Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Pack (1977)

Robert Clouse had a very interesting career as a director. More or less, it seems, a gun for hire but still with a very edgy and radical style without abandoning classic filmmaking. He's only considered to have directed one major classic, the Bruce Lee flick Enter The Dragon. It's probably the only movie he will be remember for, but his career outside this kung fu adventure has a lot to offer. The Ultimate Warrior, with Yul Brynner and Max Von Sydow - a movie clearly before its time, has always been a favourite of mine. Gritty and violent and very stylish. In 1977 he entered the so popular genre of killer animals and the result was The Pack.

Joe Don Baker is Jerry, a marine biologist living on Seal Island together with his new girlfriend and their two (one each) sons. The island is a typical wildlife spot for tourists, but this is the end of the season and the last guests arrives to stay there over the weekend. It's a businessman and his family and staff, among them the bored son Tommy (Paul Willson, immortalized much later through his part in Office Space) and the secretary, who's gotten orders to try to seduce Tommy. Anyway, Jerry spots a straw dog on the island and soon he understands that there's at least a dozen, maybe more, starving and probably with rabies - and now they turned to human flesh to survive!

I would say that The Pack is up there together with Grizzly, Day of the Animals and The Prophecy (and Night of the Lepus, but for different reasons) as the best ever made in the genre. A bold statement, but that comes from a man that have seem them all and knows what to expect of a killer animal-movie. The direction from Clouse is intensive, and seldom have I seen so realistic and gruesome dog-attacks as here. Not especially graphic, but the dogs looks fucking pissed and the attacks are cleverly edited to look even more violent and ferocious! The Pack was made under the supervision of The American Humane Association and the dogs trained by one of the best in the biz, Karl Lewis Miller, but I can guarantee that you never seen anything like this. Even I felt uncomfortable watching those beasts with drooling jaws jump at the actors and stuntmen, looking like they are going to rip every throat in sight!

Joe Don Baker, lets take a minute or two discussing this man. I always felt, especially after watching this movie, that I've been a bit unfair to him. More than once I've been joking that it was only in the seventies a man like him could have been a movie star, a sex-symbol. But I've always seen him as the fatty he became later (still a brilliant actor of course, I love him!) but he really looked good in the seventies and even in The Pack his sex appeal shines through. More respect to Baker! The rest of the cast (and the character they're playing) are good and likable, and it feels like real people. Even the mumbling, silly blonde secretary/cook (Sherry Miles) has a lot of character and the scenes between her and Paul Willson is excellent. Willson was the Philip Seymour Hoffman of his generation, both playing similar character and sharing a look only a mother could love, but sadly Willson never became the big star he deserved to be.

The Pack finally out from Warner Archive and it's a fantastic movie, probably THE best movie Clouse directed. For you who are interested, in 2006 The Breed was released. It's a very similar movie but with a 100 % young and attractive cast. It's actually quite good, but never reaches the quality of The Pack.


Jesper said...

Always wanted to see this one! Where did you find it? I tried cdwow, play and axelmusic without any luck...

Ninja Dixon said...

It's worth getting!

I bought it from Diabolik DVD:[sl]-Thriller/The-Pack-DVDr-(Warner-Archives)-(NTSC-All-Region).html