The Wolf in Movies
This is a chapter from "The Wolf" © 2011 by Wolf Sullivan. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of the author.
Hollywood has continued the misrepresentation and defamation of wolves in films primarily for children and adults. It is very rare for a wolf to be depicted accurately; it's almost always derived from "Little Red Riding Hood". An otherwise excellent movie, Roman Polanski's "The Fearless Vampire Killers" (1967) begins and ends with a pack of wolves chasing after a horse-drawn sleigh to eat the humans. They also attempt to eat a human during the movie. Wolves never do this. Here is a link to Lone Wolf's movie review of the film: http://lonewolfsullivan.blogspot.com/2008/08/fearless-vampire-killers-1967_31.html
The Jungle Book" (1894) is a collection of stories written by Rudyard Kipling. Tales in the book are fables, using animals to give moral lessons, and the best known of them are three stories about the adventures of an abandoned "man cub" named Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. Akela the Father Wolf and Raksha the Mother Wolf raise Mowgli as their own cub. In "Mowgli's Brothers" Mowgli is raised by wolves with the help of Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black panther, and then has to fight the tiger Shere Khan.
Many movies and TV shows have been made based on Kipling's "The Jungle Book" including:
1942 * Kipling's Jungle Book (live action film)
1967 * The Jungle Book (Disney animation)
1967 * Maugli (animation)
1977 * Mowgli's Brothers (animation)
1989 * Shonen Mowgli (animation)
1989 * Jungle Book (animation)
1990 * Jungle Book (animation)
1990 * TaleSpin (Disney TV animation)
1992 * Jungleboek (European TV)
1994 * The Jungle Book (Disney live action film)
1996 * Jungle Cubs (Disney TV animation)
1997 * The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (live action film)
1998 * The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (Disney live action film)
1998 * Jungle Book: Lost Treasure (live action film)
1998 * Mowgli: The new adventures of the Jungle Book (TV live action)
2003 * The Jungle Book 2 (Disney animation)
The 1994 Disney movie "The Jungle Book" is based on the Mowgli stories in "The Jungle Book" and "The Second Jungle". In the Victorian period, Mowgli (Jason Scott Lee) is the five-year-old son of a wilderness guide who accompanies his father on a hunting trip in the jungles of their native India with Grey Brother, his pet wolf cub. Mowgli and the wolf become lost in the jungle and are left to fend for themselves. Bagheera the panther finds them and leads Mowgli to a wolf pack. Mowgli is befriended by the animals of the jungle including Baloo the bear cub, and they develop a bond as the boy learns to survive. When he grows up Mowgli returns to civilization but says, "I run with the wolf pack."
"The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story" (1998) is a 77 minute direct-to-video release from Walt Disney Home Entertainment. It chronicles the story of Mowgli (Brandon Baker) from the time he is 5 years old living among humans to when he is 12 and rediscovering humans again. The big difference between it and the original Disney "The Jungle Book" is the film is dominated by wolves. We get to see Mowgli being raised by his Father Wolf Akela and Mother Wolf Raksha. They both call him "son" and Raksha is killed by the tiger Shere Khan for protecting the life of Mowgli. In this movie the animals talk, but not with realistic CGI moving lips. Towards the ending Mowgli sees humans, but decides to stay away and join them later.
"The Company of Wolves" is a 1984 Freudian film version of "Little Red Riding Hood", and it treats the wolf somewhat favourably. Not only is the wolf (in human form) sexy, but the woman expresses concern for the wolves' comfort in the freezing cold outside. The wolf/human tells her, "I enjoy the company of wolves". Near the end countless wolves descend on the woman's home, but most are actually large dogs--they don't have manes. The film ends in slow motion with a wolf smashing through the woman's bedroom window: a very obvious phallic symbol.
Kevin Costner's 1990 epic film "Dances with Wolves" won 7 Oscars and is over 3 hours long. The title refers to the Sioux Indian name of John J. Dunbar (Šuŋgmánitu Tȟaŋka Ob'wačhi), a Civil War soldier. Kicking Bird, Stone Calf, and Wind in His Hair give him the name because they notice him with a wolf he has befriended. The wolf appears in the movie for only a few minutes in total, but is portrayed very positively and has a heroic death scene. Because Dunbar joined the Lakota tribe, his Union forces are going to execute him for being a traitor, and the soldiers shoot the wolf when it refuses to leave Dunbar. Kevin Costner produced, directed and starred in "Dances with Wolves", which is based on the 1988 novel by Michael Blake who also wrote the screenplay.
"Wolf" is a 1994 film starring Jack Nicholson as a book editor who is bitten by a wolf under the full moon. He becomes a werewolf, but there are benefits. His vision, hearing, and sense of smell improve, and he becomes more successful because of his new aggression. The wolf is not to blame, because it was hit by his car. It's an intelligent, literate update of the usual werewolf fantasy nonsense.
"The Wolf Man" (1941) has no wolves in it, only werewolves played by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, but the wolf is explicitly evil incarnate. Gypsy Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) says, "The pentagram is the sign of the wolf", and Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) says, "In this case evil takes the shape of an animal." Outrageous defamation! Although Bela Lugosi becomes what looks like a wolf, Lon Chaney with special effects slowly turns into a stylish monster resembling an ape more than a wolf. He walks upright, and has no snout and no tail.
"Teen Wolf" (1985) starring Michael J. Fox and "Teen Wolf Too" (1987) are interesting films because the werewolf curse is a hereditary condition involving only excessive body hair and strength. The teen wolves are much more popular with their high school peers when they are hairy athletic wolves. It seems very obvious that the hairy change in the boys is a metaphor for puberty. "Dracula" (1931) has vampire Bela Lugosi turn into a bat and also a wolf. Here is a link to Lone Wolf's movie review of the film: http://lonewolfsullivan.blogspot.com/2008/08/dracula-1931.html In "The Phantom" (1996), the boring comic book hero often rides a horse named Hero accompanied by a trained running wolf named Devil. The wolf doesn't seem to serve any purpose in the film, but it is portrayed in a positive way and has a magical quality, which wolves often have in fiction.
In Rod Serling's 1970s TV series "Night Gallery", there is an episode titled "The Phantom Farmhouse", about the supernatural and involving wolves. But the "wolves" are very clearly large dogs with very large ears and without manes. These "wolves" do a tremendous amount of barking. However, wolves do not bark like dogs, so the entire scenario is an ignorant misrepresentation. Wolves mostly howl, but also growl, whine, whimper, yelp, snarl, moan, and on rare occasions utter ONE "woof" to other wolves. The "woof" basically means "Red alert!", "Did you see that?", etc. Otherwise, wolves communicate with body language.
"The Maiden and the Wolves" (2008) (La Jeune Fille et les Loups) is a 110 minute French film about 20 year old Angèle Amblard (Laetitia Casta), a feisty young woman whose fate becomes entangled with that of the last wild wolf pack on Mont Blanc. Shortly before World War I, in a French Alpine town near the Italian border, a pack of slaughtered wolves is delivered to local taxidermist Léon Amblard (Patrick Chesnais). A surviving black cub comes down from the mountains looking for his family, and is saved from discovery and certain death by his daughter Angèle, who releases him back into the wild. Years later, gypsy Séréna (Elisa Tovati) lives up on the mountain with her son Guiseppe (Stefano Accorsi), who guards the wolves he's befriended up there, especially the black pack leader he calls Carbone. Guiseppe is a simple man who has withdrawn to the mountains to live among wolves, away from the madness of humans. Séréna is seen in flashbacks having dances with wolves on stage. Following WWI, Angèle wants to become a veterinarian specializing in wild animals. She studies to become a veterinarian but must battle against the prejudices of her male teachers. To complement her training she joins Zhormov (Miglen Mirtchev), an adventurous circus owner who searches for wild animals and wants to capture a wolf from the mountains above her hometown. Their plane crashes in the snow and an injured Angèle is left behind while Zhormov seeks help. Recognizing her smell from his days as a cub, Carbone rescues her with his pack, and she falls into the care of Guiseppe. On her return to the town she discovers that her financé, unscrupulous industrialist Émile Garcin (Jean-Paul Rouve), plans to exterminate the wolves in order to increase tourism. Together with Guiseppe, Angèle sets about saving the wolves. Although it's basically a family movie, it does contain a scene where Angèle bares a breast, and adult themes are lightly touched on with mentions of illegitimate children and the suggestion that Guiseppe might ravage Angèle at any moment. However, kids will love the animal scenes, which feature some of the finest wolf acting on film. Versions of "White Fang" and "The Call of the Wild" might compare if they were not hybrid wolf (part dog) actors. A sequence in which the young wolf Carbone has to defend himself against a bird of prey is a particular knockout. Human performers are quite good, although a little hammy in places, and the movie moves along at a breathless pace.
"The Sheepish Wolf" (1942) is a 7 minute Technicolor "Looney Tunes" cartoon created by Friz Freleng about a classy and hungry "Shakespearean" wolf. He watches a flock of sheep, imagines them as lamb chops, steaks and other delicacies, then says, "To eat or not to eat? Baa, what a question!" Meanwhile a watchful sheepdog humorously chatters on and on about his responsibilities to protect the sheep. The wolf dresses as a sheep, mingles with the flock, and almost catches a fleeing sheep. But he catches the sheepdog instead. The sheepdog scolds the disguised wolf and throws him back into the flock. A black sheep realizes the deception and runs to the sheepdog to alert him. This black sheep talks like Eddie "Rochester" Anderson and calls the sheepdog "Boss" in the same way Rochester used to address Jack Benny. Because the sheepdog has a hard time finding the disguised wolf among the sheep, he uses a mating horn that tricks the wolf into turning into a Casanova who grabs the sheepdog to romance him. The wolf snaps out of it and flees. There is a chase which is interrupted by a spoof of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story. When the sheepdog brags to the sheep that he caught the wolf, all the sheep take off sheep costumes and reveal that they are actually wolves in disguise. They ask, "Which way did he go, George?" The current version of this cartoon has been edited to remove the black sheep doing a Rochester impersonation. Here's a link to the cartoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNph9Tw0Cg4
"Don't Give Up the Sheep" (1953) is the first in a series of 7 minute Technicolor animated "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons featuring the characters Wolf and Sheepdog (aka Ralph and Sam) created by Chuck Jones and voiced by actor Mel Blanc. Seven cartoons were produced in the series from 1953 to 1963 and it was inspired by the cartoon "The Sheepish Wolf". However, Wolf looks virtually the same as Wile E. Coyote, not exactly like a wolf. The series is built around Ralph and Sam doing their jobs. Most of the cartoons begin at the beginning of the workday, in which they both arrive at a sheep-grazing meadow, exchange chitchat, and punch into the same time clock. Ralph repeatedly tries to abduct the helpless sheep and always fails, either through his own ineptitude or the efforts of Sam, who always punishes Ralph for the attempt. Ironically, Ralph works very hard to catch a sheep and always fails while Sam works very little to protect the sheep and always succeeds. At the end-of-the-day whistle, Ralph and Sam punch out their time cards, chat and leave, only to come back the next day and do it all again. The comedy is mostly visual gags. "Don't Give Up the Sheep" is a play on the expression "Don't Give Up the Ship". Ralph Wolf tries to steal the sheep which Sam Sheepdog is guarding. His first plan is to trick Sam into going home early by turning the time on the punch clock forward and setting the whistle off. This doesn't work. Ralph's second attempt involves disguising himself as a bush. After stealing a sheep and starting to run away, he runs past Sam, who is disguised as a tree and stops Ralph. Next Ralph disguises himself as Pan and attempts to lull Sam to sleep with a flute, but Sam merely punches Ralph in the face and Ralph stumbles away and continues to play his music out of tune. Ralph's fourth attempt involves tunneling under the field and pulling each sheep down through holes. This is mostly successful, until Ralph unwittingly pulls Sam underground and gets punched in the face. Ralph returns all the sheep and refills his tunnel. In his next attempt, he places an Acme product behind Sam, labeled "One Acme wild-cat--Handle with care". Ralph carefully opens the box with a rope from a distance behind another hill, but the wildcat simply runs in circles towards Ralph, maiming and scratching him. The sixth attempt is to swing on a rope over the field and snatch a sheep. Unfortunately, he snatches Sam out of the flock and the plan fails. The final attempt is to snatch a sheep which is drinking from edge of a lake. Ralph uses a hollow rush to swim through the lake but Sam drops a stick of dynamite into it. At the end Sam walks toward the punch clock as his replacement Fred Sheepdog punches in and greets him. Sam hits him over the head with a plank because Fred is really Ralph in a disguise. As Sam begins spanking Ralph Wolf with the club, the real Fred Sheepdog shows up and continues to spank Ralph. This scene of spanking was censored on ABC TV. The Wolf and Sheepdog series includes:
* Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953)
* Sheep Ahoy (1954)
* Double or Mutton (1955)
* Steal Wool (1957)
* Ready, Woolen and Able (1960)
* A Sheep in the Deep (1962)
* Woolen Under Where (1963)
Here is a link to the "Woolen Under Where" cartoon": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOSuhxFo76o
Earthfire Institute is a 40 acre wildlife sanctuary in the Yellowstone-to-Yukon Wildlife Corridor. Here is a link to their website : http://earthfireinstitute.org/ One of the animals at Earthfire Institute is a a wolf named Apricot with an incurable neurological disorder. Jill, a human energy healer, put Apricot in a series of deep healing trances which the wolf seemed to understand and enjoy. The wolf is not fully healed, but much better. Here is a link to a video of Apricot's healing sessions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GC1Sw__ooE
"The Legend of Lobo" is a 69 minute 1962 Disney film based on Ernest Thompson Seton's 1899 book. It follows the life and adventures of Lobo, a wolf born and raised in the SW USA. Neither time period nor precise location are specified because the story is told as much from a wolf's point of view as from a human's. There is no dialogue in the film, only a story-song composed and sung by the Sons of the Pioneers, and narration by Rex Allen. The story begins with Lobo as an adorable 6-week old wolf cub and follows his growth into a fearless and majestic leader of the pack. When Lobo is 6 months old, he starts to hunt with the family pack. But rather than buffalo, the wolves prey on herds of cattle. The cattlemen eventually kill several of Lobo's family pack. Winter comes, and Lobo branches off on his own for the first time. In spring, Lobo joins a new pack, defeats its leader, and takes a mate. He and his pack continue to prey on the cattle, but he is wise enough to avoid the angry cattlemen who post rewards for his capture or death. When the time comes for his pack to split up to mate and raise their cubs, Lobo and his mate find a secure den in an abandoned dwelling that is accessible only by a precarious bridge. Lobo continues to feed on cattle and the cattlemen's feud with him escalates. A professional hunter sets a trap for Lobo, but captures his mate instead, and Lobo musters his pack to rescue her. In spite of the victory, Lobo realizes the same thing his father did: humans have encroached too far on the territory that used to be his, and his best course of action is to seek a new home. The film ends as Lobo and his pack race across the plains in search of new territory.
"Clash of the Wolves" (1925) is a 74 minute silent Western movie starring German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin as charismatic Lobo, a hybrid wolf (half dog) who leads a pack of wolves. A forest fire in the mountains drives the pack into the nearby desert where they forage on the cattle and crops of ranchers. When the pack is discovered hunting a herd of cows, a posse gives chase. Lobo leaves his pack to lead the posse away. He injures his paw on a cactus needle and is found by young borax prospector Dave Weston (Charles Farrell). Dave nurses Lobo back to health and adopts him as a companion. Meanwhile Dave has made a borax find in the area. His girlfriend May Barstowe (June Marlowe), daughter of a wealthy rancher, is pleased. However, local chemist Borax Horton (Pat Hartigan), actually a claim jumper, plans to steal the claim. In a sandstorm he is able to shoot Dave and leave the prospector for dead in the desert. Lobo tries to get a message to May, but runs afoul of Horton. Finally, he is able to bring May to Dave, who are then both terrorized by Horton. Fiercely loyal, Lobo masterfully leaps from cliffs to defend Dave from the unscrupulous claim jumper. Lobo calls for his pack to eliminate Horton, allowing the young lovers to find happiness. Lobo also finds happiness being reunited with his mate, Nannette. The film's one weakness is the insertion of comedy, mostly in the form of Alkali Bill (Heinie Conklin). The New York Times wrote, "The comedy in the film is so poor that it has no place in the picture at all. It detracts considerably from all the good work by Rin Tin Tin, who does not have much in the way of support from the human players." In one scene Dave and Bill try to disguise Lobo because there is a $100 bounty on him. They put a fake beard on Lobo's chin and tie leather booties on his feet. When Lobo catches a glimpse of his reflection he looks genuinely humiliated. This film is filled with great action sequences and is a technically impressive silent film. The on-location photography is remarkable and the best scenes involve Rin Tin Tin. He is an energetic performer, one of Hollywood's early box-office celebrities with more star quality than the human actors. Acting by the humans in the film is a bit dated, but Rin Tin Tin is irresistible and this is one of his greatest films. The TCM print of "Clash of the Wolves" was rediscovered in South Africa and the print was donated to the Library of Congress in 2003. In 2004 "Clash of the Wolves" was added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress for preservation, recognizing the cultural, historical and aesthetic significance of the film.
