While watching one of the innumerable reruns of Death Hunt
on TV the other day, I noticed that the film was based (very
loosely) on an actual incident in 1931. I normally watch this movie because of the 10 minutes or so of flying footage featuring a very creditable F2B replica being put through its’ paces at low altitude. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and I began reading up on the actual story of the pusuit of the Mad Trapper of Rat River.
It seems that the aircraft used to track the Mad Trapper was not an F2B, but was in fact an unarmed monoplane, said to be a Bellanca, outfitted with skis. What really caught my attention was the identity of the pilot who located the Trapper for the ground forces. Although the film presents a fictitious Captain Tucker, a thoroughly pompous ass well-suited to the fanciful story line of the screenplay, the actual pilot was Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May, who very nearly became No. 81 for MvR on the Baron’s final sortie. Further research revealed that Wilfrid May
played a significant role in the development of Canadian aviation in the post-war era, the hunt for the Trapper being only one of several notable achievements in Northern Canada.
The body of the Mad Trapper, alias Albert Johnson, was exhumed in August of 2007 in an effort to determine his true identity through DNA testing. Several films are said to be in the works, both a documentary and a dramatization, based on these efforts. A ‘Google’ search of The Mad Trapper
and Wilfrid R. May
will reveal the full story behind this bit of Death Hunt
The sad part of all this is that Death Hunt
would have been every bit as good a film, probably better, if the facts had been presented as they happened. (Of course, then, we wouldn’t have been treated to the F2B flight sequences that are really worth watching!