(director: James B. Clark; screenwriters: from the novel by Jean George/Joanna Crawford/Ted Sherdeman/Jane Klove; cinematographer: Denys N. Coop; editors: Alastair McIntyre/Peter Thornton; music: Wilfred Josephs; cast: Ted Eccles (Sam), Theodore Bikel (Bando), Tudi Wiggins (Miss Turner), Paul H├ębert(Hunter),Cosette Lee(Apple Lady), Frank Perry (Mr. Gribley), Peggi Loder (Mrs. Gribley); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Robert B. Radnitz; Paramount; 1969)

“The homage to nature pic appeals to youngsters and boy adventurers, but left me yearning for a safer story for a 13-year-old boy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An entertaining and educational family value pic based on a prize-winning novel by Jean George. The screenplay is intelligently written by Joanna Crawford, Ted Sherdeman and Jane Klove. Director James B. Clark (“Flipper”/”Drums of Africa”/”Misty”)keeps the boy adventure tale lively, innocent and kid friendly. The homage to nature pic appeals to youngsters and boy adventurers, but left me yearning for a safer story for a 13-year-old boy.

Thirteen-year old Sam Gribley (Teddy Eccles) is a Toronto resident and serious devotee of Henry David Thoreau. The ‘go back to nature’ believing kid is downcast when his father backs out of a promised camping trip and in the fall runs away from home leaving a note he’ll live in the woods for a year. The kid takes a bus and goes with a backpack filled with supplies and his pet raccoon, Gus, for the Laurentian Mountains. The resourceful Sam, intending to survive the winter on the mountain by living off the land like his hero Thoreau, makes a home in a hollow tree. He keeps busy conducting algae experiments, foraging for food, and hiding from poachers who pass his campsite. When he decides to train a falcon, he goes to town to read up on how to and is befriended by a helpful librarian Miss Turner (Tudi Wiggins). Sam allows wandering folk singer and collector Bando (Theodore Bikel) to share his campsite and teach him about survival tactics in the woods When Bando moves on, Sam asks him to mail a letter to his parents. The harsh reality of the world soon kicks in when an irresponsible hunter kills his pet baby falcon, which is followed by the difficulty he has in handling the winter cold. Bando and Miss Turner surprise him with a visit, bringing a Christmas dinner. When Bando shows Sam newspaper clippings of his parents search for him, the kid says “I’ve learned about nature and I’ve learned about myself. It’s time to go home.” Now, the filmmaker might consider the kid’s adventure a success, but in reality I wonder how many parents would be happy with such an adventure if it were their kid!