"Wolf Blood" (1925) is a 68 minute silent film, the oldest remaining werewolf movie, although there is no actual lycanthropy in the movie. Dick Bannister (George Chesebro, who also directed) is the new field boss of the Ford Logging Company, a Canadian logging-crew during a time when conflicts with the powerful Consolidated Lumber Company, a rival company, have turned into a bloody private war. His boss, Miss Edith Ford (Marguerite Clayton), comes to inspect the lumberjack camp, bringing her surgeon fiancé Dr. Eugene Horton (Ray Hanford) with her. Dick Bannister instantly falls in love with Edith when she arrives. Later, the rival logging company begins to build a dam across a vital river, deliberately causing a log jam. Dick confronts them, he is attacked and stabbed by his rivals and left for dead. His loss of blood is so great that he needs a transfusion. Dr. Horton saves him and visits a nearby cabin which belongs to Pierre (Roy Watson), a half-breed moonshiner. The doctor asks if the man will give blood to save his life. "I no geev my blood to save heem," he replies. "I got a she-wolf tied up out back. You give him her blood if she don' mind!" Dr. Horton remembers a medical book that says it is possible to give a human being animal blood and gives a transfusion using wolf blood. Dick recovers but begins having dreams where he runs with a pack of phantom wolves, and the rival loggers get killed by wolves. When news comes that the owner of the rival camp was found dead, torn apart by a wolf, Pierre reveals that Dick was given a transfusion of wolf blood and he may be "le loup garou," the werewolf! Most of the lumberjacks decide that Dick is a werewolf. Dick starts to go slowly insane, hallucinating that he is part of a pack of phantom ghost wolves running through the woods nearby. Then Edith returns his love, he snaps out of it and all is well. The acting is typical of this period of film history--melodramatic and stagey, with every movement and facial expression emphasized. It has it's dull moments, but the last ten minutes are quite memorable. "Wolf Blood" is a good adventure movie and not scary. Don't expect blood, gore or even special effects, but it is still very effective dramatically. The dream scene where Dick imagines he is running with a wolf pack is tinted blood red and the sight of wolves sprinting across the forest and then up into the sky is very well done. Forest scenes are tinted a brilliant green and night scenes are a rich blue. Also known as "Wolfblood: A Tale of the Forest", it has been referenced in a number of books as being the first werewolf movie ever made. But "The Werewolf" (1913), about an Indian woman murdered by a settler who comes back in the form of a wolf to get revenge, is probably the first. "Wolf Blood" is available as part of a DVD along with F.W. Murnau's "The Haunted Castle" (1921). It has been shown at film festivals such as Chiller Theatre and the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. The copyright for this motion picture expired in 1954.
"Surviving with Wolves" (2007) (Survivre avec les Loups) is a ponderous controversial Belgian/French film of the "autobiography" of Misha Defonseca, who crossed wartime Europe alone at the age of eight in search of her parents after they were deported from Belgium in WWII. In 1942, the young Jewish girl Misha (Mathilde Goffart), her Russian mother Gerusha (Yaël Abecassis) and her German father Reuven (Benno Fürmann) hide from the Germans in a small house in Ardennes, Belgium. Misha is very close to her mother who advises her that if one day a man comes to her saying "love of my life", she should follow him without question. When her parents are captured by the Nazis, Misha is delivered to a German family and the abusive matriarch treats her badly. However, she finds support in the family of Ernest (Guy Bedos) and his deranged wife Marthe (Michèle Bernier) that supplies groceries to her foster family. Misha loves Ernest's dogs and the old man gives a compass to her and tells her that her parents have been sent East to do forced labor. When the old couple is denounced for sheltering the girl and arrested by the Germans, Misha flees through the woods heading east. Along her journey seeking out her parents, her survival relies on stealing food, avoiding wartime battalions, and keeping warm in the forests of winter. Misha's story enters Romulus and Remus territory when she is saved by wolves and shares their confidence and protection. But Misha never seems entirely comfortable around wolves. She lives and survives with a pack of wolves for 2 winters, then crosses Germany, Poland, and reaches Ukraine--wandering 3,000 miles for 4 years across Europe. When she learns that Brussels has been released by the allied forces, she returns to her hometown and reaches it in March 1945. She is almost dead, sick, malnourished, and with lice. Ernest reveals that Misha does not accept that her parents had died in the concentration camp of Sonnenburg. The controversy is Misha Defonseca's real name is Monique De Wael and her best-selling "autobiography" on which the film is based has since been discredited as fiction. Monique De Wael made £10 million from her bestselling children's book "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years" (1997) after she won a court case against her American publisher for allegedly withholding royalties and not doing enough to market the book. She said, "I made it all up--and I'm not even Jewish." Monique De Wael is Roman Catholic. The book was translated into 18 languages and the only truth in her story seems to have been the disappearance of her parents, who were deported for their membership in the Belgian resistance movement. "That's also why I fell in love with wolves, and why I entered into their universe. It's my story. It's not the real reality, but it's my reality, my way of surviving."
"Balto" (1996) is a 74 minute animated adventure movie about Balto (voice of Kevin Bacon), an Alaskan canine who is rejected by his peers for being half dog and half wolf. Canine life in Nome, where the movie is set, revolves around dog-sled races that are like high school football games. The local hero and top dog is an unscrupulous ladies' man named Steele (voice of Jim Cummings), whose swaggering ways set female hearts aflutter. Steele and his cronies enjoy humiliating Balto, who has a crush on a sleek rust-colored huskie named Jenna (voice of Bridget Fonda). This cartoon feature is adapted from a true story into an anthropomorphic fable about courage, honesty and peer pressure, in which the bully gets his comeuppance. The historical event to which the movie alludes is a diphtheria outbreak in Nome in the winter of 1925. This epidemic was quelled when a dog-sled team traveled 600 miles to bring an antitoxin from Nenana. The rescue operation is commemorated by a canine statue in Central Park in Manhattan. In the movie's live-action opening scene filmed in Central Park, a grandmother whose life was saved by the medicine visits the statue with her granddaughter and tells the story. In their interpretation of the incident, the four screenwriters imagine that a rescue mission led by Steele gets lost and Balto, who was rejected from their team, sets out to find them. Joining him are his best friend, a wisecracking Russian snow goose named Boris (voice of Bob Hoskins) and twin polar bears, Muk and Luk (voice of Phil Collins). The obstacles they encounter include a ferocious black bear, cracking ice, an avalanche and near-catastrophes on several precipices. This fable has its mystical moments. The aurora borealis appears on the horizon to show Balto the way home. And at the moment when his energy is about to fail, a white wolf appears at his side to inspire him with lupine fortitude. "Balto II: Wolf Quest" (2002) is a direct to video sequel about the adventures of Balto and Jenna's pups, mainly Aleu who sets off to discover her wolf heritage. "Balto III: Wings of Change" (2004) follows the same litter of pups from "Balto II" but with the focus on another of Balto's pups named Kodi.
"Alpha and Omega" (2010) is an 88 minute 3-D computer animated adventure movie about two wolves at opposite ends of their pack's social order. Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere) and Humphrey (voice of Justin Long) are two wolves from the same pack in Canada's Jasper National Park. Kate is the daughter of Alpha male Winston (voice of Danny Glover) and his mate Eve (voice of Vicki Lewis), an Alpha female that takes her duty and commitment to the pack seriously. Humphrey is an Omega wolf, the lowest in the pack hierarchy and spends his days making jokes and playing with his other Omega friends Shakey (voice of Kevin Sussman), Salty (voice of Brian Donovan), and Mooch (voice of Eric Price), and playing video games with squirrels. Kate is disciplined, likes to call the shots and hunt caribou. Despite his low rank in the pack, Humphrey has a crush on Kate. But Kate is arranged to mate with Garth (voice of Chris Carmack), the Alpha male of a rival pack to preserve peace. Unfortunately, both Kate and Humphrey are sedated by well-meaning park rangers and taken far away to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho where they are expected to repopulate their species. Instead, the two mismatched wolves who should not socialize with each other embark on a cross-country quest to return home and save their pack before relations between rival packs come to a boil. Along the way Kate and Humphrey fall in love.
"Flight of the White Wolf" (1970) by Mel Ellis is a 208 page young adult novel that was made into a TV movie in 1976 by Disney during the company's period of fascination with the natural world. Re-titled "The Flight of the Grey Wolf", 12 year old Russ is played by 19 year old Jeff East. The Disney version bears only a slight resemblance to the source. Heroic Grey saves Russ from a vicious attack from Fritz the Boxer before making for freedom. An angry posse wants the wolf dead after unreliable reports that the animal attacked a girl while on the run. Russ' parents, who aid their son with supplies and a fully stocked survival pack in the book, are completely absent on holiday for the duration of the adventure. Later the same year the feature was serialized in two parts for the Disneyland TV series and received a Disney Home Video release in 1987 in America and the UK.
"White Wolf" (1996) is a 60 minute National Geographic documentary film that follows photographer Jim Brandenburg and biologist Dr. L. David Mech as they spend the summer months on Canada's Ellesmere Island studying the behavior of Arctic wolves. They gain the confidence of a pack of Arctic wolves and spend the summer months filming their behavioral patterns. The two men return the following year to learn what has happened to them over the long Arctic winter. As we watch them watching the wolves, and the wolves watching them, we see that the wolf is not a vicious, heartless, cold-blooded, unfeeling killer. It is a highly social, affectionate, intelligent and caring creature. Neither of the two men were ever threatened or menaced by any of the pack. The two species gradually formed a trust and tolerance of each other, and the wolves came to accept the humans' presence without being afraid. This research by Brandenburg and Mech is our first extensively documented interaction with the isolated white wolf, which is remarkably tolerant of humans, who do not typically hunt it. Directed by Andrew Birkin and narrated by actress Faye Dunaway, the film also discusses Brandenburg and Mech's multiple returns to the Ellesmore Island to observe changes in the social structure of the white wolves. They end up observing some very dramatic and intriguing changes in the group over the course of their study. Brandenburg goes into a cave where a mother white wolf is raising her cubs and after several failed attempts even follows the pack on a hunt. Each photograph is a work of art, and the text will give the reader much knowledge about wolf behavior and habits in a setting that is truly wild. Probably it is the most intimate film about wolf behavior ever made. National Geographic's "Legend: The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone" is perhaps a better overall film, offering more education, information, and exceptional footage of the reintroduced wolf packs in the park. However, it does not show close human and wolf interactions as this film does. Jim Dutchers' film, "Wolves at Our Door" is another outstanding documentary that shows the public how remarkable the wolf truly is.
The Company of Wolves (1984) * * *
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES is a Freudian film version of Charles Perrault's "Little Red Riding Hood" set in modern times. It takes place in the frightening dreams of pubescent girl Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson). She dreams that she lives in a fairytale forest with her parents (Tusse Silberg and David Warner) and sister Alice (Georgia Slowe), but one day her sister is killed by wolves. While her parents are mourning, Rosaleen goes to live with her grandmother (Angela Lansbury), who knits a bright red shawl for her to wear. Granny warns her to never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle and to be wary, not of the wolves that haunt the forest, but of the men who are hairy on the inside.
Granny: Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle. Oh, they're nice as pie until they've had their way with you. But once the bloom is gone... oh, the beast comes out. Your only sister, all alone in the woods, and nobody there to save her. Poor little lamb.
Rosaleen: Why couldn't she save herself?
Mother: You pay too much attention to your granny. She knows a lot but she doesn't know everything. And if there's a beast in men, it meets its match in women, too.
Rosaleen returns to the village where her parents live, but finds that she must deal with the advances of an amorous boy (Shane Johnstone). Rosaleen and the boy take a walk through the forest, but the boy discovers that the village's cattle have come under attack from a wolf. The villagers set out to hunt the wolf, but once caught and killed, the wolf's corpse transforms into that of a human being.
Later Rosaleen takes a basket of goods through the woods to her grandmother's cottage, but on her way she encounters an attractive huntsman (Micha Bergese) whose eyebrows meet in the middle. He challenges her, saying that he can find his way to her grandmother's house before she can, and the pair set off. The hunter arrives at Rosaleen's grandmother's house first, where he reveals his bestial nature and eats her. Rosaleen arrives later and discovers the carnage, but her need to avenge her grandmother is complicated by her desire for the hunter. Ultimately the villagers arrive at the house, looking for a werewolf within, only to discover a transformed Rosaleen.
Granny: Get ye back to Hell from whence ye came!
Huntsman: I don't come from Hell, I come from the forest.
Granny: What have you done with my Grand-daughter?
Huntsman: Nothing she didn't want!
Rosaleen: (a lock of hair singes in the fireplace) Is that all you left of her? Your kind can't stomach hair, can you? Even if the worst wolves are hairy on the inside.
Huntsman: Are you very much afraid?
Rosaleen: It wouldn't do me much good to be afraid, would it? What big eyes you have.
Huntsman: All the better to see you with.
Rosaleen: They say seeing is believing, but I'd never swear to it. They say the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. And as it turns out, they're right. A fine gentleman. Poor creatures. It's freezing cold out there. No wonder they howl so. I'm sorry. I never knew a wolf could cry.
Back in the present day, Rosaleen wakes with a scream. Countless wolves descend on her home, but most are actually large dogs--they don't have manes. The film ends in slow motion with a wolf smashing through Rosaleen's bedroom window: a very obvious phallic symbol. This wolf doesn't only smash the window, it also shatters the toys that are in its way.
Charles Perrault's moral from "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge" (1697) is then read over the beginning of the credits. The moral warns girls to beware of charming strangers.
Throughout the course of this gothic fantasy-horror film, a number of stories are interspersed into the main narrative as tales are told by several of the characters. Granny tells Rosaleen about a young groom (Stephen Rea) who is about to bed his new bride (Kathryn Pogson) when a call of nature summons him outside. He completely disappears and his bride is terrified to see wolves howling. A search the following day yields only a wolf paw print. Years later, she remarries and has children, only to have her original husband finally return. Angered at her having had children with a new husband, the groom transforms into werewolf form, but is slain when the new husband (Jim Carter) returns. Granny's second tale to Rosaleen is about a young man walking through the enchanted forest when he encounters the Devil (Terence Stamp), arriving in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, who offers the boy a transformation potion, which ultimately monstrously transforms him against his will.
Rosaleen tells her mother about a woman (Dawn Archibald) who was "done a terrible wrong" by a rich young nobleman (Richard Morant) who turns up at his wedding party. She magically transforms the groom, the bride and the guests into wolves. They escape into the forest, but the sorceress commands the wolves to serenade her and her child each night. Rosaleen also tells the huntsman/wolf about a she-wolf who arrives at a village. Despite meaning no harm, she is shot by a villager. She reveals herself in her human form (Danielle Dax) to an old priest (Graham Crowden), who bandages her wound. Ultimately she returns to hell through the village well.
Old Priest: (to wolf-girl) Are you God's work, or the Devil's? Oh, what do I care whose work you are? You poor, silent creature. (he binds her wound) It will heal. In time.
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES takes you into the disturbing world of a young girl's imagination where wolves run wild and witches cast spells. The ethereal setting develops into a Freudian nightmare, explaining adolescence through a twisted reenactment of "Little Red Riding Hood." Definitely one of the strangest movies made--a strangeness that alienates itself from high ratings but guarantees it a top place as a cult classic. It successfully combines the complexity of written literature with the visual symbolism of film. But the depth of abstract ideas it delivers come at the cost of fluent comprehension. Many of the ideas in the film require the complete understanding of the smallest detail. This movie requires viewers to actively connect ideas from each scene and is not suitable for those only prepared to watch a superficial horror flick.
Essentially a coming-of-age story, the movie came from a compilation of several short stories from Angela Carter, a short story writer who writes about women and adulthood. Carter is known for her attempts to deconstruct fairy tales in terms of adult meaning and to bring out an underlying Freudian subtext. Neil Jordan, the director of the movie, is a less known writer of horror novels, but a very well known director. Both took an active part in the adapting and expanding the story for the movie. The film is mostly based on Angela Carter's "The Company of Wolves" and "Wolf-Alice" from her book "The Bloody Chamber".
There is no linear story, rather the film is a series of vignettes and dreams within dreams, all of which point to old wives tales and folk superstitions. The film is a dark retelling of the classic fairytale "Little Red Riding Hood", making explicit its sexual and Freudian subtext. Perrault's original morality fable warns children not to trust strangers or stray from the path. However, Rosaleen doesn't simply fear being devoured by a wolf: she fears being sexually devoured. It is this fear and fascination with sexuality that is the heart of the film, a theme emphasized by the recurrent apple and the snake in Eden motif symbolizing sexual temptation, seduction, and loss of innocence. Despite her blossoming sexual awareness, Rosaleen fears marriage and adult responsibilities. Granny's warnings do nothing to dispel these fears, and she kisses a handsome man-wolf, choosing to become a wolf rather than his victim. She escapes the dreary conventional life that would have faced her, and instead finds personal and sexual freedom. The film uses the changing body of the werewolf as a metaphor for the horrors of puberty, menstruation, and sexual maturity. It's symbolism suggests that while adulthood and sexuality can be threatening, it can also be a desirable and necessary transition.
The cast also includes: Brian Glover (Amorous Boy's father), Susan Porrett (Amorous Boy's mother), Dawn Archibald (Witch Woman), Vincent McClaren (Devil Boy), Ruby Buchanan (Dowager), Jimmy Gardner (Ancient), Roy Evans (Eyepatch), Edward Marsen (Lame Fiddler), Jim Brown (Blind Fiddler), and Jim Carter (Second Husband). George Fenton composed the original music. Neil Jordan wrote the screenplay from Angela Carter's story. Neil Jordan directed.
The choice of music and sound becomes part of what the movie conveys. Classical and Irish music goes well with THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, creating the eerie ethereal atmosphere for the movie. In the wedding scene there is a good mix of classical and carnival music, re-enforcing the paradox amid the chaos of the ensuing horror brewing in the pack of wolves.
Music Track listing
1. "The Message And Main Theme"
2. "Rosaleen's First Dream"
3. "The Story Of The Bride And Groom: The Village Wedding/The Return Of The Groom"
4. "The Forest And The Huntsman's Theme"
5. "The Wedding Party"
6. "The Boy And The Devil"
7. "One Sunday Afternoon"
8. "All The Better To Eat You With: Arriving At Granny's Cottage/The Promise And Transformation"
9. "The Wolfgirl"
Good acting in the movie definitely adds to the power of the story. Sarah Patterson and Angela Lansbury do an excellent job. The entire cast is impressive, even the priest in the trees. Special effects used in the movie are a little outdated by today's digital-age standards. However, the incredible setting, scenery shots, and props successfully maintain the enchanting atmosphere required by the story. Almost everything in the movie is deliberate. Grandma's head is supposed to shatter, because it was intended to be symbolic.
It's difficult to make sense of THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, but it is frequently quite funny, and often meant to be. The special-effects people come up with a couple of comparatively conventional, horror-film decapitations and several unconventional ways in which men can turn into wolves on camera. This Red Riding Hood, sharing a single-room cabin with her mother and father, witnesses what in analysis is usually called ''the primal scene.'' The next morning she asks her mother if her father had hurt her. Mother answers, ''If there's a beast in men, it meets its match in women, too.''
