The Call of the Wild (1972)
Heston Hikes with a Hound
You hit that dog one more time, I'm gonna kill ya - John
"The Call of the Wild" is a strange movie, it seriously alienated me within the first 20 minutes and I was quite disgusted by what I watched, it struggled to win me back during the middle section but by the end I had strangely become engrossed in the storyline. The reason being is that "The Call of the Wild" is a family adventure movie made back at the start of the 70s and is a story of a dog called Buck but watching it now, the acts of violence towards dogs, the dubious dubbing thanks to it being a European movie and the almost obvious storyline of a dog having an adventure is seriously off putting. It makes me glad that movies like this are no longer made and the acts of animal cruelty would most definitely not be allowed let alone in one called a family adventure. But behind these dubious scenes and a middle section which seems to drift along there is also a remarkably charming storyline which wins you over.
Stolen from his master, Buck the Alsatian finds himself sold to be part of a sled dog team heading into the icy cold Yukon region of Alaska. Unaccustomed to the conditions Buck initially struggles, but thanks to the care of his owner John (Charlton Heston - The Omega Man) comes into his own as the leader of the pack. But the icy trail is not the only problem for Buck as with the Gold rush going on he is a prized possession and several people try to steal him. But the bond between Buck and John is strong as they become almost inseparable.
As already mentioned "The Call of the Wild" really alienated me early on and with various scenes of in your face animal cruelty as we watch Buck beaten with a stick it's seriously off putting. It makes me wonder how this could have ever passed as either a family movie or a PG even if it is from the early 70s. And these moments of animal cruelty are not just at the start as they seem to be a re-occurring theme through out the movie which makes "The Call of the Wild" more than a little uncomfortable to watch these days.
But beyond these scenes and "The Call of the Wild" is an adventure movie where we are lead into the life of Buck who maybe the most unlikely sled dog going but wins us over as he bonds with his owner John. It is shall we say a little obvious and predictable as Buck gets into danger, meets other dogs or in this case a wolf and bonds with his owner to the point they are inseparable and on more than the odd occasion saves his life. But whilst predictable and frankly struggles to keep your attention during the rather plain middle section, by the end you are charmed by both the story and Buck. You've fallen for the dog and are truly engrossed in his life especially as the bond with John becomes so special.
What though is annoying is that "The Call of the Wild" is very much a European movie and from the muted pallets, the dodgy dubbing, even dodgier dialogue and a whole cacophony of over acting it does feel quite laughable at times. Any scene which revolves around the bar in the mining town is just one moment of over acting after another and it gets painful. And whether this is to do with it being a European movie or not a scene which sees John being washed in the bath by Calliope, the buxom owner of the bar, is quite revealing as she almost bursts over the top of a tight corset. It again makes me wonder how this passed as a family movie.
What is very obvious is that "The Call of the Wild" may star Charlton Heston as John Thornton, who it has to be said gives the best performance from a human, it really is the story of Buck the dog. And as such Buck does everything you would expect from moments of cuteness, through to anger and heroics taking on a human persona of a true friend by the time the movie ends. It is very much this side of the movie, the well trained Buck and his journey is what makes it so entertaining.
What this all boils down to is that "The Call of the Wild" truly is a strange movie which has a lot about it which is just wrong, from animal cruelty through to dodgy dubbing. But by the end of the movie it has done what it set out to do and that is for us to fall in love with Buck the dog and enjoy his adventures. I will say I am glad movies like this are no longer made because there is the cruelty element which makes it seriously uneasy to watch but it does eventually win you over thanks to the likeability of Buck the dog.
Tags: Dog Movies
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