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Challenge to Be Free (aka Mad Trapper of the Yukon and Mad Trapper) is a film directed by Tay Garnett and starring Mike Mazurki. The movie was a loosely- based account of the 1931 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pursuit of a trapper named Albert Johnson, the reputed "Mad Trapper of Rat River". The film was shot and originally released in 1972 with the title Mad Trapper of the Yukon; it was re-released in 1975 as Challenge to Be Free. [1]

Challenge to Be Free
Theatrical poster
Directed byTay Garnett
Produced byChuck D. Keen
Written byAnne Bosworth
Chuck D. Keen
Based onstory
by Dick North
StarringMike Mazurki
Narrated byJohn McIntire
Music byIan Bernard
CinematographyChuck D. Keen
Distributed byPacific International Enterprises
Release date
  • November 5, 1975 (1975-11-05)
Running time
88 min.
CountryUnited States

Another film exploring the same topic was The Mad Trapper (1972), a British made-for-television production.[2] A later fictionalized account, Death Hunt (1981), also based on the story of the RCMP pursuit of Albert Johnson, was directed by Peter R. Hunt, and starred Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Carl Weathers.[3]


In Alaska, Trapper (Mike Mazurki) attempts to live in harmony with nature but is aware that other trappers are using inhumane traps. When he is confronted by rival trappers over his interference with their trap lines, they bring along Sargent (Fritz Ford) the local police officer. Feeling intimidated, Trapper fights back, shooting his way out of his cabin and embarking on a desperate attempt to escape the authorities.



Challenge to Be Free was filmed mainly on location in Alaska, as the locale of the "Mad Trapper" manhunt was changed from the Yukon to the United States.[4] As an American production, Johnson's character was changed to, simply, the "Trapper". The theme song, "Trapper Man" was featured.[5] It was filmed and originally released with little promotion as The Mad Trapper of the Yukon in 1972. In 1975, the title was changed and the film was given a wider release, primarily marketed towards younger audiences.


Reviewer Leonard Maltin characterized Challenge to Be Free as being "... A very charming film, wonderful for younger viewers."[6]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ In his penultimate film, Tay Garnett appeared briefly as Old Marshal McGee.


  1. ^ "Challenge to be Free (1975). Allmovie. Retrieved: December 1, 2014.
  2. ^ "The Mad Trapper (1972)." IMDb. Retrieved: December 1, 2014.
  3. ^ "Full cast & crew: Death Hunt (1981)." IMDb. Retrieved: December 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Anderson and Downs 1986, pp. 89–90.
  5. ^ "Details: The Mad Trapper (1972)." The New York Times. Retrieved: December 1, 2014.
  6. ^ Maltin 2009, p. 229.


  • Anderson, Frank W. and Art Downs. The Death of Albert Johnson, Mad Trapper of Rat River. Surrey, British Columbia, Canada: Heritage House, 1986. ISBN 978-1-89438-403-2.
  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
  • North, Dick. The Mad Trapper of Rat River: A True Story of Canada's Biggest Manhunt. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Macmillan Company, 1972. ISBN 978-1-59228-771-0.

External linksEdit