The wolves are also a key to understanding this superficially puzzling film. It is very important that not all of the wolves in the film are male. The beast in women that Rosaleen's mother assures her daughter of is a feminist rebuke of the young woman as hapless victim--as sexual prey for a predatory male. These assurances also become fantastical reality later in the film. After Rosaleen's huntsman is reduced to a rather tame and whimpering wolf, she pets him and tells him the tale of a she-wolf before becoming one herself. Rosaleen's transformation seems both voluntary and freeing. It offers us a definitive reversal of the victim role in which Red Riding Hood and those interchangeable female horror film characters are typically cast. Although it is a lurid horror film, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES does not simply play on or reinforce the sexual anxieties of its audience. Instead, it presents both sides of sexuality, both threatening and desirable, as well as a level playing field for both genders.
Filming took place at Shepperton studios in England, with a cast primarily made up of British actors. THE COMPANY OF WOLVES found an appreciative audience among audiences and critics in the UK, but its US release was a disaster. Cannon bought the distribition rights and tried to market it as a gory horror film. There are some gruesome moments, but this movie would never satisfy an audience looking for cheap thrills. Financially, the film only broke even on its opening weekend in the U.S., having been made for approximately $2 million and taking $2,234,776 in 995 theaters. However, in total, the film took over $4 million in the U.S.
Critics generally responded positively to the film's aesthetics. Feminist critic Maggie Anwell decried the film for its over-emphasis on bloody werewolf special effects, but Charlotte Crofts argued that the film is a sensitive adaptation of Carter's reworking of Charles Perrault's "Little Red Riding Hood" fairytale. The film won one award for best film and best special effects and was nominated for four BAFTAs for costume design, make up, production design/art direction and special visual effects.
In the DVD commentary, Neil Jordan notes the difficulty of having to create the look of the film on a limited budget, having to create a fairytale forest out of "twelve trees." He nevertheless succeeded in creating a sunless, mystical, wondrous and claustrophobic setting saturated with fantastic elements and symbols. The script required a great number of wolves to appear. However, due to budgetary constraints and other factors such as cast safety, most of the "wolves" shown in the film are Belgian Shepherd Dogs, mainly Terveurens and Groenendals, whose fur was specially dyed. In the DVD commentary for the film, Jordan notes the bravery of young star Sarah Patterson when acting among the genuine wolves. Using particular light angles, the eyes of both real and "shepherd" wolves are made to glow dramatically in the film.
The Call of the Wild (1972) * * ¾
(first lines: narration)
The Indians in this frozen land tell of a ghost dog which runs at the head of a wolf pack. They are afraid. For it has more strength than any wolf, more cunning than any dog. No one knows from whence he came or why he stays. (Chapter 7: "The Sounding of the Call" from the book "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London.)
The movie begins with a winter scene of a pack of wolves including a German Shepherd dog surveying and then preying upon a large herd of caribou. It then cuts to the summer of 1897 in Santa Clara, California where Buck, a loyal spirited German Shepherd has it made as the family pet. That is until it is discovered that he is worth his weight in gold, or at least $75. He is sold to a broker who takes him to the Klondike where only dogs can do the work usually done by horses. There Buck goes through many lives, trials, and tribulations, and finally realizes his potential. On the way he learns many concepts such as surprise, deceit, cunning, loyalty, devotion, and love. As he is growing he feels "the call of the wild".
During the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, Buck is sold as a sled dog to rugged and fearless John Thorton (Charlton Heston), a kindly prospector out to make it rich in the snow-covered Yukon. Thorton is a twenty year veteran of Alaska and its harsh living and traveling conditions. He saw opportunity in the gold rush but it wasn't the gold. His plan was making his money by selling supplies to the onslaught of would be miners. John and his partner Pete (Raimund Harmstorf) landed their first job delivering mail for the U.S. government to isolated gold towns. All they needed for this job was knowledge and a good dog sled team. They had the knowledge and purchased the dogs.
Pete: I've never seen so many people.
John Thornton: And more are coming all the time. I tell ya, Pete, if this is the promised land, I'll take the open trail.
One of the dogs Thorton buys is Buck. They are both lucky to have each other. Unaccustomed to the freezing temperatures and snow through which he must pull Thorton's sled, Buck finds his new life quite difficult. However, Thorton does whatever he can to help Buck make the transition. As a result, a bond and unique friendship is formed between man and dog, and together they are able to endure the frigid weather and hardship of the wilderness, the savage lawlessness of the men who call it home, and survive life in the treacherous frozen North. Buck is a very intelligent German Shepard and learns to lead the team in no time. He is in good hands with Thornton who knows how to treat his dogs and actually cares for them. A lot of the greenhorn gold seekers treat their dogs badly and end up getting themselves killed along with their dogs.
Thorton and his team make their tough journey to Skagway and deliver the mail. Buck leads the dog team in covering the treacherous 600 mile journey from Skaguay to Dawson as the lead sled-dog in record time when no other dog team and it's owners would dare to try it. While the dogs are in a kennel for some much needed rest, some unscrupulous characters who couldn’t buy the dogs from Thornton steal the tired dogs. So with no rest at all the dogs are back out in the Alaskan countryside with a couple of thieves intent on making some big money. There are no other dogs in the town, so there is no way for Pete and Thornton to go after their dogs--they are gone. Buck is very smart and his captors die. One falls into a frozen river, and the other is frozen solid to the sled. The dogs take the sled to a small town where they are "claimed" and sold at an auction.
John Thornton: You hit that dog one more time, I'm gonna kill ya.
Hal: Go to hell! He's mine and I'll do what I like with him.
John Thornton: I shot four varmints already this morning. One more don't matter none to me.
Buck is stolen a number of times from Thorton, and once is almost shot and killed by the local bootlegger, but Buck always manages to escape and return home to John and Pete. Later Buck begins to yearn for a home in the wild. In the woods he develops a strong friendship with the local Timber Wolves. Torn between his two kind and caring human masters and his wolf family, Buck can't quite bring himself to break away from civilization to live in the wild. But one night a band of Indians attack the cabin where Thorton and Pete are staying and kill both of them. Buck and his wolf pack try to come to their rescue but are too late to save them.
With the two humans whom Buck loved now gone, he can now return to his distant descendants, the wild wolves in the dark and cold woods of the Klondike. In the end, Buck answers to something that was ingrained in his consciousness from the thousands of generations of canines that he evolved from: The Call of the Wild.
Academy Award winner Charlton Heston heads an international cast as John Thornton in this adaptation of the classic adventure novella by Jack London, famed author of "The Sea Wolf" and "White Fang". Like most movies based on great books, it falls a bit short. The directing was good, and the film has a good pace to it with a decent mixture of Alaskan scenery, action, romance, dreams, dogs and bad guys. And the story doesn't opt for the Hollywood "happy ending", it is a much more realistic.
The film was actually shot in Finland, but it looks like Alaska, with spectacular scenery. Acting is top notch. Heston gives us his usual with a great performance. Also very good are Raimund Harmstorf as his partner Pete, and Michèle Mercier as Calliope Laurent. The best acting of all may come from the dog Buck, especially when he interacts with the wolves . He does a remarkable job and makes his role a real character and not just an animal doing tricks. The sets are also noteworthy, with the era, clothing, gear and sets believably authentic and very well done. It's very reminiscent of the WHITE FANG (1991) sets, but they look even more authentic. The cinematography is very good with many outdoor shots of the pristine frozen wilderness. However, the lush music score doesn't always fit the film--it's a bit over dramatic and unsuitable at times. Near the beginning there is some choir music more appropriate for a horror film.
The cast also includes: George Eastman (Black Burton), Maria Rohm (Mercedes), Juan Luis Galiardo (Seze), Sancho Gracia (Taglish Charlie), Friedhelm Lehmann (Charles), Horst Heuck (Hal), Rik Battaglia (Dutch Harry), Alf Malland (Constantine), Alfredo Mayo (Judge Miller), Sverre Wilberg (Colonel), Olov Pedersen (Red Sweater), Per Amvik (François), Torbjørn Halvorsen (Perrault), Hans Stormoen (Master of Ceremonies), Kåre Siem (Piano Player), Dan Rosse (Old Miner), Roy Bjørnstad (Storeman), Ola B. Johannessen (Con Man), Per Tofte (Runner), Antonio Mayans (Jack), Jennifer Roberts (Mollie), Jody Hanson (Alice), Luis Barboo, Charly Bravo, and Buck the dog (Buck). Carlo Rustichelli composed the original music. Peter Yeldham, Win Wells, Harry Alan Towers, and Tíbor Reves wrote the screenplay based on Jack London's book. Hubert Frank wrote the German screenplay. Federico De Urrutia wrote the Italian screenplay. Ken Annakin directed.
This wonderfully naturalistic movie is not for the weak at heart. The story line was taken from Jack London's adventures of his own life experiences. It's moving and not supposed to be easy on the emotions. This film holds nothing back. All the highlights of the original story are portrayed and Charlton Heston has the main character John Thornton down to a tee. And unlike some Disney versions we see Buck's tribute and love for John. It's an adventure movie that parents and kids can enjoy together. However, the love story between Thorton and Buck is beautifully captured but some should be warned that there are a lot of scenes of animal abuse, which will certainly bother some.
The film is a European co-production with actors of several nations: German Raimund Harmstorf, French Michele Mercier, English Maria Rohm, Spanish Juan Luis Galiardo, and Italian George Eastaman. Charlton Heston said this is his worst film, but it is entertaining and watchable although it has a familiar story. This is definitely a European-style film from the 1970s. Everything about it speaks loudly about the European influence: the cast, the music, the cinematography, and the editing. Heston isn't miscast here like some say, he's just very different from what might be expected, but does an admirable job. Some of his best film work was during this time, not the studio blockbusters he was known for prior to this.
THE CALL OF THE WILD has been adapted to film a number of times. In 1908 D.W. Griffith produced an American short film. A 1923 version directed by Hal Roach starred Jack Mulhall. In 1935, William Wellman directed Clark Gable and Loretta Young in a Hollywood-style romance about a young widow and a Yukon prospector. A popular success, this version of the film took various liberties with London's plot. In 1976 James Dickey wrote the script for a made for TV movie starring John Beck as John Thornton. In 1997 THE CALL OF THE WILD: DOG OF THE YUKON was made in Canada for TV, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and starring Rutger Hauer. CALL OF THE WILD is also a 2000 TV series on Animal Planet. In 2007 a documentary THE CALL OF THE WILD was produced about the American wanderer Christopher McCandless.
In Jack London's book, Buck's father was a Saint Bernard and his mother was a German Shepherd. The German Shepherd or Alsatian breed was created in 1889 by Captain Max von Stephanitz. He used a breeding "formula" which included 25 to 35 % wolf. All dogs trace their ancestry back 10,000 years to Old World wolves, but the German Shepherd is one third "recent wolf".
White Fang (1991) * * *
A fluffy white rabbit is seen at the beginning of WHITE FANG, attacked and devoured by a wolf pack almost before the opening credits are over. It's a scenic and enveloping nature film about a young man and his pet wolf. The movie is adapted from Jack London's classic 1906 novel "White Fang", a tale of a wolf and his encounters with civilized man. "White Fang" is basically a sequel to "Call of the Wild", Jack London's 1903 story of a dog who becomes wild and leads a wolf pack, whereas "White Fang" is the story of a wolf who eventually lives a dog’s life with a loving master. Most of the encounters are between animals and are presented from the wolf's point of view.
This movie has almost nothing to do with London's novel. The screenwriters invented a seasoned gold miner named Alex Larson (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and a city kid named Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke), who comes to Alaska to pick up his father's prospecting claim, to fulfill his father's dying wish to find gold in the Yukon Valley. It's a familiar story: boy meets wolf, boy loses wolf and so on. When Jack first arrives in the Klondike, he catches sight of a "golden staircase", an endless line of miners climbing a snowy trail high up a mountain peak. The film includes many other Alaska images as strikingly beautiful as this.
Jack finds his father's old partners: the moody foreigner Alex Larson and the amiable but wild Skunker (Seymour Cassel). Ringleader Alex reluctantly agrees to let Jack accompany them as they travel to bury their partner Dutch. Before this man can be buried, the expedition becomes imperiled by a couple of gruesome but rivetingly staged mishaps. Skunker and Alex may not be the easiest two men to get along with, but they're all the company Jack has in braving the treacherous Yukon Territory. Alex guides Jack to his father's claim. On the quest, the men must endure grueling weather, thin ice, and a hungry pack of wolves. This last obstacle provides the film's second central orphan, a wolf who comes to be adopted by Han Indians and named Mia Tuk, which translates as "White Fang."
Jack Conroy: Is there any good reason why we can't just bury him here? I don't think he'll know the difference.
Alex Larson: I gave him my word.
(They have just finished burying Dutch)
Alex Larson: Let's move out.
Jack Conroy: Aren't you going to say anything?
Alex Larson: You know what?
Jack Conroy: What?
Alex Larson: I never really liked the bastard.
(About Jack Conroy)
Skunker: What's he doing?
Alex Larson: Cleaning his teeth.
Skunker: How'd they get dirty?
Jack Conroy: What's his name?
Grey Beaver: Mia Tuk.
Jack Conroy: What's that mean?
Grey Beaver: White Fang.
As the film progresses, each of its two narrative threads moves from the peril-laced wilderness to the seemingly safer confines of domesticity. For Jack, this means digging for gold and teaching Alex to read on the side. For White Fang (Jed), his relocation to a nearby harbor town brings a far worse fate. His new owners transform him into a savage warrior in illegal to-the-death dogfights that allow them to prosper.
Because the film's story has been stitched together out of separate episodes, it is held together chiefly by White Fang himself. He is a hybrid wolf, ¾ wolf and ¼ dog. First glimpsed as a puppy, he is later found in an Indian settlement working for Grey Beaver (Pius Savage), who views him as a resource rather than a pet. When Jack finds White Fang living under these circumstances, he is saddened but helpless to rescue the animal. Only when White Fang is sold to the evil Beauty Smith (James Remar), who trains him as a fighter, does Jack have an opportunity to retrieve and rehabilitate his animal friend. Beauty and his lackeys train White Fang to hate so he can win vicious dogfights and earn money for his opportunistic owners. White Fang is put in an illegal dog fighting pen where he becomes a professional, experienced and cruel killer.
Jack rescues the wolf, which he names White Fang, a kindred spirit who changes his life forever. They have adventures and make a few enemies on their way to finding the gold mine. From the taming of a wolf, to the taming of the wild, Jack must find the courage to conquer his fears and become a man in this spectacular outdoor adventure. When a group of criminals tries to steal Jack's gold, White Fang is the only one who can help him to fight them off.
Jack and White Fang must endure some trying times, and one of these--a close encounter with a big brown bear--involves both, as the wild dog stands up to the much larger, more imposing foe and saves the terrified Jack's life. The incident reinforces Jack's admiration for the fierce wolf. While the two part ways--Jack with Alex to reach his father's isolated cabin, White Fang to remain an unappreciated worker for the Han--it's inevitable that their paths will cross again. The movie does forecast its moments of danger and suspense a bit more than needed, but this is probably the only way of catering to its family film classification.
The film's picturesque episodes include scenes of the young White Fang exploring an ice cave, glimpses of the young wolf fishing and a wolf versus bear fight featuring the animal actors Jed and Bart, both of which perform well. Humans are upstaged by both the animals and the stunning Alaskan landscape, from the snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes of winter to the rich green forests and whitecap rivers of summer. The simulated scenes of dogfights and wild wolves hunting game are carefully shot to avoid bloodshed, but they may still be too intense for young children. Among the sorts of incidental touches that help sustain interest, the film also shows how gold is mined and tested. However, the film has a savage wolf pack attacking some humans and gobbling up another off-screen. These scenes trouble naturalists battling centuries of anti-wolf prejudice. Albert Manville, a senior biologist for the Defenders of Wildlife and a consultant on the movie, objected to the wolf attack scene during production. Disney quickly agreed to run a disclaimer reminding audiences, "There has never been a documented case of a healthy wolf or pack of wolves attacking a human in North America."
WHITE FANG is a sweet, understated movie. As the best-known of at least eleven film adaptations that date back to 1925 and span the globe, this version may not satisfy those expecting a faithful retelling of London's famous novel. Perhaps inevitably, the author's unique manner of prose, animal point-of-view, and comments on violence and civilization get lost in favor of a somewhat simple but poignant human-driven story. Still, the movie seems to have its heart in the right place, celebrating some easily supportable spirit, even if it's not London's. For viewers unfamiliar with London's book, it is a great movie.
Dialogue is used sparingly and always serves the film and its characters. Director Randal Kleiser brings a steady hand to the proceedings, which never wander into sentimentality. Even the semi-clear parallels between Jack and the wolf are never overplayed for the sake of young audience members. The movie boasts impressive photography of the snowy and mountainous scenery (Alaska fills in for the Yukon) and a pleasing prominent score from Basil Poledouris. Ethan Hawke proves competent in a role that transitioned him from child actor to young leading man, Seymour Cassel is very memorable in his limited screen time, and Jed the hybrid wolf gives a superb performance.
An adventurous film that's almost certain to frighten youngsters, WHITE FANG feels like one of the last installments in the era of edgy live-action fare that marked 1980s Disney. Though not humorless, White Fang definitely merits a PG rating, with several intense action sequences that has disclaimers both at the beginning and end vouching for the filmmakers' humane treatment of animal actors. There is also a scary blue corpse. Though not excellent, this period drama succeeds in evoking sympathy for and interest in its compelling human and canine leads. While it's too intense for younger children, older kids and adults should easily take to this film. It's straightforward and fairly simple, but difficult not to like, a heart-warming story with good performances and photography that captures all the epic majesty of the Alaskan landscape.
The cast also includes: Susan Hogan (Belinda Casey), Bill Moseley (Luke), Aaron Hotch (Little Beaver), Charles Jimmie Sr. (Older Indian), Clifford Fossman (Old Timer 1), Irvin Sogge (Old Timer 2), Tom Fallon (Prospector), Dick Mackey (Sled Dog Prospector), Suzanne Kent (Heather), Robert C. Hoelen (Bar Patron), George Rogers (Registrar), Michael David Lally (Sykes), Raymond R. Menaker (Shopkeeper), David Fallon (Lookout), Michael A. Hagen (Teenager), Diane E. Benson (Grey Beaver's Wife), Robert Scott Kyker (Frozen Prospector 1), Tom Yewell (Frozen Prospector 2), John Beers (Sykes' Dog Handler), Van Clifton (Piano Player), Jim Moore (Violin Player), Marliese Schneider (Woman of the Night), Bart the Bear (The Bear), and Jed the hybrid wolf (White Fang). Basil Poledouris composed the original music. Jeanne Rosenberg, Nick Thiel, and David Fallon wrote the screenplay from Jack London's novel. Randal Kleiser directed.
