Thursday, August 18, 2016

Run, Cougar, Run (1972)

          A live-action nature adventure from Walt Disney Productions that delivers exactly what the title promises, Run, Cougar, Run benefits from extensive photography of real animals in real locations. Moreover, like the best Disney pictures about the natural world, Run, Cougar, Run doesn’t shy away from brutal aspects of survival in the outdoors. Death informs nearly every scene, since the title character, a mountain lion roaming through the rugged landscapes of Utah’s Arches National Park, spends most of her time either killing prey to feed her three kittens or evading the deadly rifles of sportsmen who want her hide. Sure, there’s the usual cutesy stuff, such as a sequence of a kitten unwisely licking the hide of a toad that excretes a repellent fluid from its skin, and the affable narration, spoken by Ian Tyson, coats everything in a warm glow. Nonetheless, for viewers who adjust their expectations appropriately, Run, Cougar, Run provides an hour and a half of undemanding entertainment as well as a wholesome message about leaving wild animals alone. Lest this message get lost, the theme song is called “Let Her Alone.” (Performing the tune is Ian & Sylvia, the Canadian folk duo comprising Tyson and his first wife.)
          To keep things moving along, the filmmakers weave a proper story into the critter footage. Etio (Alfonso Arau) is a kindly Mexican sheepherder who tends his flock near the wilderness that mountain lions call home. He’s named a female lion “Seeta,” and whenever she comes near his herd, he picks up his guitar and sings. Instead of attacking the sheep, Seeta grooves on the music before departing. Into this idyllic situation comes Hugh (Stuart Whitman), a professional hunter. Paid by two weekend-warrior types to find easy targets, Hugh identifies Seeta and her mate as potential victims. Despite Etio’s protests, Hugh leads a hunt that ends with the death of Seeta’s mate, so the rest of the picture depicts her struggle to survive the hardships of single parenting and the perils of the hunters. Everything is handled quite gently, of course, and Arau’s easygoing character makes for a pleasant throughline—when he croons, it’s like watching a Latino Jim Croce perform, what with the bushy hair and thick moustache. Run, Cougar, Run is far-fetched, predictable, and tame, but aren’t those exactly the qualities one expects from Disney’s brand of family-friendly comfort food?

Run, Cougar, Run: FUNKY

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