Sourdough…a great movie trapped in the tape

Back when I used to spend time picking up video box after video box, trying to decide on a movie that the whole family could watch…I discovered “Sourdough”.  I love this movie.  My family groans…sure that I couldn’t possibly be serious…but I am serious and I do have a lot of affection for this film.

This movie is the story of an older “mountain man” who’s spent the bulk of his life living way out in the Alaskan wilderness….and the eventual disillusionment he feels when “far out” isn’t far enough anymore.

It’s kind of a strange movie in some ways….kind of feels like a documentary with a plot…and I’m pretty sure that it’s out of print…just another one of those movies that you might find at the Salvation Army buried in a bin with about a couple of thousand other VHS orphans. It’s a  beautiful, slow paced, scenery rich film that “out realities” any of the rose throwing bimbo fests currently wasting our time.

Gil Perry was the star of the film…another mystery…I googled him to see what I could find and apparently there isn’t a lot out there. The movie was made back in the day when if you told someone that you’d googled them they probably would have punched you out…not understanding that it wasn’t anything with a deviant twist to it.  In the end… I couldn’t find out anything about Gil.  It was easier to disappear when it wasn’t so easy to find you.

This is one of the great “lost ones”…not like the Holy Grail or anything…but worth seeking out.  And if you can find a copy and watch it, maybe I can add you to the list of folks who groan when I say, “Awwwww…I Love that Sourdough movie…you ever see it? You want to watch it again?!!!

PS    Just discovered the above link….the movie’s writer/cinematographer’s  site that explains  his background and mentions the movie. He’s written two books about the history of the Iditarod…check it out.

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.


Sourdough…a great movie trapped in the tape — 21 Comments

  1. Hi Peter,
    That blog entry on my film Sourdough was a very nicely done piece and I thank you for your kind words. Back in the 70s when Sourdough showed in theaters around the globe, and afterwards when it was shown to regional TV audiences and printed for the VHS market, the film gathered quite a loyal “cult following” that to this day persists. Like any older film, it faded out and became almost impossible to find. Then maybe 15 years ago, Blockbuster brought it out again as a “new release” and once more it could be easily come by. Now of course, it has declined and again become hard to find.
    As a filmmaker, I tackled the project with no background whatsoever even in photography, much less cinematography. What I did have going was a art background and innate ability as a storyteller. I thought that if I could but master the film medium I could express myself. I also had an idea for a story I was sure would resonate, a picturesque father who believed in me and agreed to play the part, and (between us) probably many times over a greater volume of expertise as outdoorsmen than all of Hollywood’s technical advisers combined.
    By the time it was over I was viewed by many as Alaska’s foremost outdoor cinematographer. But for various reasons, I put down my camera never to pick it up again, a case if there ever was one of burying one’s God-given talents. Just this last year, however, after 35 years, I have the film bug back, with a couple of documentaries and a reality show in mind. Whether or not those dreams gain traction will be a matter of finding backing, and that’s seldom easy.
    I can tell you that anyone who’s attracted to my motion picture will be as attracted to my books TRAILBREAKERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod. Volume I, about how the old gold rush trail was born, quickly sold out. I’ve rewritten and greatly expanded it, and it should be back in print before next summer. Volume II is about birth of “the Last Great Race On Earth”, the daring 1973 run that founded it, of which I was was one of the pioneering drivers.
    Back to Sourdough and my father, I recall telling my mother as we laid him to rest, that I felt so fortunate to have been gifted his final years sharing hardships of the trail and grinding it out against all odds in our belief we could bring off the impossible. I talked to her about how wonderful it had been to have my dad at my back when virtually everyone else out there seemed to dismiss our efforts as those of deluded, naive fools, and rate our chances, at best, to turn out an amateurish flick that might, sponsored by the county rod and gun club, show once down at the local high school auditorium then be forgotten. And then I expressed to her how enriching it was for posterity to have a full-length film featuring my father in his element, not only for me but for the children I hoped to have some day, as well as future generations who would never otherwise know him.
    Again Peter, thank you for your glowing assessment of Sourdough. And best wishes to you as a blogger. I look forward to following along.

    Rod Perry

    • It’s so awesome to finally here more about this movie. Watching it years ago as boy who grew up in the woods of BC totally changed my life. I went on to start a wilderness school from the inspiration this movie gave me. I looked for years online to find it in VHS. I finally found a used copy on Amazon. It arrived broken to pieces. I took a brand new blank VHS tape and exchange the shell with the broken one. I watched it once. It didn’t work very well. It got all jammed it the VCR and that was the end of it. I wanted to have it put on DVD but it got ruined before I could get to it. I guess I have to just remember it from memory. Which BTW that movie have a couple lines that I could never forget. Lot’s of wisdom in the writing. Thanks Rod and thanks to your dad. Thanks Peter.

