Thursday, July 15, 2010

White Fang (1973)

I've said it over and over again, Lucio Fulci was so much more than gore-movies from the eighties. Nothing wrong with them, I love them and respect them to 100 %. But people tend to forget that the Maestro was an excellent director even without zombies and duck-talking serial killers. My first experience with White Fang was in Sigtuna where I went to school. The driver of the bus, Bertil, obviously understood that I even at such a tender age just was in love with the movie picture. So one day he brought a Swedish x-rental of White Fang and gave it to me. It was quite different than the other similar adventure-movies I've seen at the time, but it stayed with me and over the years I really wanted to watch it again - but with great quality and in widescreen. And I finally did.

Missaele plays Mitsah (which sounds like Pizza everyone someone yells it on the movie), an indian boy who together with his father discovers a wild dog. The boy and the dog becomes friend, and even the father - after a lot of thinking - decides to trust the dog. After an accident, Mitsah needs medcial attention and they go together to Dodge City where a nun has open a hospital. Also in the city is the journalist Jason Scott (Franco Nero, more handsome than ever) and his friend Kurt Jansen (Raimund Harmstorf) - both of course extremely good guys. The only problem is that the village is run by the sleazy and evil Charles 'Beauty' Smith (John Steiner) and his henchmen, and he really wants White Fang to be his own fighting-dog... Scott and Jansen takes it upon themselves to clean up the trash and bring some order in town!

It takes a Fulci to bring life to Jack London's White Fang. This is a much darker and crueler story, and though it's a movie directed towards families and "young adults", it's both violent and cynical. Fulci is not afraid to show the darkness of mankind and do so with a graphic punch. I think kids can, even in the seventies, stand much more than parents or censorship claims, and if I ever get a kid - this is the movie I would show. It's really nothing bad with it. It's such a slick and beautiful production (the only scene that stands out as corny is in the beginning, where we see a lot of studio-sets dressed to look like outdoors) with a magnificent cast. Everyone is wonderful, but Fernando Rey as the alcoholic Father Oatley is character with many layers and Rey makes him come a alive so well. There's a fantastic scene in the end where Oatley discovers something, a tragedy both for him personally, and the city and he goes on a ranting-rampage and breaks down out in the street. Powerful.

My biggest worry was that the story about the boy would be to dominating and cute, but it never happens and every relationship in this movie feels real. One interesting thing, that's been pointed out by other critics, is that the story is much about how evil privatization is (and I agree to a certain point). John Steiner's character is obviously a symbol of capitalism and Scott and Jansen are defenders of communism. I can see why Fulci was attracted by the script.

But White Fang is most of all a dark, intelligent and dramatic adventure-movie. Another proof of Fulci's genius and talent as a director and storyteller.

And yes Jason, I have this one and the sequel to you :)


CiNEZiLLA said...

LOL! Awesome! And now I want to see this even more than ever as your great piece just blasted the one thing I was worried about to pieces.

Ace text Fred, ace!


Nigel M said...

ah, white fang, saw this as a small child in the cinema with my father- never forgot it. Saw it again recently- still great an adventure movie for all ages and one that is not patronising or twee.

Ninja Dixon said...

J, you were afraid it was to cute? :)

Nigel, correct, it's not patronizing at all - and it feels it takes it's young audience in a serious way. Not treating the kids/family like idiots like many new adventure-movies.