Though treated to a 16x9 enhanced transfer for DVD release overseas, WHITE FANG is relegated to a 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation in the US, mildly differing from its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Compared to the Region 2 disc, this is an open-matte presentation. While that means that cropping on the sides is usually minimal, careful compositions are sacrificed with the addition of excess space at the top and bottom of the frame. The removal of mattes is more noticeable here than on similarly-processed films. Furthermore, the picture quality just isn't very good. The opening credits and logo are especially spotty and plagued with artifacts. Even if the apparent shortcomings of optical shots can be quickly forgiven, the entire film looks grainy, blurry, and soft. It never allows the detail or sharpness that DVD usually provides and, in turn, the movie feels a little more distant than it should.
There's not as much to complain about with the Dolby Surround soundtrack, but it sets no standard for quality. Dialogue is often difficult to make out, perhaps due in part to the authentic environment or Mr. Brandauer's thick accent, though I think some blame probably lies with this DVD's sound mix. On the other hand, Poledouris's fine score is nicely conveyed, spreading into the rear channel to add a welcome layer of depth. There are no bonus features, not even a sympathy stretch like a set of promos for the studio's other DVDs. There's nothing except a Spanish audio track. The 4x3 menus are as basic as possible, with the still, silent screens featuring wintry imagery from the film.
It's always frustrating when a movie gets treated to an extremely feeble DVD, one which flounders in the picture and sound departments, provides no bonus features whatsoever, and fails to even present the film in its intended ratio. It's all the more disheartening when the movie has merit, as this one does. WHITE FANG would merit consideration for nearly any DVD collection were it treated with some respect or at least underwent a couple more price cuts. As it is, this presentation is nearly as much a letdown of a DVD as its 1994 sequel is of a movie.
Disney released the sequel WHITE FANG 2: MYTH OF THE WHITE WOLF four years later in 1994. Besides the presence of a hybrid wolf (part dog) named White Fang and its setting in the Alaska Gold Rush days, the story bears no resemblance to London's original story. Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke), the hero of the first Disney film, has bequeathed his gold mine and the wolf White Fang to young Henry Casey (Scott Barstow). The boy and wolf thwart a would-be thief and decide to take their gold to San Francisco. While rafting to the nearest town, they capsize, lose their gold, and are separated. Lily Joseph (Charmaine Craig), a young Indian princess, rescues Henry from the rapids. She, along with her tribal chief Moses Joseph (Al Harrington) and his followers, believes that Henry is the reincarnation of a great spirit wolf who will help the Haida tribe find the Great Caribou. Henry and Lily fall in love, and Henry sets out to find the legendary Caribou who will save the tribe from extinction.
The pair must rely on their sharp, cunning instincts for survival when they risk it all to protect a peaceful Native American tribe whose homeland is targeted by dangerous miners. Henry Casey and White Fang help the Indian tribe solve the mystery of their disappearing caribou supply. Combining incredible outdoor action and breathtaking wilderness scenery, this is a rousing story of extraordinary courage and bold determination. Although some scenes take place in the dwellings of Henry and the Indians, most of the action takes place outdoors. In one of the first action scenes, White Fang jumps through an open window in Henry's cabin to stop an intruder outside who is about to shoot Henry. This was a completely open window, posing no danger to the dog. White Fang was played by several dogs.
Like every sequel Disney makes, WHITE FANG 2 is inferior to the original. What makes it inferior is not that it is rehashing the same concept, because it actually moves away from the ideas and focus of the original movie. WHITE FANG 2 capitalizes on the wolf's heroic qualities seen from the ending moments of the original to carry an entire film. We're still in Alaska, and it's still the same time period, but the sequel's story focuses on Jack's friend Henry Casey, whom he has left in charge of his cabin and gold-mining operations. Ethan does appear in the opening sequence, as he writes a letter from the San Fransisco hotel that he is now working on with Alex. It is this one brief appearance at the opening that is probably the best part about WHITE FANG 2. The new star of the show is Scott Bairstow and his adequate performance is the sole beacon of hope in this disappointing film.
The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) * * ¾
In 1935, 14 year-old Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger) lives in Chicago with her father Sol (Ray Wise) and her dog. She sneaks cigarettes in the bathroom, and gets into scuffles with the boys who are her friends. Natty is an old-fashioned tomboy heroine who is feisty and spunky. Her father, her one living parent leaves their Chicago home to work in the state of Washington at a logging job. He has to leave so quickly that there isn't time for him to say good-bye to Natty. With only an hour or so to get on the bus, he arranges with Connie (Lainie Kazan), the burly, bad-tempered landlady of the rooming house where he and Natty are living, to look after Natty until he can send for her. After overhearing Connie reporting her as an abandoned child, Natty is only temporarily daunted by this setback. She quickly takes matters into her own hands and runs away.
Sherman: Sol, you got no choice. It's a job.
Sol Gann: Yeah.
Sherman: Oh, no, Natty. (puppy yips in background) Do I look like an animal shelter?
Natty Gann: Don't worry, I'll keep this one.
Sherman: That's what you said the last time.
Natty hits the rails and heads west in a quest to find her father, and has many anecdotal bittersweet adventures. On her journey, she comes across all sorts of people, and very few are interested in helping her. Some of the cruel or kindly strangers she encounters take her in. There are many scenes of Natty barely making it through her scrapes as she rides in rail-road cars, backs of trucks, and hikes her way through the woods trying to find her way to Seattle. Her unpleasant encounters and various obstacles test her courage, perseverance, and ingenuity. She is tough enough to eat a wild rabbit for food, but still cringes when she has to gut it with her pocket knife. There are definitely some tense, scary moments on her journey. Natty's saving grace is that she finds parent figures along the way.
Logging Boss: What's the matter, Gann?
Sol Gann: They found my kid's wallet buried under a train in Colorado.
Logging Boss: Ah no.
Sol Gann: What the hell was she doing in Colorado?
To a great extent, this is a girl meets wolf love story, with some of the film's most satisfying moments being those between Natty and Wolf (Jed), the animal companion she encounters and befriends, and who quickly gives her his complete devotion and protection. They travel together for much of the movie. As Wolf, Jed the hybrid wolf (part dog) gives a brilliant and believable performance. Salenger is equally excellent, and she carries the movie nicely. Her scenes with Wolf are as moving as anything that takes place among the film's human characters.
Harry: Nice dog.
Natty Gann: It's a wolf. I'm cold.
Harry: Buck up kid, will ya?
Natty Gann: I'm bucking! (turns to Wolf) I'm bucking, right?
Harry: You're a real woman of the world, kid.
(Harry has just hauled Natty into the boxcar, where she was dangling dangerously over the edge)
Harry: You know, uh, you can get hurt that way.
Hobo: I thought that one was a goner. Rail meat. Little bits of blood and busted...
Harry: Leave the kid alone!
Natty Gann: You ain't seen Chicago, you ain't seen nothin'.
Harry: (opens the door to a barn, looks inside, then speaks to Natty) It looks safe. Come on. Come on! It's empty! Nothin' in here but a pig, and he sure don't care.
Louie: Shh. Hold your ears.
Natty Gann: What?
Louie: Don't listen.
Natty Gann: Don't be dumb. I've heard a man pee before.
Louie: Yeah? Where?
Natty Gann: None of your business.
She meets a farm wife (Verna Bloom), tough but nice juvenile delinquent Parker
(Barry Miller), and Harry (John Cusack) who similarly lost his own father years earlier and had to survive the harsh world of a drifter. The pair develop an innocent romantic attachment. Harry teaches her how to ride the rails and offers her his meager can of beans when she's hungry. Because of his fatherly kindness to Natty, it's a little off-putting when a romance blooms between the two. Harry's role is well acted and richly developed, but frustration comes from the misleading cover art and posters. The viewer would think that he's in almost every scene and carries the film with Meredith Salenger. Harry is half of this movie but still doesn't have enough screen time to warrant second billing above Natty's father or even the wolf. Still, Harry helps this film, keeping his fedora firmly in place with his small share of running, jumping and falling off of water towers. Meanwhile, her father has found out about Natty's disappearance and, seriously worried, sets out to look for her. There is genuine pathos in the final development of events.
THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN is a subtle road movie that captures the feel of the Depression era. The despair of the time looms over the entire movie, but equally present is a sense of hope in Natty's journey. It's not a perfect movie, but it's certainly an intelligent and thoughtful one, enjoyable but rather slow. NATTY GANN is both a period piece which captures the spirit of 1930's America and a coming-of-age adventure story for its title character. Though good-hearted it is relatively uninvolving, and the whole thing should probably be a good deal more wrenching than it feels. Granted, it follows the Disney formula but it has the cuts and scrapes from playing too close to the razor’s edge. It's rough around the edges and yet isn't a movie that you would be embarrassed to see with your kids. It's suitable for all audiences, but contains a little bit of strong language and a couple of mildly gory lumbering accidents.
The cast also includes: Scatman Crothers (Sherman), Bruce M. Fischer (Charlie Linfield), John Finnegan (Logging Boss), Jack Rader (Employment Agent), Matthew Faison (Buzz), Jordan Pratt (Frankie), Zachary Ansley (Louie), Campbell Lane (Chicago Moderator), Max Trumpower (Chicago Worker), Doug MacLeod (Chicago Worker), Gary Chalk (Chicago Worker), Dwight McFee (Chicago Worker), Peter Anderson (Unemployed Worker), Corliss M. Smith Jr. (Bus Driver), Hagan Beggs (Policeman), Ian Black (Hobo), Ray Michal (Hobo), Clint Rowe (Bullwhip), Frank C. Turner (Farmer), Jack Ackroyd (Grocery Clerk), Grant Heslov (Parker's Gang), Gary Riley (Parker's Gang), Scott Andersen (Parker's Gang), Ian Tracey (Parker's Gang), Jennifer Michas (Parker's Gang), Wally Marsh (Interrogator), Kaye Grieve (Matron), Hannah Cutrona (Twinky), Gabrielle Rose (Exercise Matron), Marie Klingenberg (Dormitory Matron), Stephen E. Miller (Guard), Robert Clothier (Railroad Official), Don S. Davis (Railroad Brakeman), Alex Diakun (Station Master), Tom Heaton (Railroad Deek), Harvey M. Miller (Railroad Deek), Sheelah Megill (Lady at Mill), Jeff Ramsey (Logging Driver), Gary Hendrickson (Logger), Wally Beeton (Logger), Doug Boyd (Logger), Bryan Couture (Logger), Al MacIntosh (Logger), Lorne LaRiviere (Logger), Bob Storms (Logger), Nancy-Rae Aaron (Girl Hobo), Rachael Clark (Destitute Child), David Paul Hewitt White (Unemployed worker), and hybrid wolf Jed (Wolf). James Horner composed the original music. Jeanne Rosenberg wrote the screenplay. Jeremy Kagan directed.
01. Main Title (01:57)
02. Leaving (03:21)
03. Freight Train (02:45)
04. First Love (03:31)
05. Into Town (02:32)
06. Goodbye (02:22)
07. Rustling (03:07)
08. The Forest (02:01)
09. Early Morning (01:45)
10. Getting There (01:14)
11. Farewell (03:23)
12. Reunion – End Title (05:10)
13. Locked Up (03:12)
14. Hotel Escape (01:54)
15. Riding The Rails (01:29)
16. To Seattle (03:18)
On DVD you feel as if you're only seeing half the picture. And you are. Since THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN is a 2.35:1 widescreen film, and Disney has released it exclusively in Pan and Scan, the result is a loss of just under 50% of the image. The video quality on this DVD is horrible. It looks like an old, worn-out videocassette. The picture is extremely soft and grainy, and it feels as if the movie is about twice as old as it really is. Detail is awful, the entire video just feels soft and faded, like a dollar bill having been run in the washing machine. There are digital artefacts and other distracting flaws throughout, a number of framing problems that result from the pan and scan, and significant image loss. Furthermore, the wide photography of the images in nature that play a large role in the film's journey are rendered completely ineffective. You are constantly aware that the picture is heavily zoomed in and that you are missing much visual information.
It's a shame that the filmmakers spent time and effort to frame Natty Gann meticulously, only to have the movie drastically chopped up to fit the dimensions of a 4 x 3 television set. The quality of the film in general varies from crystal clear landscapes to grainy night and interior shots. Had Anchor Bay held onto the DVD release rights to this film that they once had, we would have undoubtedly seen a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, and there is no way it could look as bad as the pan & scan transfer looks on this DVD. It's tragic that a great movie with some truly majestic outdoor photography and impressive set designs is released in a disappointing version. There's some hope that if this is ever released on Disney Blu-Ray that we'll get to see the non-cropped version of this for the first time in over 20 years.
Matching the video quality in terms of futility, the audio mix for THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN sounds like an old worn-out videocassette. The track sounds distant and lacks clarity throughout. It's almost as disappointing as the video. There are a number of instances where, if you haven't seen the movie before, you'll have to rewind to hear what was said. Either that, or there's the English subtitles which can decode some of the fuzzy dialogue. Like the other recent live-action catalogue Disney DVD releases, NATTY GANN has nothing in the way of extras. No trailer, no production notes, no making-of features, no cast and crew bios and notes. Absolutely barebones for this disc, which looks like it was made in the time it took to convert the laserdisc files to DVD. It has "rush job" written all over it. No effort was made to present the movie in a decent fashion. It's appalling that a DVD looking like this makes its way onto the market today.
Wolf (1994) * * ¾
Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) is a mild-mannered, middle-aged man who is a senior book editor for a publishing company. Driving home one night from a business trip in Vermont, he hits an animal on the road. When he gets out of his car to check on the condition of the animal, he discovers it to be a wolf, which bites him under a full moon. Randall is demoted from his job as managing editor of a publishing house when the company is taken over by wealthy business tycoon Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer). Alden replaces him with Randall's own ambitious protege Stewart Swinton (James Spader), who also happens to be having an affair with Randall's wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan).
Randall: I did it the old fashioned way.
Charlotte: What do you mean?
Randall: I begged.
Charlotte: I never loved Stewart. It was a mistake Will. I'm going to talk to him. Stewart, never for one moment, mentioned he loved me.
Randall: You think that makes it better? To betray me over and over again with a man that meant nothing to you? To know you betrayed me for nothing.
Charlotte: Don't be a smug...
Randall: Don't touch me! And keep away.
Randall begins undergoing a physical metamorphosis. He no longer needs reading glasses, his hearing is extremely acute, and he has a very keen sense of smell. He can smell tequila on the breath of a coworker from 20 feet away and hear conversations from across the lobby. Soon he starts feeling rejuvenated, revitalized, more aggressive, and becomes more assertive in fighting for his job back. Eventually, Randall also realizes that he is taking on the characteristics of a wolf. He is supported by his loyal secretary Mary (Eileen Atkins) and underling Roy (David Hyde Pierce), and gets his job back. Swinton is informed, in no uncertain terms, who is top dog. Randall also discovers that Charlotte has betrayed his love and devotion, causing him to leave her. It is a betrayal that is to have dire consequences for her.
Randall: I've been offered a choice between no job and a job no one would want.
Mary: Is the worm turning, Mr. Randall?
Randall: The worm has turned and it is now packing an Uzi, Mary.
Mary: It's about f**king time, sir.
Roy: How many investors do we have?
Randall: I don't know. Haven't called any yet.
Roy: But you want me to say it anyway?
Roy: Second thing: Is any of this true?
Randall: Not yet.
Roy: You are my God.
Randall: You are such a polished ass kisser that it takes my breath away.
Swinton: I kiss 'em like I see 'em. (Randall urinates on his shoes) What are you crazy?
Randall: No! I'm just marking my territory, and you got in the way.
In the process of regaining his life, Randall falls in love with the boss's beautiful, headstrong daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer), and she with him. The transformation of Randall into a werewolf is subtle, and there is very little use of special effects to enhance his metamorphosis. He conveys to the viewer what he is undergoing with a flick of the eyebrow, a twitch of the nose, and a curl of the lips. However, he also finds that he has the urge to hunt and kill at nighttime, and becomes terrified of the monster he carries inside. His first escapade as a wolf takes place at Laura's countryside cottage, where he wakes up in the middle of the night and hunts down a deer. In the morning he finds himself on the bank of a forest stream, dunks his head in water and realizes he has blood all over his face and hands. He then drives back to the city in a state of confused trepidation, his alarm at his animal characteristics leading him to ignore conventional medical tests.
Randall: What do you do?
Laura: Why do you care?
Randall: I don't. I was just making polite conversation.
Laura: I'd rather not discuss what I do.
Randall: You know, I think I understand what you're like now. You're very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you're beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you're you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you're not very interesting. You're rude, you're hostile, you're sullen, you're withdrawn. I know you want someone to look past all that at the real person underneath but the only reason anyone would bother to look past all that is because you're beautiful. Ironic, isn't it? In an odd way you're your own problem.
Laura: Sorry. Wrong line. I am not taken aback by your keen insight and suddenly challenged by you.
Randall: I've never loved anybody this way. Never looked at a woman and thought, if civilization fails, if the world ends, I'll still understand what God meant.
He visits an Indian healer, Dr. Vijay Alezias (Om Puri), who gives him an amulet intended to protect him from turning completely into a wolf. Alezias asks Randall to bite him as a return favor, as Alezias himself does not have long to live. On being asked by Randall whether he would "prefer demonization to death", Dr. Alezias replies that it would be a boon rather than a bane. He tells Randall that he is a good man at heart and so has nothing to fear. Dr. Vijay Alezias also explains that sometimes one does not even need to be bitten to change. Sometimes the mere passion of the wolf inside of them can transform them.
Dr. Alezias: The demon wolf is not evil, unless the man he has bitten is evil. And it feels good to be a wolf, doesn't it?
Randall: Indeed it does.
Dr. Alezias: Power without guilt. Love without doubt.
As his professional life is restored, Randall fires his young nemesis Stewart, deepening each others hatred for the other. Later, Randall inadvertently bites Stewart, who becomes a werewolf as well. Stewart ends up murdering Charlotte, in an attempt to frame Randall and seize back Randall's job at the publishing house.
