If you’re one of the many frustrated by an inability to get your hands on DVD’s of clasc genre offerings, Warner Brothers Archive has set out to ease your frustration, and provide you, the fans with a chance to finally own some of the more obscure titles yet to receive official disc releases. From cult favorite efforts of the 1960’s, to unheralded features of the 1980’s, WBA is opening a can of worms sure to be relished by hardcore collectors. Amazingly, these films are pressed to order, so it may be wise to capitalize on this buness venture while the opportunity still presents itself (who knows, slow sales could lead to the abandonment of this kick ass marketing concept)!
The first film I’ll cover in the Archive collection is Robert Clouse’s 1977 man versus beast feature, The Pack. I’ll spare you a thorough breakdown of the plot, as the synops below covers any angle I’d otherwise illuminate. I will however highlight some of the films strengths and weaknesses.
Writer/director Robert Clouse, whose Enter the Dragon delivered hard-hitting action and whose Deadly Eyes provided gnawing rodent terror, combines both fright and fight in this survival tale where a walk in the woods becomes a long, dark journey into fear. Set on a remote island where vacationers have senselessly abandoned their unwanted pet dogs, The Pack shows man’s inhumanity coming back to haunt him with fanged fierceness. The confused, starving pets form a rampaging pack – and man’s best friend becomes his worst fiend. Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall, The Natural, The Living Daylights) stars as the heroic marine biologist who comes up with a do-or-die scheme that will either reestablish man as top dog – or turn him into a tasty tidbit. The suspense is ferocious.
Pros: The Pack boasts an absolutely stellar cast that includes the legendary Joe Don Baker (Cape Fear), Hope Alexander-Willis (Trauma) and Ned Wertimer (Bad Company). Baker is an impresve lead, and he controls the tone of the entire film with his subtle yet assertive personality; he is quite mply, a hero you want to pull for. The remastered rendition of the picture boasts some clean, crisp audio (I’ve yet to sample on the surround sound system, admittedly) and the picture, while still a tad grainy does boast some vibrant colors; the pastels in particular really dance.
Another great quality the film has, are the special effects. While limited, no doubt due to technological restrictions, there are some fine scenes that enable solid practical effects to shine. The gore isn’t exactly overwhelming, and we’re not treated to many close-ups, but just about every scene you see in which violence is depicted, it’s the real deal, with well trained dogs living up to their nister expectations. In today’s day and age, in which any animal violence (most violence in general for that matter) is sure to be generated by some pricey computer programs, it’s nice to see practical execution.
Cons: The story itself is all a bit ludicrous, and it goes far beyond the disbelief that comes with a dozen wild dogs slaughtering a half dozen healthy, capable individuals, who just so happen to be armed with a small selection of firearms. There are sequences that just don’t fit into the realm of reason; for example, one scene depicts the “leader” of the pack (a particularly savage canine) attacking Jerry (Baker) through a busted window. Someone mentions that he should “shoot it!” however he opts to poke and prod the dog with the butt of his shotgun. When asked a moment later if he shot the dog, he mply states that he was incapable of doing so. Really? Jerry couldn’t turn his shotgun around, and finger the trigger, rather than further annoy the mangy bastard for a good three minutes? Bad writing, full display.
In truth, poor writing, and neglect for detail are the film’s greatest pitfalls. The story begins well, and travels a coheve course, up until the hour mark, where things fall apart. Had the film run closer to 80 minutes rather than 100, some serious pacing issues could have been avoided. The film peaks an hour in; then slows to a crawl for another 10 minutes, only to see the action once more ratcheted up for a few minutes, just to lull back into a depresngly slow pace, to, you guessed it, once again slam viewers in the face with a fine finale. The ebb and flow is everywhere; from sea bottom to peak of the greatest swell, and the continued fluctuations really steal away from the attention the film should command.
My only other complaint here is the picture’s lighting. While the daytime shots are great, any action to unfold under cover of nightfall is virtually undetectable. I’m all for natural lighting (Sean Cunningham proved natural lighting can be wonderfully chilling when shooting methods are understood), but natural lighting alone doesn’t work for this film, or, it just wasn’t shot right. Some extra lighting could have travelled great distances in showcang the action that unfolds after sunset; it would after all be nice to see a little bit of the late night action.
Summary: The Pack is actually an enjoyable film that forces viewers to juggle a series of emotions. Though flawed in spots, Joe Don Baker is great, as are the films serene surroundings. If you can get past some continuity and pacing issues, you'll likely get a kick out of this early man vs. natureesque flick!DVDetails:Studio: Warner Bros.
Theatrical Release Date: 08/23/1977
Screen Aspect: 16 X 9 FULL FRAME
Run Time: 99 minutes
Packaging Type: Amaray Case
Bonus Features: None
Order your copy of The Pack right here at Warner Brothers Archive