In 1972, William “Wild Bill” Cooper gained some degree of attention with a plan to lead a small group of snowmobilers on a winter trip from Minnesota to the Soviet Union. But that didn’t quite go to plan.
Mike Scholtz’s mildly loose-limbed documentary details Cooper’s disastrous adventures – miserably poor planning resulted in the expedition running out of fuel and food in the Canadian Arctic, and a second attempt in 1973 was aborted in Greenland, where the expedition was jailed for entering the territory without passports.
Cooper, who ran a bar in a small Minnesota town prior to his Arctic fiascos, later attracted notoriety as the alleged mastermind of a drug smuggling ring known as the “Marijuana Air Force.” He disappeared prior to prison sentencing in 1977; despite being named to the U.S. Marshal’s Service ten most wanted list, his fate remains unknown.
Scholtz’s film focuses primarily on the doomed Arctic adventures, with Cooper’s traveling companions and never-before-seen footage of the trip offering in-depth documentation of his failed efforts. Less focus is given to Cooper’s criminal history and the efforts to determine if he is still alive – credible evidence suggests he was killed by the Mexican drug cartel as early as 1977, though his apologists insist he is still alive in Canada.
Despite the film’s wishful advocacy that Cooper was a modern-day outlaw, he comes across as a disorganized nut that screwed up his life.