Randall is shattered by his wife's murder, and thinking that it might have been his alter-ego state that killed her, goes back with Laura to her cottage, where he agrees to be locked up in the barn. Laura then gets a call from the police detective Bridger (Richard Jenkins) investigating Charlotte's murder, and learns that it was a canine attack that killed her. Alarmed that Randall might be the unknowing perpetrator, she goes alone to the police station to find out more. There she runs into Stewart, who makes an animal-like pass at her, revealing himself to also be a werewolf. Laura hurries off from the station, making arrangements for Randall and her to leave the country.
Swinton: Good evening Miss Alden. May I call you Laura? Laura, if you scream, I'll kill you. I'll just... break your neck, okay? If you find me so attractive, how about me f**king you to death right now darling, how would that be?
Laura Alden: I don't know I'll have to try it.
Swinton: I'm not a fool, Laura.
Laura Alden: I know that.
Swinton realizes that she has gone back, and follows her to the cottage and kills her two guards. After a brief struggle in the barn, where Randall is locked in, he tries to rape her. But Randall frees himself from his stall, and they battle as werewolves. Evil Swinton is then shot to death by Laura. Randall, meanwhile, turns into a complete wolf and runs off into the forest. Laura shows signs of a wolf's heightened senses when the police arrive, telling the lead detective that she can smell the Vodka on his breath. The last scene is a close-up of her face fading into dark, lupine eyes, preceded with previously-shown shots of an animal running wildly through the forest. It's a peculiar but great finale with a twist.
Jack Nicholson becomes a werewolf in this bizarre comedy-horror film directed by Mike Nichols. This is a contemporary thinking person's werewolf movie. If you are a horror film fan who likes excessive gore, as well as high-tech special effects, this is not the film for you, as there is very little of that in WOLF. This is a subtle, multi-layered, symbolic horror film that will leave you analyzing what you see. The opening sequences are beautifully filmed, and the moon and snow look gorgeous. It's an intelligent, literate story about a mid-life crisis and an interesting updating of the werewolf nonsense.
Film critics generally like it, but many viewers seem to find it dull and uninteresting, with elements of several genres thrown together in a big mess. It's a little dull in places, and probably could have been edited down by at least fifteen minutes. WOLF is much more intelligent than other werewolf movies, and does have a few interesting ideas and metaphors that haven't been done before. This thriller doesn't have any transformation scenes. When the hero turns into a humanoid wolf, he suddenly has muttonchop sideburns and his hair is messed up.
The cast also includes: Eileen Atkins (Mary), Ron Rifkin (Doctor), Prunella Scales (Maude), Brian Markinson (Detective Wade), Peter Gerety (George), Bradford English (Keyes), Stewart J. Zully (Gary), Thomas F. Duffy (Tom), Tom Oppenheim (Butler), Shirin Devrim (Party Guest), Allison Janney (Party Guest), Kirby Mitchell (Party Guest), Madhur Jaffrey (Party Guest), William Hill (Party Guest), Cynthia O'Neal (Party Guest), Timothy Thomas (Party Guest), Lisa Emery (Party Guest), Leigh Carlson (Party Guest), Alice Liu (Party Guest), Max Weitzenhoffer (Party Guest), Irene Forrest (Office Worker), Jennifer Nicholson (Office Worker), Jack Nisbet (Office Worker), Dale Kasman (Office Worker), Jeffrey Allen O'Den (Office Worker), Jose Soto (Gang Member), Van Bailey (Gang Member), Dwayne McClary (Gang Member), Elizabeth Massie (Alden's Secretary), Joanna Sanchez (Receptionist), Eva Rodriguez (Maid), Lia Chang (Desk Clerk), Starletta DuPois (Victim's Mother), Oz Perkins (Cop), David Schwimmer (Cop), Christopher Birt (Cop), Kaity Tong (TV Newscaster), Dorinda Katz (Shopper), Rawleigh Moreland (Party Guest / Publisher), and Michael Raynor. The original music was composed by Ennio Morricone. Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick wrote the screenplay. Mike Nichols directed.
The casting is inspired, the storyline is intelligent, and the pace alternates appropriately between day and night. What ultimately cripples WOLF is that the script seems to dry up as it goes along. There is a scene with the expert about half way through the movie that is filled with potential plot developments. Unfortunately, the internal logic soon begins to break down. Many of the possibilities suggested earlier never emerge and new random elements appear as the plot begins to spiral out of control, ending in a series of confrontations that are unsubtle, unsatisfying and weak.
Sophisticated to a point, this well-executed werewolf tale works due to its clever setting and enormous star power. Director Mike Nicholson keeps the action alive in the first half but the film peters out at the end with cheap theatrics and the overuse of slow motion. Michelle Pfeiffer has little to do as simply the love interest with a grittier than average personality. Better is James Spader as a smarmy colleague. Nicholson is in fine form, relying on his acting skills to spark interest instead of using make-up. Giuseppe Rotunno's sweeping camerawork sets the mood quite well.
Music for the movie was by Ennia Marricane. Editing was done by Sam O'Steen with distribution and production by Columbia Pictures. Filming locations were the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles, the General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, California, New York City, New York, Long Island, New York, Sony Picture Studios, Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, New York and Roxbury, Vermont. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. holds the copyright to the movie.
WOLF was released to US theaters on June 17th, 1994, with a run time of 2 hours and 5 minutes. The movie's gross at the box office was $65,002,597 domestically and $131,002,597 worldwide, while making another $34,000,000 on US rentals. The budget was $70,000,000. WOLF was initially delayed for six to eight months due to poor critical reaction to the third act. After re-shoots, however, critics thought the ending was more satisfying and thrilling.
The movie was released in South Korea on July 23rd, 1994, Argentina on August 4th 1994, the UK on August 26th, 1994, the Netherlands on September 1st, 1994, Finland on September 2nd, 1994, France on September 14th, 1994, the Phillipines on September 14th, 1994, Germany on September 15th, 1994, Australia on September 22nd, 1994, Spain on September 30th, 1994 and Sweden on September 30th, 1994. It also premiered on TV in Indonesia on January 15th, 2005.
THE WOLF MAN (1941) * * *
Lawrence Stewart Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns to his father's estate in Llanwelly, Wales after an absence of 18 years. He meets his father Sir John (Claude Rains), no mention is made of his mother, and his older brother John Jr. recently died in a hunting accident. Larry visits an antique shop and buys a cane with a silver wolf's head. The young saleslady Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) says the symbolism involves werewolves.
Throughout the film, characters recite poems such as: "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
Gwen and her friend Jenny Williams (Fay Helm) accompany Larry to a gypsy fair where Jenny decides to have her fortune told by Bela (Bela Lugosi). The gypsy turns into a wolf and kills Jenny. Larry beats the animal to death with his cane, but is also bitten himself.
A barefoot Bela is found where the wolf was and Larry's wound has disappeared. Bela's mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) recites a prayer over her son's coffin: "The way you walk was thorny through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, Bela my son. Now you will find peace."
Larry visits Gwen who has been criticized for not guarding Jenny. Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles), the Talbot's gamekeeper, is Gwen's fiance and accompanies Larry to the gypsy fair. Maleva gives Larry a pentagram necklace "the sign of the wolf", which is then given to Gwen for protection.
Maleva: "Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself."
Larry: "Ah, quit handing me that. You're just wasting your time."
Maleva: "The wolf bit you, didn't it?"
Larry: "Yeah. Yeah it did!"
Maleva: "You killed the wolf."
Larry: "Well, there's no crime in that is there?"
Maleva: "The wolf was Bela."
Larry: "You think I don't know the difference between a wolf and a man?"
Larry begins transforming into a two-legged wolf and kills Richardson (Tom Stevenson), the gravedigger. Colonel Montford (Ralph Bellamy) and Andrews set a trap for the Werewolf. Larry is trapped but Maleva releases him. Sir John thinks Maleva has filled his son's mind with nonsense and locks up Larry.
Sir John: "You can't run away."
Larry: "That's it! That's what she said."
Sir John: "Who?"
Larry: "The gypsy woman."
Sir John: "Gypsy woman? Now we're getting down to it. She's been filling your mind with this gibberish. This talk of werewolves and pentagrams. You're not a child Larry, you're a grown man and you believe in the superstitions of a Gypsy woman!"
Gwen runs into the woods and is attacked by the Wolfman. Sir John approaches and the wolfman attacks him instead. The Wolfman is bludgeoned to death by his father and transforms back to Larry Talbot.
THE WOLF MAN is Universal Studios third most popular monster creation, after Frankenstein and Dracula. Movie critics generally have a very high regard for this horror movie. It has a very good cast, great production values, recycled eerie atmosphere, but is grim and somewhat disappointing dramatically. The film is intelligent, literate, well-staged, engrossing, and has terrific makeup and special effects. This film has no wolves in it, only werewolves played by Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, but the wolf is explicitly evil incarnate. Gypsy Maleva says, "The pentagram is the sign of the wolf", and Sir John Talbot says, "In this case evil takes the shape of an animal." Although Bela Lugosi becomes what looks like a wolf, Lon Chaney with special effects slowly turns into a stylish monster resembling an ape more than a wolf. He walks upright, and has no snout and no tail.
Others in the cast include: Warren William (Dr. Lloyd), J. M. Kerrigan (Charles Conlife), Forrester Harvey (Twiddle), Harry Cording (Wykes), Leyland Hodgson (Kendall), Connie Leon (Mr. Wykes), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Williams), Ottola Nesmith (Mrs. Bally), Ernie Stanton (Phillips), Harry Stubbs (Rev. Norman), and many others. Curt Siodmak wrote the script. Music was composed by Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter, and Frank Skinner. Jack P. Pierce was the makeup artist. George Waggner produced and directed.
Silver Wolf (1999) * * ½
The movie opens by introducing us to 16 year old Jesse McLean (Shane Meier), his father, and uncle Roy McLean (Michael Biehn). Roy is a Park Ranger and helicopter pilot who drops the father and son off at the top of a beautiful mountain for snow boarding when a sudden storm hits. After some impressive skiing and snowboarding footage, a tragedy occurs when Dad tries to rescue Jesse in the wilderness, but plummets down the mountain to his death. Jesse finds a seriously wounded young gray wolf he names Silver. However, when Jesse is rescued, Silver disappears and Jesse is desperate to find him.
Since Jesse and his Mom don't get along very well, Uncle Roy invites him to stay with him in his Park Ranger log cabin up in the mountains of Washington. Almost immediately upon his arrival, Jesse clashes with the local bullies and meets a cute young girl named Lucinda "Lucy" Rockwell (Kimberley Warnat). His new peer group sees him as an urban wonder. Jesse soon finds Silver, which he promptly decides to adopt and nurse back to health. After some hair raising experiences, with Silver almost biting off a couple of Jesse's fingers, the wolf bonds with Jesse and becomes like a domesticated dog and best friend. Unfortunately, Lucy's father John Rockwell (Roy Scheider), is a wolf-hater who often takes to the woods with his son Clay (Jade Pawluk) to shoot wolves. It was Rockwell who shot Silver. Rockwell wears a baseball cap instead of a Stetson and worries about his two children. He also cooks dinner for them, but that is the extent of the film's biographical details.
Jesse is trying to put his life back together after the death of his father, and bonds with Silver. Uncle Roy understands the dangers of trying to tend to a wild animal, but he allows Jesse to keep him. He is in charge of the wildlife in cattle country and helps his nephew to understand wolves. Roy suggests that donating the wolf to a zoo might be a better idea, realizing that the enraged Rockwell will kill it. However, Jesse, who is fond of snowboarding, teaches Silver to be his partner in skijoring, a sport in which a dog is used to haul a man on skis. There are some great shots of snowboarding and the use of dog pulling on skis, and also a big dog skijoaring competition.
The cattlemen's association is definitely against wolves running wild in their territory. John Rockwell is president of the association, and the owner of a nearby ranch with plans for Jesse's wolf. He angrily sees it as a threat to his stock and is determined that the wolf be destroyed. Rockwell is shocked and in despair when Lucy becomes very friendly and accepted by Silver.
Silver is allowed to enter the annual cross-country skijoaring contest with Jesse. They win despite Clay tormenting the wolf by sticking a wooden whip in it's face, causing Silver to attack. The movie concludes with the race in which Jesse uses a snowboard instead of skis, and a wild wolf instead of the family pet dog. Then it is time for Silver to go home to his wolf family. It is sad to watch him leave, but to see a wild animal that was captive become free makes the movie better. One early morning Jesse and Lucy take Silver in Uncle Roy's van into the deep woods around the majestic Cypress Mountain. They let Silver loose to reunite with the wolf pack that he was separated from when Rockwell shot him at the beginning of the movie.
Much of the film deals with the burgeoning friendship between Jesse and the recuperating wolf. There are several opportunities for Jesse to run afoul of the anti-wolf bullies and prove his worth by staying loyal to Silver, while always finding time to do a little snowboarding and woo the lovely Lucy. It's a good coming of age story tied nicely together with outstanding snowboarding and skijoaring footage.
More or less an updated variation on Jack London's classic "White Fang", SILVER WOLF is an old fashioned boy and his wolf melodrama that manages to hit all the right buttons without being too manipulative. Roy Scheider's menacing wealthy rancher John Rockwell is so much a caricature of a small town villain he should be twirling a long mustache, and the identity of the father of young Jesse McLean's love interest Lucy is howlingly obvious. The outcome of the big dog sled race is never in doubt, although there's a twist. But there's an innocent charm in SILVER WOLF that overcomes the genre's inherent obstacles. With many ideas appropriated from other family movies, SILVER WOLF will never win any awards for originality. Although it doesn't offer much that's new, the film as a whole is worth a look for those who love animals in general and wolves specifically.
Performances are a mixed bag with Michael Biehn as Uncle Roy and Kimberley Warnat as Lucy faring the best. Kim Warnat shows a lot of charm and screen presence as Lucy--apparently the filmmakers felt the same way and dress the pretty 17 year old in costumes that show a lot of cleavage. As Jesse, Shane Meier shows some fairly strong chops in a blandly written lead role. Meier does a fine a job interacting with canines as well as with humans. For sheer camp value, Roy Scheider is worth the price of admission. In his few scenes, he chews the scenery recklessly and seems to truly enjoy playing this one-dimensional authority figure with holy fury. He's a real hoot here. Veteran character actor Biehn offers a solid, if unspectacular, performance. He's effective, if a little remote, as the cheerful back-country lawman. It's not the usual action type film that Biehn is known for. In fact he's quite subdued here, yet gives a good performance helping his nephew come to grips with his father's death and saving a young wolf in the process. The wolf actor playing Silver gives a dignified and believable performance. This is a good family movie about a troubled teen who just lost his father, and is exposed to the great outdoors and given a new outlook on life.
The cast also includes: Lynda Boyd (Anna McLean), Don MacKay (Sonny LaFrambois), Trevor Roberts (Buddy), Ron Sauvé (Sheriff), T.J. Shanks (Clay's Friend), Reg Tupper (Funeral guest), A. J. Bond (Chaz), Samaya Jarley (Mary Clifton), Shaun Johnson, Reg Tupper (Investor), Christine Willes (Mrs. Gaten), and John Hawkes (David). Robert Carli composed the original music. Michael Amo wrote the screenplay. Peter Svatek directed.
One third OLD YELLER (1957), one third ROCKY (1976) and one third stunning snowboarding footage, SILVER WOLF suffers in large part from a simple lack of originality. Yet there are enough strong components to watch it if you like wolf movies. It's a simple little film that probably won't challenge adult movie fans, but with its positive messages and somewhat trite presentation, SILVER WOLF is at the very least a film you won't mind your kids watching. Unfortunately, this movie is difficult to find on DVD or VHS, a tragedy because it is a good film with a lot of emotion.
SILVER WOLF premiered as a made-for-TV Fox Family Channel original on January 10, 1999. A review compared the film to the "made for TV wildlife stories that were the weekly mainstay of "the Wonderful World of Disney" in the 1970s", but the reviewer acknowledged there are "certain story and visual elements that give the boy-and-wolf yarn a 90s spin. Silver Wolf is a pretty straight-forward film, relatively free of sentiment." Vancouver Today wrote: "The chief villain is Rancher John (Roy Scheider). Family films usually make their villains simple and Scheider's character is all gruffness and macho posturing. Silver Wolf won't be collecting any best-picture Oscars, but as family films go, you could do a lot worse."
The movie has some strikingly magnificent cinematography and its choreographed snowboarding scenes are breathtaking and quick paced. This film has great intentions and is entertaining for kids and adult animal lovers. The relationship between Meier and the young wolf is endearing as they develop an honest friendship. SILVER WOLF was shot on location in the Vancouver area, and one noteworthy component is the outdoor photography. The Canadian Rockies, with the scenic mountains at Whistler and Blackcomb, British Columbia are displayed in gorgeous fashion.
White Wolves (1993 - 2000) * * ¾
The three WHITE WOLVES movies are sequels to A CRY IN THE WILD, a 1990 film based on the 1987 book "Hatchet", written by Gary Paulsen. It features a bear and other animals, whereas wolves dominate the three sequels: WHITE WOLVES: A CRY IN THE WILD II, WHITE WOLVES II : LEGEND OF THE WILD, and WHITE WOLVES III: CRY OF THE WHITE WOLF.
In A CRY IN THE WILD, 13 year old Brian Robeson (Jared Rushton) is the sole survivor after a plane crashes in the woods of the Yukon, and with hatchet in hand, he must find his way out. He eventually finds some company in a pair of orphaned grizzly bear cubs. The obstacles that Brian faces are demonstrated in a realistic fashion and keep the viewer wondering what is going to happen next.
Brian Robeson: (sings to himself) Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I'm gonna eat some worms.
The movie follows closely the plot of Gary Paulsen's book "Hatchet." It's quite realistic with the main characer Brian involved in a life and death struggle to survive in the wilds of Canada. The way Brian finds the will, creativity, and courage to stay the course keeps you glued to your seat. All the natural beauty of the forest is revealed in its glory and unforeseen danger. If you enjoy realistic, survival-type films, then definitely see this one. It's first-rate.