      • John….I actually looked on Ebay this morning when I got your comment….hoping to be able to report to you that there were multiple copies of the movie for sale…but, other than a couple of movie posters, there wasn’t any mention of the movie. This really is one of the “good ones”. I wish it was easier to find. Maybe it will be re-released at some point. Glad you found Rod’s site, though. He’s a good fellow. Thanks for the comment! (I hope the next copy you buy is in better shape!)

          • Douglas….and that one is being sold by the Goodwill through their online auctions! Whatever happened to the 50 cent video bin? I noticed also that you could buy a copy on LaserDisc. Maybe I need to change the title of the post to “trapped in the really big thing that’s sort of like a DVD”? Strangely enough, though…it streams on YouTube….so…if you wanted to watch it like that…you could. You know that the the Trapper in the movie is the filmmaker, Rod Perry’s father? And…that he did his own stunts? What a movie! Thanks for the comment, Douglas!

    • Rod Perry is my mother’s cousin. Gil of course her uncle.

      • Thankyou for the comment, Marlene! One of the biggest pleasures that I’ve had when doing this blog is meeting some of the people who know Rod Perry! The nicest comments I’ve had have been in relation to that Sourdough post I did at the beginning of writing the blog….and it’s good that you took the time to say “hello” to me! Thankyou! Peter

  2. Pingback: Comments From a Sourdough Viewer | Rod Perry

  3. Nice review with heart and a movie I loved the first time seeing it. Now I’d like to find it, and was surprised it’s not to be found in DVD or even stocked in VHS. This is a fascinating film with a lot to it. Thanks for adding the nice review to the blogosphere.

    • Thanks for the comment on my Sourdough post. I love that movie, too…and it is a “crime” that it’s not easier to find and watch. Maybe someday, someone will re-release it on DVD. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Check out Rod Perry’s website…he’s the fellow who made the movie with his father in the starring role.

  4. my husband and I saw it in Alaska many many years ago and would love for it to come out on DVDs

    • Martha….thanks for the comment! Sourdough is a movie that I enjoyed a great deal…and that I wish was out on DVD, too. Sometimes, I see used VHS copies on Ebay…but that’s not a common occurence. Check out Rod Perry’s blog and website…he’s a good guy and the man who made the movie with his Father.

  5. Peter I followed your link and corresponded with Rod Perry-thanks. He is working on a Iditarod film now and his books. He did not seem interested in preserving Sourdough? He said that the last he knew Worldcom owned the movie rights. I can’t find them. I also tried finding Martin Spinelli a couple of years ago, and only found the British director and novelist by the same name.
    I am considering having a DVD made from a VHS and sell it online. I hope someone will contact me who owns the rights. It is a great movie -a work of art – and I hate to see it die. Send me your email address privately. Roger/Nashville

    • I’m not sure what Rod’s experience was with the movie and it’s distribution. I never had a chance to talk with him about it….but I don’t know if the way his film was handled was a really positive experience for him. I may just be “reading between the lines” too much. That is a great movie….and knowing that the “star” is his father makes it even greater. I didn’t have any luck finding out anything about the distributor, either. Rod Perry is a good fellow….and I think that he’s moved on to new projects. I do love that movie though….glad you do, too.

      • You aren’t reading between the lines. My late husband Bob Pendleton, partnered with Rod in the making of this movie. I don’t believe that Rob, Bob or any of the men that made this great little film ever saw a penny from its release. The distributor was dishonest. The movie came out in vhs briefly. ( I have a copy). But no profit was ever realized. Very sad for such a fine group of independent movie makers!

        • Thankyou for that comment! “Sourdough” is a tremendous accomplishment….one that I appreciate more and more as I get to understand the backstory of how it was made. I hope that someday it gets the chance to be seen by more people….it deserves to be. It is something to be proud of.

          • Peter–I have researched the Sourdough movie copyrights and finally found George Lukens the President of Pendleton Productions of Anchorage. They have the copyright and I got George to tell me about the making of the movie. To make a long story short, a lot of good people worked and invested in the venture, and then got taken by a crooked distributor.
            No one wants to re-issue the movie due to the financial complications involved. So the movie will die a VHS only death. Really too bad. (Artistically I compare this movie to Spenser Tracy in ‘Old Man and the Sea’.) BTW all the river raft scenes were real!
            I bought a VHS copy recently and the seller sent me a CD-R copy also. I will be happy to lend this CD copy to anyone for a $5 shipping fee and promise to return it.(I don’t know, but they might be able to copy it for their personal use). So if you know someone who needs to see it, let them have my email address Thanks Roger

  6. i have been looking for the movie sourdough for years as this the best movie that i seen. i live in canada british columbia. will pay what price you want and above that even ron