You know this film isn't half bad! For a dollar at the Shop Mart you can do a lot worse, though I doubt most people who glom onto it will really understand what they are seeing. This is essentially a later era Spaghetti Western made at a time when the form was becoming passé. To jazz them up Italian directors were making hybrid versions with Kung-Fu subplots, comedy shenanigans or in this case, plundering the writings of Jack London & moving the locations up into the Rockies (played here by the mountains of Sweden and still coming off well).
Crime thriller star Maurizio Merli is brought in as the indomitable prospector looking to avenge the murder of his former partner and finding himself saddled with the movie's requisite plucky young tyke, an obnoxious element thrown in the mix to appeal to the film's target audience of 8 - 12 year old boys. Sexy Gisela Hahn plays the saloon harlot with the heart of gold (necessary to keep the tag-along fathers interested) and the always enjoyable Henry Silva takes on the Jack Palance role of the crooked town crime boss who's schemes the hero interrupts. This one has the added twist of Merli adopting the identity of his murdered friend in a bid to get to the bottom of things, which of course requires lots of desperate walks through the snowy wilds, bar room fistfights, shootouts with the bad guys and displays of wintertime survival skills.
But the star of the film is of course the dog, arbitrarily called White Fang: There were about a dozen of these Jack London derived Doggy Adventure Snow Westerns cobbled together, and the real hero is a German Shepard unconvincingly cast as a white timber wolf who befriends our plucky young tyke, saving him and Merli's necks a bunch of time as he does clever and exciting things like bearing down snarling on secreted assassins, finding the key to the jail cell or fighting off the inevitable wolf attack that is also a vital if unfortunate element of the formula. I say unfortunate because the animals were more or less coaxed to actually fight on camera and sensitive viewers might be concerned that the doggies were perhaps being exploited. Chances are they were, but for $1.00 per DVD nobody seems to care.
Then there's the bear. One of the more absurd subplots in this outing has the local shysters bring in a bear (which is substituting for the hired killer role of this were a standard issue oater) and White Fang has to contend with the beast on no less than two snarling, sprawling, overlong fight sequences that once again remind us that in 1974 nobody gave a damn about "animal rights". For a family film it's pretty fierce stuff and kids may want to know why the bear and the doggie are fighting when in all actuality they would probably have just avoided each other if they weren't thrown into a pen together by a bunch of thick-skulled Italians.
But those segments aside this is a very passable if somewhat violent movie that you can pretty much all watch together, and fans of genre cinema will be delighted by some of the familiar supporting cast faces like Renzo Palmer, Benito Steffanelli, Luciano Rossi and the insane Donald O'Brian. Written in part by Giovanni Simonelli with music by the always dependable Carlo Rustichelli and directed by Spaghetti Western legend Tonino Ricci, this is actually a film with some respectable talent on display and interesting low budget production design. What's going around is a full-frame English language printing on various public domain DVDs priced appropriately at about $1.00, and you can do a lot worse for that $1.00; I've already watched mine about six times, which is a pretty good cost to entertainment value ratio if I might say.
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