The cast also includes: Ned Beatty (Pilot Jake Holcomb), Pamela Sue Martin (June Robeson), Stephen Meadows (Brad Robeson), Terence H. Winkless (Boyfriend Steve), Louise Baker (Woman at Picnic), Deke Anderson (Store Clerk), John Jakes (Rescue Plane Pilot), Lois Mallory (Grandma), and Ollie Mann (Grandpa). Arthur Kempel composed the original music. Catherine Cyran and Gary Paulsen wrote the screenplay from Paulsen's novel. Mark Griffiths directed.
WHITE WOLVES: A CRY IN THE WILD II (1993)
The movie is set in the wilderness areas of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. As the film opens we see a school bus driving to the base camp and inside are two groups of teenagers and two teachers about to embark on a two week trek vacation. The teens have attitude problems and are assigned to stay at a camp that is trying to increase the wolf population. Cara (Amy Dolenz) is a campus queen who has a somewhat condescending attitude about the others. Adam (David Moscow) has a little bit of the class clown in him, but is also lacking in self-confidence. Pandra (Amy O'Neill) is Cara's naive younger sister, who was a last minute substitution on the trip, made to go by her parents so she could spend some "quality time" with Cara. Benny (Marc Riffon) is a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks, but asked to go on the trip by Jake (Matt McCoy), who has been mentoring him as his Big Brother. Naturally, poor Benny isn't treated well by the rest of the teens, and he has an attitude problem to boot.
Both groups split up when they reach base camp, with the idea that they will meet again in several days. One group is called The White Wolves, and their trip involves rafting down a mountain river, and then climbing up a very steep peak where there is an incredible view of the entire region. Their teacher Jake or Mr. B takes his group of five teenagers into the wilderness. WHITE WOLVES starts innocently enough, with a crew of rowdy teens embarking on a camping trip with woodsman and role model Mr. B as their guide. But after some mountaintop horseplay goes awry, Mr. B falls approximately twenty thousand feet to the ground below, and somehow survives.
The teens have to rescue Mr. B, and each has his or her own style, which leads to frequent clashes. When the teenagers find the teacher the next day, they have to put aside their differences and work together to save the life of their dying teacher. And the teenager who decides to go and fetch help is Benny. Scott (Zach Morris) is an authoritarian thug who almost murders Adam in a rage. Cara is distraught when Mr. B's accident seriously cuts into her flirting schedule. Benny is a malcontent delinquent who can hardly function without his father figure. And Pandra is the weirdest one of all, as demonstrated by a romantic scene in which she and Adam confess their attraction to each other. It's one of the strangest moments of teen love ever captured on film.
Just when you think this movie can't get any more weirdly, bizarrely entertaining, with ghostly white wolves appearing and disappearing, the kids get attacked by a bear. You should watch this scene in slow motion to see its fakeness and sheer absurdity. However, when a wolf they found recently is killed by a bear, the group must protect its pups. The film focuses on the group, The White Wolves, led by their enthusiastic teacher. Years before Mr. B was once lost in the wilderness, and tells a story about how he was assisted and saved by a white wolf.
Acting from the amateur cast ranges from good to mediocre throughout--sometimes in the same scene. We are treated to some nice scenery, with a white wolf and a savage bear. Curiously, you never see any of the characters in any of these animal shots, so it's probably recycled footage from the first film.
It's a formula movie produced by Julie Corman, Roger Corman's wife, and overall seems to be generic. While there are a lot of holes in the story, it has a 1980's feel with the clothing, hair styles and some lame special effects. It does have some wonderful scenery, good storyline and a strong message about taking on responsibility and challenges. There is a brief reference to a plane crash that leads one to believe this is a sequel to A CRY IN THE WILD. WHITE WOLVES certainly isn't the worst movie following this formula. But you've seen it before. It's so bad it's good.
WHITE WOLVES II: LEGEND OF THE WILD (1995)
As a plea-bargain to clear their school records, a group of misfit teens go into the majestic but unforgiving wilderness to help young wolf researcher Ben Harris (Corin Nemec) save the vanishing wolves. At the beginning of the film several teenagers are forced together through the Lupine Foundation which sends them out into the wilderness for a nature hike. They were all assigned to the Lupine Foundation in lieu of juvenile hall where they all would have been for various petty crimes. Beri Jones (Ele Keats) is the only one who won't confess her crime. Crystal Myers (Elizabeth Berkley) was arrested for petty theft and "Miami" Steve was arrested for tagging. Steve (Ernie Reyes Jr) has a difficult time in the woods because he still has the desire to tag. Ben Harris, who has had a lot of experience in the wilderness, is their leader and also involved in the Foundation's funding to save the wolves. He claims that sometime in the past, when he was out in the wilderness alone, a white wolf actually led him to safety, and saved his life.
After taking canoes across a lake, the foursome exit and start their hike up into the forest. Shortly after their trek begins, they see a mother wolf and her two baby cubs. The adorable cubs romp and wrestle in a meadow while the mother wolf looks on. The next day, our group meet Mason (Jeremy London) and Jeff (Justin Whalin), brothers who are up there parasailing. As the winds have changed, Mason and Jeff join the group on their hike.
Along the way, our group of now six, come across the mother wolf who has been killed by a mountain lion. It now becomes a quest to locate the baby cubs and make sure they are taken care of until another wolf family can take them. Miami Steve eventually finds the cubs and the group takes turns caring for them. They name the cubs Burt and Ernie. It is Crystal and Beri's turn to watch Burt and Ernie, who are now on leashes tied to a tree. As the cubs play, Mason and Jeff invite the girls to watch Mason parasail. Knowing the cubs should be okay for awhile, they agree to go. In the meantime, Burt and Ernie have exhausted themselves playing so fall asleep. When they awaken and are alone, they start whining as they try to pull on the leashes to escape. They eventually chew the leashes off and run off into the woods. Later, when Ben and Steve return, they find that Burt and Ernie are missing and realize that Crystal and Beri have left them alone. After lashing out at the girls for leaving the cubs alone, Steve takes off looking for them. He finds them nearby eating out of a ditch. As Steve calls them, they come bouncing over to him.
Throughout their trip, Ben has emphasized the necessity of burying food scraps at least 100 yards from the campsite. Miami Steve, annoyed about something that was said around the campfire, buries the scraps approximately 20 yards away. As a result, a bear, smelling the food, roars and comes charging into the campsite. The cubs are scooped up by one of the group and run into the tent. The bear, looking for food, tears the stuffing out of the sleeping bags. Steve, Jeff, Crystal and Beri grab Burt and Ernie, put them in an ice chest for protection, and run down to the river to the canoes. Our group jumps into the canoes and take off, leaving the bear roaring at them back on the river bank.
In the meantime, Ben and Mason, both injured, are further down the river, unconscious. Once again, the same white wolf saves Ben and Mason's life by dragging them from the river. In their search for Ben and Mason, Jeff and Beri see the white wolf on the riverbank. Remembering Ben's story about the white wolf saving his life, Jeff and Beri follow the wolf. When they get to a cave, they find a family of white mice huddled together. Meanwhile, back at the new campsite, Crystal supervises Ben and Ernie playing on the riverbank with a fish in one of their mouths. After Ben and Mason have been rescued, the white wolf stands majestically nearby. After seeing that, Steve releases Burt and Ernie who run to the white wolf, whom it seems will become the cubs' new guardian. The intent of this film is to display the resourcefulness of young people when confronted with life threatening situations, as well as the true good nature of wolves.
WHITE WOLVES III: CRY OF THE WHITE WOLF (2000)
In this outdoor adventure, three young people find themselves fighting for survival in a frozen wilderness. They are put to the test when the plane taking them to a wilderness boot camp for juvenile offenders crashes. Their Indian pilot, Quentin (Rodney A Grant), injured and ununable to make the dangerous journey, teaches them the ways of his ancient people and to have faith in the spirit of the white wolf as well as themselves. Pamela (Mercedes McNab) and Jack (Mick Cain) must call upon an ancient Native American spirit of a legendary white wolf to help them survive. This movie shows how different characters have to work together, trust each other and the white wolf to lead them to safety. They only have to walk 200 miles to find the tiny ranger station in the middle of nowhere. Forced to rely on their wits and their limited knowledge of fending for themselves in the arctic, they receive life-saving assistance from an unlikely source--a white wolf which seems to understand their predicament as he helps them find food and shelter and guides them back to civilization.
Jack's mom: (Watching Pamela and her family coming) You're daughter better watch out, my son's a real ladies man.
Jack: Yeah. Haven't you heard I'm a "real ladies man"?
Pamela: (trying to start a fire with two sticks) This is impossible!
Quentin: Keep going. It's how man first made fire.
Pamela: Well that just shows you how great men are. If a woman had created this, it would be a lot easier!
Teen Wolf (1985) * * ¾
High school student Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is 17 years old, sick of being an average small-town studious nerd, and wishes to be special. His father runs a local hardware store. Scott is a basketball player on a losing team, and the girl of his dreams, Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin), is dating Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold), a jerk from an opposing team. After another of the team's losses, Scott begins to notice strange changes to his body. While at a party, Scott keeps undergoing changes and eventually he returns home and undergoes a complete change and turns into a wolf, while his father demands that he open the door. He tries to refuse, only to finally give in and obey, to find his father has also transformed into a werewolf.
Harold: (upon seeing each other as werewolves) An explanation is probably long overdue.
Scott: An explanation? Jesus Christ, dad! An explanation? Look at me! Look at you.
Harold: It's not as bad as it looks.
Scott: Wait a minute, wait a minute, dad. You mean you knew about this? You knew about this and you didn't tell me?
Harold: I was hoping I wouldn't have to. Sometimes it skips a generation. I was hoping it would pass you by.
Scott: Well, Dad it didn't pass me by. It landed on my face. What the hell am I gonna do?
Harold: (Scott slams his bedroom door behind him) Scott, we really need to talk about this.
Scott: Forget it, dad. I don't want to talk. Go away.
Harold Howard (James Hampton) never told his son about the hereditary condition because "sometimes it skips a generation" and he was hoping it wouldn't happen to Scott. The condition involves only excessive body hair and strength. Scott first reveals his transformation to the public at one of his basketball games, after getting pinned in a pile-up. After momentarily stunning the crowd with The Wolf, Scott goes on to wow them with his basketball skills and he finishes the game with a quadruple double. He realizes that his full-moon transformation bring him girls, glory and a conflict of values. Turning into a werewolf is an asset in his popularity at school. It seems very obvious that the hairy change in teenage Scott is a metaphor for puberty.
Scott: Hi. I'd like a keg of beer please?
Old man clerk: You don't say.
Scott: Yeah. How much is that?
Old man clerk: You little bastards just don't give up, do you? Listen, no I.D. no goddamn beer. Can't you get that through your thick skull?
Scott: (his eyes turn red and his voice changes) Give me, a keg, of beer. (the clerk steps back in fear and gets a keg, then Scott turns back to normal holding some licorice) And these.
Scott subsequently learns to use his family "curse" to gain popularity at school, becoming the team's star basketball player, and learns to transform at will between his normal self and The Wolf. His basketball team goes from last to first, and Scott begins spending most of his school time as The Wolf. He also wins the heart of Pamela while ignoring the affections of his best friend, Lisa "Boof" Marconi (Susan Ursitti), who has loved him since childhood.
Meanwhile, Scott's other best friend Rupert "Stiles" Stilinski (Jerry Levine), a party animal with an entrepreneurial streak, quickly cashes in on Scott's new-found popularity, selling Teen Wolf T-shirts and other merchandise. Stiles' "wolfmania" reaches such extremes that he trades in his own vehicle for a van he names the "Wolfmobile".
Scott: Listen, Stiles. Do you know anything about a rash that's going around?
Stiles: Why, you looking to catch something?
Scott: No, I'm serious.
Stiles: No... but I heard Mr. Murphy, you know, the shop teacher?
Stiles: Got his dick caught in a vacuum cleaner.
Scott: Styles, I got something to tell you. It's kind of hard, but...
Stiles: Look, are you gonna tell me you're a fag because if you're gonna tell me you're a fag, I don't think I can handle it.
Scott: I'm not a fag. I'm... a werewolf.
Coach Finstock: Look Scotty, I know what you're going through. Couple years back, a kid came to me much the same way you're coming to me now, saying the same thing that you're saying. He wanted to drop off the team. His mother was a widow, all crippled up. She was scrubbing floors. She had this pin in her hip. So he wanted to drop basketball and get a job. Now these were poor people, these were hungry people with real problems. Understand what I'm saying?
Scott: What happened to the kid?
Coach Finstock: I don't know. He quit. He was a third stringer, I didn't need him.
After a freak encounter with Mick at the Spring Dance that almost turns violent, Scott wishes to be himself. During the final basketball game, Scott refuses to "wolf out" and insists on winning the game on his own. Coach Bobby Finstock (Jay Tarses) tells Scott that the team is doomed to fail without The Wolf, but Scott is able to prove him wrong. In a dramatic ending, Scott is able to rally the team back to within a point as time is expiring. Scott is fouled by Mick on the final play and given two shots. In a clear violation of the rules, Mick is able to stand underneath the basket as Scott attempts his foul shots. Despite having to jump to complete the free throws, Scott makes them both and the Beavers win the game.
Stiles: Boof, how the hell are you?
Scott: Say no.
Stiles: Great talking to you.
Pamela attempts to get Scott's attention after the game is over, but he passes her by to lift Boof in his arms, kissing her passionately.
TEEN WOLF is a campy variation of the horrific I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), the Michael Landon classic. This version is given a 1980's spin with more emphasis on comedy and romance rather than horror. Lycanthropy makes Scott a big man on campus, more popular with his high school peers when he is a hairy athletic wolf. Although his werewolf makeup makes him look more like Bigfoot than Lon Chaney, Jr., Fox manages to convey his peppy personality even under all the hair. An otherwise routine teen comedy, this one works because of Michael J. Fox in one of his first leading roles. It was shot before BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985), sat on the shelf for some time, then given a major release on August 23, 1985 by by Atlantic Releasing Corporation. TEEN WOLF was a box-office success. With BACK TO THE FUTURE at number 1 and TEEN WOLF at number 2, a new teen star had been born.
The cast also includes: Matt Adler (Lewis), Jim McKrell (Vice Principal Rusty Thorne), Mark Holton (Chubby), Scott Paulin (Kirk Lolley), Elizabeth Gorcey (Tina), Melanie Manos (Dina), Doug Savant (Brad), Charles Zucker (Malcolm), Harvey Vernon (Old man clerk), Clare Peck (Miss Mott), Gregory Itzin (English teacher), Doris Hess (Science teacher), Troy Evans (Dragon basketball coach), Lynda Wiesmeier (Rhonda), Rodney Kageyama (Janitor), Carl Steven (Whistle boy), Richard Brooks (Lemonade), Richard Domeier (Linebacker), Brian Sheehan (Cadet 5), Jay Footlik (Student 1), Richard Baker (Referee), Fred Nelson (Meechum basketball coach), Tanna Herr (The Beaver), Kris Hagerty (Fan 2), Mark L. Flowers (Dragon bowler), Larry B. Daugherty (Basketball player), Tamara Carrera (Student), and Cort McCown (Teammate). Miles Goodman composed the incidental music. Matthew Weisman and Jeph Loeb wrote the screenplay. Rod Daniel directed.
The soundtrack has some memorable 1980's movie tunes, such as "Win In the End," "Shooting For the Moon", and "Way To Go". The humor and themes are still relevant today too. Be sure to check out a classic film flub during the end credits: an extra wearing a red sweater is seen walking down the grandstands after the big basketball game with his schlong exposed. He quickly zips up before the crew could catch on. It's an unintentional gag in this howlingly funny comedy.
The basic premise for TEEN WOLF comes from I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF with Michael Landon playing Tony Rivers, a teenager with an uncontrollable temper that leads him into the hands of devious Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell) out to make a name for himself. The doctor uses Tony for an experiment, giving him an injection that regresses him so far back in time that he turns into a werewolf. An adult human turning into a beast was nothing new in movies, but in 1957 the idea of a teenager doing it was considered fresh. The film was a huge hit for American International Pictures, and immediately became a classic of pop culture history. Today, the film is regarded by most critics as a cult classic and a source of camp humor. An unsuccessful comedy on the teenage werewolf theme came out several years earlier with FULL MOON HIGH (1981). The trend continued in the sitcom BIG WOLF ON CAMPUS (1999), which was more inspired by the TEEN WOLF cartoon spin-off than by the live action film.
For its Italian release, Fox's character name was changed from Scott to Marty in order to capitalize on the success of the Universal film. In Brazil, the film was released with the title O GAROTO DO FUTURO, which roughly translates as "The Boy from the Future", in another move to associate the film with the success of BACK TO THE FUTURE.
The movie was followed by a cartoon spin-off in 1986, and a sequel in 1987 titled TEEN WOLF TOO, with Jason Bateman starring as Todd Howard, Scott's cousin. On August 27, 2002 both TEEN WOLF films were released on a single-disc DVD by MGM Home Entertainment, the current rights holders of the films. In June, 2009, MTV announced that they would be adapting TEEN WOLF into a television series "with a greater emphasis on romance, horror and werewolf mythology".
TEEN WOLF TOO (1987)
Todd Howard (Jason Bateman), the cousin of Scott Howard has recently been accepted into Hamilton University on a full athletic scholarship--a boxing scholarship, although he has never boxed before. It seems the coach knows the family secret, and before long Todd is turning into a wolf just the way his cousin did, with very few special effects. Todd's eyes turn red, his forehead bulges and suddenly there's a shot of some horrified onlooker. Cut back to Todd, now in full werewolf makeup. Having never been good at sports he soon realizes that he is there for one reason--because werewolves run in the family. In this outing, basketball is replaced by boxing and high school girls are replaced by sorority co-eds. At first Todd is certain that Coach Finstock (Paul Sand) has got the wrong guy, but at the first boxing match of the year the wolf in him emerges. His friend Stiles is played by Stuart Fratkin in this sequel.
Stiles: (after Todds first transformation into the Wolf) You seem a little upset...
Todd: Upset? Me Stiles? Upset? (Stiles nods) I just had a beard over every inch of my body... fingernails the size of french fries... teeth from here to Texas... and she called me a dog... A dog...
