Movie Review
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Jack London's Call of the Wild
Peter Svatek
Hallmark 02/98 VHS

Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, this rugged and unsentimental portrait of a dog's life displays a reverence for the otherness of animals. After four years of easy living in the "southland," Buck the dog is kidnapped and shipped to the Yukon. A gold rush is on there, and people need dogs to pull their sleds. Buck learns to look out for himself in this cruel environment where men beat stubborn dogs and wolves attack defenceless ones. Buck even kills one of his own kind in this world ruled by "claw and fang." He serves two men who are couriers and then is sold to some inexperienced people who nearly starve him to death travelling on a dangerous route. He is rescued by John Thornton (Rutger Hauer), a trapper who wins his love by treating him well. But Buck starts to feel the call of the wild in his bones, instinctively sensing the lure of another life. Peter Svatek directs this harsh drama about the survival of the fittest which accurately reflects Jack London's world view.


 B. Niedt (Cherry Hill, NJ United States) | 02/21/2005 |
Heston Saves It from Being a Total... Well, You Know....

Imagine my sense of serendipity when, having just finished reading Jack London's classic "Call of the Wild" with my 9-year-old, I found this DVD release on sale for a dollar! (Some company called Double D has just released a series of "classic" films, TV shows and cartoons at this rock-bottom price.) Well, let me say it was worth the buck (pun not intended), but just barely. My son enjoyed watching it, but mainly because he's just finished the book. He had fun pointing out the inconsistencies with the book, too. (It only took a 9-year-old to figure that out.) First and foremost, John Thornton becomes the main character throughout the story, rather than near the end as in the book. (I guess Heston wanted a bigger part.) But enough about that. If it weren't for Heston (not my favourite actor, but by far the best one in the film), this wouldn't be worth the plastic it was burned on. The "international cast" (I've learned to beware of that label ever since watching those Robert Halmi miniseries fiascos on TV) are unknowns, and rightfully so, and the dubbed-in dialogue for the foreign-speaking actors is even worse. The soundtrack - early 70's bad electronic - is atrocious. And the DVD was apparently copied from a scratchy print. Lastly, as mentioned by other reviewers, this is not a film (or story, for that matter) for very young children. There is mild profanity and moderate violence, particularly the dogfights, which were so vicious that I hope "no animals were harmed in the making of this picture." It deserves at least a PG. But it is, apparently, the only version of the story on DVD (or VHS?). So if you really want a rather bowdlerized version of a classic story for a dirt-cheap price, or if you'll watch Charlton Heston in anything, by all means buy it.