Cast & Crew
Boris L. Petroff
In the icy wilderness of northern Alaska, soldiers stationed at a U.S. Air Force base and local Eskimos see mysterious lights flashing in the sky over Siberia, only a few miles away. Soon after, Major Bennett arrives from Washington to investigate the government's suspicion that the Russians are testing a new bomb. Three Eskimo soldiers, including Sgt. Koovuk, are assigned to return to their villages on the Bering Strait in order to report back any unusual activities, while Lt. Johnson, a pilot, is ordered to tail an unmarked black plane sighted near the border. That night, strange lights shoot into the sky from the Alaskan side of the border and the troops begin to panic. However, Bennett calms them with the news that the U.S. government is testing its own nuclear weapons in the area. After a long journey by dogsled, Koovuk reaches his village on Little Diomedes Island and is warmly greeted by Chief Nanu, who introduces him to a new villager named Tuglu. Tuglu, a Siberian Eskimo from Big Diomedes Island, claims to have escaped the Russians, but when he begins to ask Koovuk questions about his work in the Air Force, Koovuk suspects he is spying for the Soviet Union. Koovuk then goes off to find his sweetheart Alak and asks her to be his wife. Later, Koovuk learns that the tribe is on the verge of starvation. Hunting parties have ventured over the border into Siberia in their desperate search for game, but only Tuglu has returned. After praying to the God of the Hunt, Koovuk forms a hunting party and crosses into Siberia. The Russian pilots flying the mysterious black plane are signaled by Tuglu, who lets them know that Koovuk's hunting party has entered Siberia. The Russians then send a coded message to their base command and Russian soldiers prepare to capture Koovuk and his men. Johnson, however, picks up the message on his radio, and the Air Force is able to crack the code in time to warn Koovuk. Safely back in U.S. waters, the hunting party encounters a large school of walrus and brings home enough meat to ensure the tribe's survival. After much feasting and dancing, Alak presents Koovuk with ceremonial wedding pants symbolizing his authority in their union, and the two are pronounced man and wife. That night, an American Eskimo who has escaped captivity in Siberia is brought into the village, and, when everyone is asleep, Tuglu tries to kill him. Tuglu is taken prisoner, but Koovuk decides that the tribe is no longer safe in the area, so preparations are made to travel south to the mainland. In the meantime, the Russians have readied their bomb for its final test, and pilots Alex and Elia are assigned to deploy it in the border zone through which Koovuk's tribe is traveling. Once in the air, Alex reveals to Elia that he has learned that their flight is a suicide mission and therefore he has sabotaged the test so that he can defect to the U.S. with the new weapon technology. However, Elia, a fanatical supporter of the Communist regime, grabs the controls of the plane, causing it to crash. Both men die in the crash, but Koovuk retrieves the intact bomb. As Koovuk's tribe continues its journey, the treacherous ice floes begin to break apart, creating deadly avalanches. Johnson locates the tribe and the Air Force succeeds in rescuing them by helicopter. Back at the base, Koovuk turns the Russian weapon over to the Air Force General and is given a promotion, while Johnson is cited for his bravery in rescuing Koovuk's tribe.
G. William Perkins
Boris L. Petroff
Leonard J. Shapiro
Earl J. Snyder
The working title for this film was S.O.S. Alaska. Opening credits include a written dedication to the Alaskan Air Rescue Service and to the American Eskimo, "whose skill and courage have long been unheralded." A large portion of Red Snow consists of footage shot in Alaska twenty years earlier for the 1932 documentary Igloo. Igloo was directed by Ewing Scott, who receives a credit as Alaskan unit director on this film. The documentary footage is linked to the contemporary scenes through the character played by Ray Mala, who had a starring role in Igloo, appearing under his tribal name of "Chee-ak." Mala, under the name Ray Wise, is also credited with camerawork on Igloo.
In addition, voice-over narration by William Shaw in the role of "Sgt. Koovuk" serves to connect scenes depicting Eskimo tribal life to the film's Cold War storyline. An unidentified news item dated January 28, 1951 reported that producer Boris Petroff was also planning to include footage from his 1949 film Arctic Fury in Red Snow. Arctic Fury made liberal use of scenes from Tundra, a 1936 Burroughs-Tarzan film. It has not been determined, however, if this additional footage was actually incorporated into Red Snow.
News items in Hollywood Reporter dated November 3, 1950 and September 9, 1951 billed Red Snow as "the first film based on the possibility of a Russian attack upon the United States." Correspondence dated January 26, 1951 and contained in the file on this film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that Production Code officials were concerned about a story "involv[ing] the Russian military without naming them" and advised Petroff to seek clearance with the U.S. State Department.