With his new found fame comes girls, top grades and even the Dean's car. But as the year goes on, Todd realizes that he is losing his friends and self respect. His jilted girlfriend confronts him in biology class and says, ''They don't like you, only the wolf." The boxing scenes are so awful they make ROCKY V (1990) look like Oscar material. It also has one of the worst depictions of college life on film, and there is nothing realistic about any of it. The women are portrayed as ditzy and the guys are just as incompetent. No college in the world would let Todd on its boxing team, wolf or not. In fact, there are even high school-like hijinks taking place in college classrooms. Witness the frog dissection scene and you'll understand. The wolf-like tendencies start to take hold after Todd dances with a blonde girl. All of a sudden, he has amazing strength and the hairier he gets the better his boxing becomes. He is now big man on campus but he starts to annoy people and everybody begins to dislike him except for understanding Professor Tanya Brooks (Kim Darby) and over-achieving student Nicki (Estee Chandler).
In both the TEEN WOLF movies, Fox and Bateman do not look like werewolves but like PLANET OF THE APES (1968) rejects. One improvement over the original is that Bateman’s acting actually improves with the amount of fur covering him, whereas Michael J. Fox was much better without the makeup gimmickry. Todd is much more jaded than Scott. The sole bright spot is veteran actor Paul Sand as the boxing coach. Critics almost universally panned the film. Siskel and Ebert gave it two enthusiastic thumbs down, with Roger Ebert complaining that they had picked, along with DATE WITH AN ANGEL (1987), the two worst movies possible. Nevertheless, TEEN WOLF TOO was a success at the box office.
Never Cry Wolf (1983) * * *
Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) is a young government biologist and survival expert assigned to travel to the isolated frozen wilds of the Yukon in northern Canada to study the area's savage population of wolves. His orders are to gather proof of the wolves' ongoing destruction of caribou herds. It's a strange job to volunteer for--agreeing to spend six months all alone in the extreme Arctic environment attempting to observe wolves, but that is what the bespectacled scientist does. In the first half of the film the vast Arctic landscape is explored. Then in the second half, the film weakens as it resorts to formulaic devices and plots its protagonist against the civilized world.
Basically a one-character film, it's largely a straightforward record of Tyler's daily observations of the ways of the wolf. The biologist is an appealingly eccentric man who, at the beginning, is made to seem unbelievably incompetent for the sake of both comedy and drama. Later the movie treats him and his adventures without condescension. He is dumped unprepared in a snowstorm in the wilderness by hard drinking bush pilot Rosie (Brian Dennehy), who attempts to cure boredom with mid-air oil changes. When his character resurfaces near the end of the film, he is excessively obnoxious.
Rosie: We're all of us prospectors up here, eh, Tyler? Scratchin' for that... that one crack in the ground. Never have to scratch again. I'll let you in on a little secret, Tyler: the gold's not in the ground. The gold's not anywhere up here. The real gold is south of 60--sittin' in livin' rooms, stuck facin' the boob tube, bored to death. Bored to death, Tyler. Take the stick... Aaaaaaah!
Tyler: What's wrong?
Rosie: Boredom, Tyler. Boredom--that's what's wrong. And how do you beat boredom, Tyler?... Adventure. Adventure, Tyler.
Tyler: Where are you going, Rosie? Rosie, what are you doing? I can't fly this thing! What do I do?
When he lands, Tyler promptly gets out his typewriter and attempts to type up his initial reactions. A little later he walks across a frozen lake and falls through the ice. Aged Inuit Ootek (Zachary Ittimangnaq) saves his life and teaches him survival skills. He soon learns the rules of coexistence from a neighboring wolf. Contact with wolves comes quickly, as he discovers not a den of marauding killers, but a courageous family of skillful providers and devoted protectors of their young. Tyler learns that wolves, though carnivorous, live mostly on a diet of mice, mate for life and are loving parents to their cubs. Oolek and his friend Mike (Samson Jorah) drop by to keep Tyler company for awhile, sharing their observations on nature and life in an easy-going way. Mike reveals that he kills wolves to support his family and send his children to school. As Tyler learns more and more about the wolf world, he comes to fear, along with them, the onslaught of hunters (Tom Dahlgren and Walker Stuart) out to kill the wolves for their pelts and exploit the wilderness. He must now make a choice--should he return to the life he once knew or should he take a stand--defending this breathtaking new world.
Mike: To me a wolf means money. It's a way of making a living. One wolf pelt is about $350 dollars. And I've got to feed my family, my children. Buy a snowmobile, food, rifle, bullets whatever.
Tyler: You wouldn't ah... you wouldn't kill these wolves?
Mike: These ones... no. No I don't think so. Besides you would get mad if I killed one of them... and your gun is bigger than mine.
Mike: I'd like to though.
Although Tyler gives names like George, Angeline and Uncle Albert to the wolves he observes, and though he attributes human attitudes to them, the wolves themselves always remain at a distance, most of the time ignoring the presence of the biologist who is studying them. The humor is as wholesome as it is instructive. In one sequence, there is a pissing contest as Tyler sets out to mark his territory in the same way the wolves do, by urinating on bushes and rocks on the perimeter of his land. He is amused to realize that what has taken him a half a day, plus huge quantities of tea to do, the wolf accomplishes in less than an hour, without stopping to drink water or tea.
Much fun is also made of Tyler's successful attempt to live on mice, in this way to prove that an animal as large as a wolf can subsist on small rodents, if enough of them are consumed. Tyler eats mice in soup, in stew and even en brochette, usually leaving the tail as the last thing to disappear down his throat. In what is perhaps an homage to earlier Walt Disney movies in which animals act like people, there is a scene in which mice are shown watching Tyler as he eats an all-mouse meal, and the living mice squeal in horror. These gross-out scenes are countered with the second half of the film, which has more nudity than it should.
Drunk: (warning Tyler about wolves) They'll come after you, son. Just for the ugly fun of tearing you apart.
When it appears that a group of angry hunters are going to ruthlessly murder any wolf that they see, he is forced to take a stance once and for all, endangering his own life in the process. Tyler's journey culminates in a majestic run with the wolf pack, an exhilarating sequence where for an instant he becomes one with the natural environment in the wilderness.
The last shot is an ad lib between Tyler and Oolek that is endearingly sweet, without being sappy. This is a film with sentiment, but it is not sentimental.
Tyler: In the end there were no simple answers. No heroes or villains. Only silence.
Tyler: I believe the wolves went off to a wild and distant place somewhere, although I don't really know... because I turned away, and didn't watch them go.
NEVER CRY WOLF is a screen adaptation of Farley Mowat's 1963 best-selling autobiographical book about his life among Arctic Wolves. This film dramatizes the true story of Farley Mowat, when he was sent to the Canadian tundra area to collect evidence of the serious harm the wolf population was allegedly doing to the caribou herds. In his struggle to survive in that difficult environment he studies the wolves, and realizes that the old beliefs about wolves and their supposed threat are almost totally false. Furthermore, he learns that humans represent a far greater threat to the land, and also to the wolves, a species which plays an important role in the ecosystem of the north. One of the book's more controversial points is that wolves and caribou exist in a symbiotic relationship. Wolves, according to Mr. Mowat, attack only weak and sick caribou, in this way helping to ensure that only the fittest caribou are around to re-create the species. In their turn, the caribou provide wolves with a certain number of tasty feasts. It is Mr. Mowat's conviction that hunters, not wolves, have been responsible for the drastic reduction in caribou herds in recent years. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are too faithful to the heavily jocular tone of Mr. Mowat's book, but they do avoid melodrama.
Director Carroll Ballard’s visual epic, gorgeously photographed by Hiro Narita, proves his great skill as a director. This is a follow up to Ballard's THE BLACK STALLION (1979). Once again, he chooses to rely on imagery to tell his story, rather than drowning out the visuals with unnecessary dialogue. Smith’s inspired performance allows the audience to slip inside his mind, resulting in a deeply personal viewing experience, and he does an excellent job at carrying a compelling story mostly by himself. It sounds romantic, but Ballard never sidesteps the ugliness of nature or the discomfort of loneliness. The result is a quirky, deceptively simple meditation on life. Shot on location in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the astounding visual treatment captures the awesome natural magnificence of the Canadian wilderness with power and poignancy, revealing a world of hypnotic beauty with breathtaking cinematic imagery. NEVER CRY WOLF has been rated PG for some scenes near the end when wolves are shown attacking a caribou, but the carnage is discreet. The picture is also noteworthy for being the first Walt Disney film to show naked adult buttocks, those of actor Charles Martin Smith.
The film's fundamental premise is that life in the Arctic seems to be about dying: not only are the caribou and the wolves dying, but the indigenous Inuit people as well. The animals are losing their habitat and the Inuit are losing their land and their resources while their youth are being seduced by modernity. They are trading what is real, true, and their time-honored traditions for the perceived comforts of the modern world. NEVER CRY WOLF blends the documentary film style with the narrative elements of drama, resulting in a type of docudrama. It was originally written for the screen by Sam Hamm but the screenplay was altered over time and Hamm ended up sharing credit with Curtis Hanson and Richard Kletter.
The cast also includes: Hugh Webster (Drunk), and Martha Ittimangnaq (Woman). Charles Martin Smith, Eugene Corr, and Christina Luescher provide the narration--some of which was written by Ralph Furmaniak. Mark Isham composed the incidental music. Curtis Hanson, Sam Hamm, and Richard Kletter wrote the screenplay from Farley Mowat's book of the same title. Mark Isham directed.
Filming locations included Nome, Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and British Columbia, Canada. This drama was made during the 1980s when Walt Disney Productions, under the guidance of Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron W. Miller, was experimenting with more mature plot material in its films. The following year Miller would start the Touchstone Pictures label. Perhaps that's the reason Disney treats this film shabbily. It was made the year before Michael Eisner took over the studio. Eisner likes Big Event films. NEVER CRY WOLF is a small film. Eisner likes fantasy. It is based on a true story. Eisner likes stars. It has none. Studio chiefs rarely tout the work of their predecessors--if anything, they have an investment in making such work look as poor as possible.
The scenery is often spectacularly beautiful. Charles Smith is at his best when he is playing Tyler straight, without the comic exaggerations that suggest a small child showing off in front of adults. Perhaps the best thing about the film is that the wolves are never made to seem like strange but cuddly dogs. They look like wolves, not especially threatening but still remote and complete unto themselves. The wolves are well-trained performers.
Charles Martin Smith devoted almost three years to NEVER CRY WOLF. He wrote, "I was much more closely involved in that picture than I had been in any other film. Not only acting, but writing and the whole creative process." He also found the process difficult. "During much of the two-year shooting schedule in Canada's Yukon and in Nome, Alaska, I was the only actor present. It was the loneliest film I've ever worked on," Smith said.
A review in the Los Angeles Times called the film, "...subtle, complex and hypnotic...triumphant filmmaking!" Film critic Gene Siskel felt the film was "absolutely terrific" and Roger Ebert said "this is one of the best films I've ever seen about Man's relationship with the other animals on this planet". Both gave the film "Thumbs Up". Brendon Hanley of Allmovie also liked the film, especially Smith's performance, and wrote, "Wolf's protagonist is wonderfully played by the reliable character actor Charles Martin Smith." Ronald Holloway of Variety gave the film a mostly positive review, and wrote "For the masses out there who love nature films, and even those who don't, Carroll Ballard's more than fits the commercial bill and should score well too with critical suds on several counts."
Some critics found the premise of the film a bit hard to believe. Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, wrote, "I find it difficult to accept the fact that the biologist, just after an airplane has left him in the middle of an icy wilderness, in a snowstorm, would promptly get out his typewriter and, wearing woolen gloves, attempt to type up his initial reactions. Canby added, the film was "a perfectly decent if unexceptional screen adaptation of Farley Mowat's best-selling book about the author's life among Arctic wolves."
The film opened in limited release October 7, 1983 and went into wide circulation January 20, 1984. It was in theaters for 27 weeks and the total US gross sales were $27,668,764. In its widest release the film appeared in 540 theaters.
There are several differences in the film compared to Mowat's book. In the book, Ootek and Mike's roles are reversed, Mike is actually Ootek's older brother (Ootek is a teenager) and Ootek speaks fluent English and communicates openly with Mowat while Mike is more reserved. The film adds a more spiritual element to the story while the book was a straight-forward story. In the film the characters are isolated, while in the book Mowat meets several people from different areas of the Arctic. Also in the book, the wolves are not killed and the bush pilot does not bring in investors to build a resort.
Dr. L. David Mech, an internationally recognized wildlife biologist who has researched wolves since 1958 in places such as Minnesota, Canada, Italy, Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, and on Isle Royale, criticized the work. He stated that Mowat is no scientist and that in all his studies, he had never encountered a wolf pack which regularly subsisted on small prey as shown in Mowat's book or the film adaptation.
On one DVD release, except for a small legal notice on the disc itself, you'd be hard-pressed to find proof this is Disney's product at all. The transfer to DVD was farmed out. Even the Disney studio logo at the film's start has been completely lobbed off and the logo of the company that transferred it to DVD replaces it. It's clear Disney wants nothing to do with this film today. Nothing in any of the studio's theme parks, collections of literature, or merchandizing even acknowledge its existence. The DVD has no extras--not even a theatrical trailer. The Internet Movie Database lists a TV documentary, "The Making of Never Cry Wolf," that surely could have been included. Most upsetting of all, the DVD is not enhanced or anamorphic. Comparing it to an old VHS copy, it appears the DVD was take from the same print of the film, meaning they may have just dubbed the VHS version to DVD.
NEVER CRY WOLF is now available in a number of different DVD releases. At least one is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. Although Disney finally released this in the enhanced picture format with better resolution, and although they now actually put their name on the front of both the box and the film, they still used the same crappy print, which looks like a run-of-the-mill theater print with many nicks and scratches, and which was used all the way back for the original VHS release in the 1980s. No extras, not even a trailer. There is a fullscreen DVD from Anchor Bay, re-released in two separate volumes. The film doesn't use audio much, since much of the film is about quiet solitude and isolation in nature, though the nature is under-represented aurally. The 2.0 soundtrack isn't too hot--the two native characters are often tough to understand, and a number of other characters are as well. Audio just hasn't been mixed very well, and though it probably wasn't the most high-tech audio track to begin with, it should sound better than this.
Since this movie appeared over twenty years ago, the public image of the wolf has greatly improved and wolves have been reintroduced to Yellowstone Park. Everybody in this fine production can take some credit for that. However, we must also keep in mind that this movie is about wolves in Canada, with the largest population of wolves in the world by far. Wolves have no protection whatsoever in Canada, and the country exports most of the world's wolf pelts. Only the American state of Alaska is as anti-wolf as Canada. Although Farley Mowat is Canadian and "Never Cry Wolf" is credited with shifting the mythology and fear of wolves, he has had zero impact on public opinion or government policies regarding wolves in Canada.
Wolfen (1981) * * ¾
After attending the groundbreaking of a real estate development he's building in the impoverished South Bronx, wealthy industrialist Christopher Van Der Veer (Max M. Brown) stops off with his wife Pauline (Anne Marie Pohtamo) in Battery Park, where his ancestors built the first windmill in New York. Stalked by an unseen predator with four legs and highly acute senses, the couple are quickly attacked and killed. Their driver has his hand severed before he's able to shoot his gun.
Haggard NYPD Detective Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) returns from a self-imposed retirement and is assigned to solve the bizarre violent murders in which it appears the victims were killed by animals. He is a chunky loner who lives on Staten Island and always seems to have drunk too much the night before. Wilson receives a page from his commanding officer Warren (Dick O’Neill) and is dispatched to the crime scene: "It's very weird and it's very strange, just like you." Coroner Whittington (Gregory Hines) gives him the grisly facts, like how long a severed head can remain conscious, and he found no trace of metal on the victims' wounds. The security firm that was protecting Van Der Veer pairs Dewey with their own expert, psychologist Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora).
Warren: I'm going to team you up with Dewey Wilson on this Christopher Van Der Veer thing.
Rebecca Neff: I didn't know he was back. I thought he retired, disabled, mental...?
Warren: He had a lot of family problems, he started to drink a little too much, police work... piled up on him. He's a good man, you'll like him.
Rebecca Neff: Okay, fine.
Counter-terrorism tactics fail to net a suspect, but when the predator attacks a vagrant in the South Bronx, hairs found at both crime scenes indicate the killer is the same. Dewey and Rebecca visit a zoologist named Ferguson (Tom Noonan) who reveals the hairs belong to "canis lupis", a wolf. Dewey's suspicions lead him to Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos), a former member of the Native American Movement. Holt spends his time on top of bridges and claims to be able to shape shift into different animals. He is a construction worker who loves hanging out on the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. In his investigation, Wilson learns of an Indian legend about wolf spirits, and that there may be predatory shapeshifters living in the vicinity.
(Holt and Wilson are up on the top of a bridge)
Eddie Holt: Shape shifting. We do it for kicks. Turn yourself into a different animal. One night a deer, next night a salmon...
Dewey Wilson: Or a wolf?
Eddie Holt: Sure. (Eddie unhooks Dewey's safety line) Or an eagle. (Dewey looks down) C'mon Dewey, just flap your arms and jump, its easy. It's all in the head.
Dewey Wilson: That would be murder. You wouldn't kill anyone else, would you?
Eddie Holt: That's what they pay you to find out...
Old Indian: (about the wolves) They're shiftless. They might be gods!
Edddie Holt: It's not wolves, it's Wolfen. For 20,000 years Wilson--ten times your f**king Christian era--the skins and wolves, the great hunting nations, lived together, nature in balance. Then the slaughter came.
Edddie Holt: The smartest ones, they went underground into a new wilderness, your cities. You have your technology but you lost. You lost your senses
Old Indian: In their world, there can be no lies, no crimes.
Edddie Holt: No need for detectives.
Old Indian: In their eyes, you are the savage.
Dewey Wilson: They kill to protect family?
Old Indian: In the end, it's all for the hunting ground.
Dewey Wilson: They kill...
Old Indian: The sick. The abandoned. Those who will not be missed.
Dewey Wilson: More than that.
Old Indian: They kill to survive. They kill to protect.
Dewey Wilson: Family?
Old Indian: Man kills for less. But in the end, it is all for the hunting ground.
Eddie Holt: You've seen them, haven't you? You don't have the eyes of the Hunter. You have the eyes of the dead.
