that provides them with food, shelter, and friendship. However the whalers never give up the idea of returning to their own civilization. They attempt to be rescued by stealing an Eskimo boat and their food supply for the coming winter. However they capsize and once again are rescued by the Eskimos, even after they had stolen their boat and food stores. But eventually the negative impact of the whalers upon the Eskimo reaches a climax that ends tragically. In reality the Eskimo culture has not thrived after contact with our modern civilization and they have a very high suicide incidence and excessive alcoholism rate. Perhaps this film can be looked at as a metaphor of the problems the Eskimo culture has encountered with their contact with Western culture in the modern world.
The performances, photography, and music are excellent. It is a fascinating film to watch, never boring, and deeply human. Warren Oates gives a classic performance as does Timothy Bottoms and Lou Gossett. However the really surprising performances came from the Eskimos. They were natural and expressive, really excellent and couldn't be improved upon. This is a fine film and I hope you enjoy it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like the movie
I like the movie, but I find that the animal cruelty is sad, not to mention what the actors suffered to make this film. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bethanne Coste
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Published 5 months ago by Glenn Louis Syktich
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the book too
Life among the old-time Innuit (Eskimos). The white guys just can't fit in very well. Realistic glimpse of Arctic native life.
Published 15 months ago by Maurice L. Wymore
5.0 out of 5 stars Like taking a peak into the lives of the Eskimos
This is one of those unexpected movies that without expectation is sure to become one of your favorites. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Erin Dougherty
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Wakeup
Once I saw this movie I realized how important the matrix that is fed you works. Here it is in black and white. Read more
Published on December 19, 2011 by Richard Schulman
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost Classic
Finally, I found this classic Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff)film at a reasonable price and in great condition. Read more
Published on October 12, 2011 by luvmytoys2
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the ending?
Having just viewed this film on DVD I have to say the acting, directing, on-location photography are all superb. Read more
Published on February 11, 2007 by C. Malon
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Anthropological Study
This film, based on James A. Houston's fine book, is a fascinating glimpse into the Inuit way of life. Read more
Published on December 4, 2005 by C.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Ahead of its time
The White Dawn is a exsquisitely filmed (shot in the Arctic) and beautifully told tale of a clash of cultures (between white men and Eskimos) in the 19th Century. Read more
Published on October 27, 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing
When I saw the little 5 ft Eskimo get in his canoe and paddle out to an iceberg with a Polar Bear on it I was stunned. Read more
Published on January 7, 2002 by James R. Sulis
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