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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Heritage of Adventure" )


directed by Harold M. Wyckoff
Canada 1920


In order to commemorate the two-hundredth-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Hudson's Bay Company - incorporated by English royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay- the company commissioned the New York-based Education Films Corporation in 1919 to create a film documenting the annual trip of the transport ship Nascopie up north from Montreal to to Fort Chipewyan starting the journey on July 19, 1919. A year before Robert Flaherty's NANOOK OF THE NORTH, filmmaker Harold Wyckoff - with colleague Bill Derr along to document The Trials and Tribulations of a Cameraman (as seen in the titular short) - Wyckoff scripted "Reminiscences: The Life of an Eskimo", the film-within-a-film shot on Baffin Island as told by local to the Nascopie's Captain Mack. The dual-language intertitles would be the first time Inuit syllabics would be seen in film. Getting off the Nascopie at Moose Factory, Wyckoff and Derr headed south down the Abitibi River by canoe with eight Cree guides to Cochrane where they boarded a train. Derr would depart the trip at Winnipeg while Wyckoff traveled on to the logging town of Vancouver. The most controversial leg of Wyckoff's journey would turn out to be Alert Bay where he captured images of First Nation peoples in potlatch regalia despite laws forbidding the practice. Traveling from Alberta to Fort Chipewyan, Wyckoff and crew would cross the frozen Athabasca River on foot, reaching in December of the year their final destination (where the Chief of the Chipewyans has a special message for the King that did not make the British version of the film). Edited in New York with input from HBC consultants from Canada and London, the film would be screened in full (a two hour cut trimmed down from its initial four hours) during the anniversary ceremonies in Canada and in an hour-and-a-half cut in England. The length of the film worked against it for screenings outside the festivities and in America, but extracts from the film along with rushes and outtakes would be repurposed into a number of short featurettes suitable for the programmes of film exhibitors of the period. All of this footage would disappear from view when it was transferred to the HBC Archives in London. Lacking the means to preserve the materials, the archives donated it to the British Film Institute in 1956 where it was accessible to those who knew of its existence and contents (among them historian Dr. Peter Gellar who became aware of the BFI holdings in the 1990s). The archives were transferred to Winnipeg in the seventies along with all written documentation about the films which remained in the UK. The repatriation of the films to the HBC Archives in 2010 came about amidst renewed interest in footage sparked by a Winnipeg Cinematheque film event and panel by filmmaker Kevin Nikkel exploring the HBC's impact on the Canadian North. The restoration recently released on DVD is regarded as a work in progress owing to the ambiguities surrounding the original editing decisions as well as new historical and cultural contexts of the footage.

Eric Cotenas


DVD Review: Five Door Films - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover


Five Door Films

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:59:32

1.32:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.91 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Music LPCM 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English (intertitles)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Five Door Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.32:1

Edition Details:
� Audio Commentary by historian Peter Geller & curatorial editor Kevin Nikkel
� 'Explore the 1919 Expedition' text and image documentation
� Short 'Trials and Tribulations of a Cameraman' (4:3; 15:06)
� Short 'Treasures of the Far Fur Country' (4:3; 20:08)
� Restoration featurette 'Rediscovering the Far Fur Country' (16:9; 9:18)
� Shortened UK Version 'The Heritage of Adventure' (4:3; 89:09)
� Short 'Baffin Region' (4:3; 17:59)
� Short 'James Bay & Abitibi Region' (4:3; 16:27)
� Short 'Prairie Region' (4:3; 11:01)
� Short 'Athabasca Region' (4:3; 19:29)
� Short 'BC Region' (4:3; 9:08)
� Short 'H.B. Pageant' (4:3; 24:08)
� 'It's A Great Life --If' alternate version of 'Trials and Tribulations of a Cameraman' (4:;3 12:08)
� Short 'HBC Comics' (4:3; 4:15)
� Trailer for 'On The Trail of the Far Fur Country' documentary (16:9; 1:07)

DVD Release Date:

Chapters 24





Five Door Films' dual-layer, pillarboxed anamorphic presentation of this work-in-progress restoration is not as immaculately restored as some silent films from the era but one has to take into consideration that the nitrate elements were restored under less than optimal conditions for over thirty years in the Hudson's Bay Company London office before the materials were donated for preservation to the British Film Institute (and subsequently donated back to the Hudson's Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg in 2011). All of the materials were scanned in 2K in London by Prime Focus while the editing (including the insertion of frames to present the 18fps feature and shorts at 24fps), digital clean-up, tinting, and grading were done in Canada. The dual-layer encode is presented in pillarboxed 16:9 while the contemporary score by Nathan Reimer is encoded in LCPM 2.0 stereo.

The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Winnipeg filmmaker Kevin Nikkel and historian Dr. Peter Gellar who provide background on the Hudson's Bay Company, Wyckoff and Derr, and the various sites visited in the film. They also touch upon Wyckoff's cinematic influences, parallels with NANOOK OF THE NORTH, his other works, as well as his personal life through the letters he wrote to his new bride throughout the journey. They also touch upon the colonial aspects and reactions from contemporary viewers from the same areas including descendants of identified participants in the film (some of which is covered in the separately-released documentary ON THE TRAIL OF THE FAR FUR COUNTRY). They also discuss the editing choices in reconstructing the film, the rushes, outtakes, and shorts, and reveal that a couple intertitles had to be recreated (including the title card) and the animated maps were newly-created with leader before and after to distinguish them from body of the feature.

With the first disc devoted to the two hour feature (and its uncompressed soundtrack), some text extras, and a restoration featurette, the bulk of the extras are relegated to a second dual-layer disc. These include several short films included among the material returned by the BFI that make use of footage shot for the film and shorts extracted from it, the HBC comics segments that were included in some cuts of the film, and the entirety of the British cut of the film THE HERITAGE OF ADVENTURE (untinted with no audio track whatsoever). A twenty-four page booklet includes essays on the film's history, recovery, and restoration along with a discussion guide.

The DVD is available from the Winnipeg Film Group for home use at $35 or instituational use at $325 or in a combo with documentary On the Trail of the Far Fur Country for $50 ($495 institutional use).

  - Eric Cotenas


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DVD Box Cover


Five Door Films

Region 0 - NTSC

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