Ferguson maintains that wolves were wiped out in the east a century ago, along with the buffalo and Indians: "Wolves and Indians evolved and were destroyed simultaneously. They're both tribal, they look out for their own, they don't overpopulate and they’re both superb hunters." It becomes obvious that something out there is preying on New Yorkers. Dewey and Whittington arm themselves with night vision and go hunting in the South Bronx, but discover they're up against a pack of intelligent and savage wolf-like creatures that are stalking the city, the Wolfen. The Wolfen are not werewolves, but a more advanced version of a wolf which is above man on the food chain. They are eating the local bum population, as they are diseased and weak. Unfortunately, the Police Commissioner may be willing to sweep the Wolfen problem under the rug to convict some terrorists of the same crimes. There are a succession of hallucinatory sequences through the film that continue right up to the somewhat anticlimactic climax.
Wilson and Rebecca take an elevator to the top of a building, and the wolves follow. Things are settled when Wilson smashes a model of the building that was going to be built in the wolves' stomping grounds in the Bronx. The wolves are satisfied and disappear. The movie's point is that the Wolfen are just protecting their territory and that its businessmen and developers who are the real enemy. It also seems the underlying theme is that the Indians and wolves were both kicked both out of their native land by the white man, and the Wolfen are the result. At the end of the movie we learn that the Wolfen are really supernatural beings, which makes us wonder why they hang out in a ghetto.
WOLFEN is a thriller that doesn't fit easily into a specific genre. It is primarily a horror movie, but as the mystery of what is behind the killings unravels, thriller and fantasy elements start to take over. The film is engrossing, frightening and intelligent, with sensational special effects. Director Michael Wadleigh uses these effects to great advantage, frequently showing the movements of the characters through the eyes of the Wolfen. The use of a polarization effect and a steadicam to represent the wolves' point of view is quite stunning and eerie. Produced in the 1980's, when the werewolf film was being redefined with THE HOWLING (1981) and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), this film truly set itself apart as the oddest and most socially conscious. It asks the question of what really is the true horror, the monster or the man. It's not a film that permits clinical distance, but which strives to create a tumult of ideas that crystallize into a grand finale.
Although the goriness of the film isn't excessive, mostly generated by graphic descriptions of the events, this does have the effect of making the movie a little more unnerving. There are a few shots of dismembered bodies and the like, but the more these are shown, the less convincing they become. In fact, that can be said of the film as a whole, which retains more interest as a mystery than after all the cards are shown. By the time it all clicks together, enough thrills and chills have been had to make it a worthwhile viewing experience. It features good performances from its cast, some ghoulish autopsy scenes, a weird mystery and incredibly vivid atmosphere.
With strong performances all around and interesting point of view special effects shots, reminiscent of the ones used later in PREDATOR (1987), WOLFEN is a different sort of horror-thriller that will probably please viewers tired of derivative schlock shock. The movie hints at werewolves but doesn’t really follow through with it. It eventually combines some Native American ideas of shape shifters and the wolf spirit. The whole camera effect of the audience seeing through the wolves' eyes can be cute and amusing when used sparingly such as in PREDATOR, but it used so often here that it starts to be aggravating. In fact, it takes a full 90 minutes to finally figure out we are dealing with wolves and not werewolves, causing disappointment.
Watch this movie for the cast, not for the story. This film is basically CUJO (1983) with a better director. It would have rocked at ninety-minutes, but at nearly two hours, WOLFEN goes on for too long. The opening moves rapidly, and the ending delivers the right amount of apocalyptic violence you expect, but in the center the spaces between the wolf attacks start feeling longer and longer. WOLFEN appears to justify the early murders of a rich, multinational tycoon and his beautiful, cocaine-sniffing wife on the grounds that the victims are not good people, but it also accepts without comment the murders of a number of other people who haven't done the Wolfen any harm.
WOLFEN sets up its mysteries with an admirable tenacity, though the resolution we're ultimately offered is mostly forgettable. It infuses a healthy respect for nature into its "change your ways or else" narrative and the message is a good one. The problem with most supernatural thrillers is that sooner or later they have to explain their supernaturalism, and then they fall apart. WOLFEN almost avoids this problem by sliding discreetly into its supernatural world. It's a thinking man's supernatural monster movie of extraordinary stylishness in looks and sounds as well as performances.
The performers are all fine, but it's the film's otherworldly look and sound that give WOLFEN the frequently stunning effect it has. It is so good-looking that one tends to ignore the real inner vacuity. This film is the screen debut of Gregory Hines, too exaggerated in his semi-comic role. The wolves look like mean German shepherds or renegade police attack dogs. Wadleigh, who directed the music festival documentary WOODSTOCK (1970), makes an auspicious debut here as the director of a fiction film.
The cast also includes: Dehl Berti (Old Indian), Peter Michael Goetz (Ross), Sam Gray (Mayor), Ralph Bell (Commissioner), Sarah Felder (Cicely Rensselaer), Reginald Vel Johnson (Morgue Attendant), James Tolkan (Baldy), John McCurry (Sayad Alve), Chris Manor (Janitor), Donald Symington (Lawyer), Jeffery Ware (Interrogation Operator), E. Brian Dean (Fouchek), Jeffery V. Thompson (Harrison), Victor Arnold (Roundenbush), Frank Adonis (Scola), Richard Minchenberg (Policeman), Raymond Serra (Detective), Thomas Ryan (Detective), Tony Latham (Victim), David Connell (Victim), Jery Hewitt (Victim), Roy Brocksmith (Fat Jogger in Park), Michael Wadleigh (Terrorist Informer), and many others. James Horner composed the incidental music. David Eyre, Michael Wadleigh, and Eric Roth wrote the screenplay from Whitley Strieber's novel "The Wolfen". Michael Wadleigh directed.
WOLFEN is based on the 1978 debut novel by Whitley Strieber. The book opens with the violent deaths of two police officers in a junk yard and focuses on the efforts of cranky detective George Wilson and his young partner Becky Neff to track down the killers. They discover a savage pack of highly intelligent wolves preying on the castoffs of society. The wolves are stalking the city and willing to kill to keep their existence secret. Streiber’s agent showed her husband, producer Rupert Hitzig, an advance copy of the book, which Hitzig bid on and won the screen rights to.
Dr. Obrero at Digital Retribution wrote, "A beautifully lensed picture, Wolfen captures the look and feel of New York circa late 70’s/early '80's in a way few other films have ever managed, and the effective camera-trickery that gives us 'Wolfen-Vision' is almost dream-like and effective in sustaining the atmospherics of the attack sequences … Wolfen is an essential choice for those who enjoy intelligent thrillers as opposed to blood-splattering slice and dice and braindead horror films." Vince Leo wrote, "It's an uneven experience, but does have its rewards, and the quirky nature of it can probably be attributed to the previous directorial experience of counter-culture director Michael Wadley." And Bill Chambers at Film Freak Central wrote, "Wolfen goes through the paces of a typical detective thriller, but I'll bet you’ve never seen anything like it … My mother calls Wolfen 'a werewolf movie from the werewolf’s point of view,' and that's not a bad take on it, since the homicidal title creatures are in essence the good guys of the piece."
In the film, the setting for the transient home of the wolves was shot in the South Bronx, at the intersection of Louis Nine Blvd & Boston Road. In the opening panorama shot, the church seen was located at the intersection of E 172nd & Seabury Pl. The decrepit site of ruined buildings was no special effect. Urban decay in the Bronx in the early 1980s was so widespread that it was the ideal production setting. Today, this community contains mostly suburban-style privately owned houses.
Selected premiere engagements of WOLFEN were presented in Megasound, a high-impact surround sound system similar to Sensurround created by Warner Bros. in the early 1980s. Director Wadleigh was unsatisfied with the final cut of the movie, but so far no director's cut of the film is available. The DVD has an extremely good transfer, which is surprising considering the film's age. The print looks almost pristine and is gorgeously formatted in widescreen. Warner Bros. usually doesn't put this much effort into back catalog movies like this. The Dolby Surround Stereo is adequate and a bit low in volume. The extras are skimpy: the trailer, a page listing the cast and crew, and a few screens of text on the history of werewolf movies. An interview or two, or even a short on the filmmaking would have been nice, but none of that is provided.
Il Ritorno di Zanna Bianca (1974) * * ½
In the Northwest Territories of Canada in 1899, Mitsa (Missaele) the young boy from the first ZANNA BIANCA movie is working with his hybrid wolf and two fur traders. Beauty Smith (John Steiner) and two henchmen appear, raid the traders camp, shoot all of them, then escape in a canoe with all their equipment. Several hours later, the wolf-dog is found by John Tarwater (Harry Carey Jr.) a grizzled old trader who buries Mitsa, and takes the hybid wolf back to a nearby town which is his home. The wolf-dog befriends another young boy, John's orphaned 10 year-old grandson Bill Tarwater (Renato Cestiè). Bill names him White Fang because of its ivory-white teeth. At a local saloon, White Fang helps John Tarwater win some money at a card game from a crooked card-shark, and a hilarious fistfight breaks out between the swindler and his victims as John casually counts his money, while White Fang and Bill take cover behind the bar. John then embarks on one of his periodic expeditions to discover gold.
Meanwhile, Beauty Smith is again exploiting the people in the town where John and Bill live. Smith uses the alias Charles Forth, pretends to be a businessman, and fakes a crippling injury by confining himself to a wheelchair with his two henchman always at his side. Sister Evangelina (Virna Lisi) is running a new mission hut in the town to convert into a hospital, and decides to ask Mr. Forth for funding to operate the hospital, despite warnings that Mr. Forth won't give her any money unless she will repay the loan with interest within 60 days or less. Sister Evangelina goes to meet him, and instantly recognizes the villain. She contacts novelist Jason Scott (Franco Nero) who's on a book tour down south and he agrees to come to her assistance. Scott also contacts his old friend Kurt Jansen (Raimund Harmstorf), now working as a local mines inspector to help out. Together, the three of them take their accusations to the town's corrupt police chief, Inspector Lt. Charles Leclerq (Renato de Carmine), who is actually on the payroll of Beauty Smith and claims to have known Mr. Forth for six years. Leclerq's wife Jane (Hannelore Elsner) is pressuring her husband to accommodate Smith's nefarious plans in return for more bribe money in exchange for protection, since Smith is now a wanted fugitive.
Jason Scott attempts to expose the illegal complicity between Mr. Forth and the police chief with the help of a local worker named Liverpool (Donald O'Brien), who agrees to write a statement in exchange for money. But Liverpool goes back on his word to help Scott by skipping town with the money that was given to him. Shortly afterwards, Scott encounters Bill and John Tarwater when White Fang drags them back to town after their sled dogs had run away leaving them stranded on a snowy plain. The animal shows affection for both Bill and Scott, remembing Scott from their previous adventure in Dawson City. Elsewhere, Kurt meets Liverpool's younger and attractive sister (Yanti Somer) and a romantic attraction develops between both of them.
The following day Liverpool returns to the town with two men, one dead and the other suffering from frostbite. They were selling insufficient and overpriced supplies from Beauty Smith. The survivor, Carter (Rolf Hartmann), has gangrene in both legs and Scott has to help Sister Evangelina perform the amputation at the mission hut. When Beauty Smith and his two henchmen see and recognize White Fang, they frame the wolf-dog for savaging Liverpool to death. An enraged posse attempts to kill White Fang, forcing Bill to drive the hybrid wolf out of town. When Bill looks for White Fang later in the woods, he gets attacked by a vicious eagle, but White Fang jumps in and saves him by fighting off the bird. Bill smuggles White Fang back into town and to Sister Evangelina's mission where the hybrid wolf's injuries are tended to.
While visiting his grandson and White Fang at the mission, John learns from Carter about the location of a gold-stream in the mountains that he found. But Harvey (Werner Pochath), a mission employee and a secret associate of Beauty Smith, sees them discussing the location and reports it to his boss. Jane then fakes a sickness to lure Sister Evangelina away from the mission, leaving Carter alone in his sickbed. Beauty Smith visits and tortures Carter for the location of the gold stream, then kidnaps John Tarwater and has his two henchmen set fire to the mission hut. Carter is burned to death, while Bill, who walked in while Smith was torturing Carter, is trapped by the flames. When Sister Evangelina realizes that Jane is not sick, she races back to the burning mission and rushes in to save Bill, but she catches on fire and dies from the severity of her burns.
Hearing of her death, the townspeople start a riot after learning from Bill about the wanted Beauty Smith and of Inspector Leclerq's association with him. As the mob breaks through the Mounties into the police station, Leclerq shoots himself. Scott, Kurt, and Bill find Jane who tells them where Beauty Smith is heading. Scott and Kurt with White Fang organize a posse to give chase. Locating Smith and his henchmen, Scott leads the posse forward and a gun battle ensues. Smith manages to shoot a few posse members, but his two henchmen are killed. White Fang catches up to Smith and attacks him. Smith's gunshots miss the wolf-dog and instead triggers an avalanche. The villain finally dies, crushed to death under the falling snow and ice. Shortly afterwards, Scott, Kurt, and White Fang locate John Tarwater who was shot and left for dead. But before he dies, he asks Scott that his grandson be the beneficiary of the gold stream that he found right near him with Carter's advice. The two-faced Harvey suddenly shows his true colors and says that the owner will legally be the first one to register the claim in the town. He suggests a dog-sled race to settle the disputed claim.
In the climatic sled race, Harvey attempts dirty tricks to win the race, but the tables turn on him when he falls from his sled and dies when he gets accidentally run over by the sled-team headed by White Fang. Scott and White Fang arrive in the town first, and the writer enters Bill Tarwater's name in the ledger in place of his own.
In the final scene, Jason Scott says his goodbyes to Kurt who now has the job as the new police inspector, and he announces that he and Liverpool's sister will be getting married in the spring. Bill also stays to live with Kurt and his wife who have agreed to raise the boy and White Fang. Scott then returns to Vancouver with new stories to write, while White Fang is torn between running after him or staying with Bill. However, White Fang chooses to stay with his young master as he runs back to Bill and trots off with the boy.
IL RITORNO DI ZANNA BIANCA is the sequel to prolific director Lucio Fulci's ZANNA BIANCA (1973). The titles translate into English as "White Fang" and "The Return of White Fang" or "The Challenge of White Fang". The German title is "Die Teufelsschlucht der Wilden Wölfe" and the French titles are "Le Retour de Buck le Loup" and "Le Retour de Croc Blanc". This sequel is set a few years after ZANNA BIANCA, and White Fang once again faces the harsh reality of the increasingly cruel nature of men, but remains faithful to those who are kind. Horror film specialist Fulci does a fine job adapting a variation on Jack London's 1906 novel "White Fang" to the big screen
This light-hearted adventure is set in the harsh wilderness of northern Canada in 1899. It's a typical wintry adventure that should appeal to children, and adults might want to watch it for the cast and director. But if you have seen ZANNA BIANCA, this sequel will seem like more of the same to you, and ZANNA BIANCA isn't all that great a B movie. The sequel is somewhat sloppily written or translated, yet another story about a boy and his hybrid wolf, with some gold rush-Western elements thrown in. There are surprisingly few movies about wolves. Most are adaptations or variations on Jack London's 1903 book "Call of the wild" or its 1906 sequel "White Fang". A German Shepherd dog plays White Fang in ZANNA BIANCA.
Lucio Fulci's ZANNA BIANCA movies are among the strangest films ever made. He has cooked up a populist entertainment that's too violent for children and too cute for adults, except when people aren't being tortured and burned alive. While missing the nudity and sex of exploitation films, these are not really all-age adventures, at least in their unedited forms. You might think this would be fun for the whole family until the town drunk is beaten senseless, the hapless Indian family is murdered in cold blood, and the child terrorized by bad guys who get a kick out of torturing cripples. The bullets fly, the bodies pile up, and White Fang gets to do clever things like figure out that someone is cheating at poker.
Both of Fulci's ZANNA BIANCA films were part of a fad by Italian film producers trying to squeeze some life out of their spaghetti western industry. There were maybe a dozen of these things made between 1973 and 1977 or so--Alpine adventures set in the gold rush era Klondike with plucky kids and an intelligent, resourceful wolf-dog as the star of the film. They usually bring in an action hero and a bad guy and come up with all sorts of fascinating adventures for the hybrid wolf to have while the humans stand around cheering him on.
If there are any saving graces to this sequel it is that White Fang is not forced to fight any other animals for the benefit of the camera, though he does get chased around, kicked, beaten with axe handles and thrown out of burning buildings. He's also depicted as fighting off a golden eagle that attacks the young boy, leading to one of the most bizarre gore effects sequences ever staged where the canine performer is festooned with a truly twisted zombie makeup effect to have it appear as though the bird scratched his eyes out. Probably this was one of the scenes cut from prints exported to North America in the 1970s.
The film ends in a dog sled race finale that took a few cues from BEN HUR (1959), with the two sled riders battling it out as they hurtle across the wilderness. The credits include Canada as one of the filming locations, although IL RITORNO DI ZANNA BIANCA was filmed mostly in Austria. The whole thing is marvelously fake and tacky, which is half of the fun of this little sub-genre of spaghetti westerns. They are fascinating and this is probably one of the better examples with no apparent harm coming to the animal performers. But the people get battered around quite a bit. It looks like it was a tough, physical shoot under adverse conditions, and a minor miracle the film was even made at all.
The cast also includes: John Bartha (Mountie Sergeant), Paolo Magalotti (Smith's Henchman 1), Sergio Smacchi (Smith's Henchman 2), Ezio Marano (Gambler), Stanislaus Gunawan, Vittorio Fanfoni, Carla Mancini, Riccardo Petrazzi (Man in Saloon), Pietro Torrisi (Man in Saloon), and Goffredo Unger (Fighter in Saloon). Carlo Rustichelli composed the incidental music. Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, and Alberto Silvestri wrote the screenplay. Lucio Fulci directed.
Donald O'Brien who plays Liverpool said about John Steiner (Beauty Smith), "He was a good actor, but we didn't get along well. I am Irish, he is British, maybe that's why..." O'Brien said of Raimund Harmstorf who plays Kurt Jansen, "An incredibly good-looking guy. He used to be a Decathlon athlete, I think. These people have the best physiques because they have to do everything, run, jump, throw weights." When informed that director Lucio Fulci had died, O'Brien was shocked and said, "He was a great director. Many terrible things happened to him in his life. He was rather unlucky. I have always enjoyed working with him greatly, as he was a truly original human being with a great love for cinema."