Stalk the Wild Child tells the story of a feral child, found by two hunters at the age of eleven, who is removed from his wild home and canine family and placed under the care of civilized humans. David Janssen plays Dr. Hazard who goes against the law and begins treatment for the child he names Cal, with the help of speech therapist Maggie (well played by Trish Van Devere). When the government steps in and informs Dr. Hazard that Cal must be a ward of the state, he makes the rash decision to adopt the boy. With the help of Maggie, Dr. Hazard tries to re-acclimate Cal into civilized society.
This film makes many social statements with the methods of Dr. Hazard too overbearing and forceful and Maggie's methods too nurturing and careful. Who best raises a child, the film asks--man or woman? We watch as Cal ages into his teen years, learning to speak and interact with others, but his life revolves around his pseudo parents Maggie and Dr. Hazard until Dr. Hazard publishes his papers on how he saved a feral child. When Dr. Hazard goes public with his story, Cal comes to the realization, which isn't altogether false, that Dr. Hazard adopted him simply as a means to establish his legacy in his occupational field. Cal then sets out into the world and finds that humans are quick to take advantage of him.
There are many plot elements that go underdeveloped in this made-for-TV movie. One reviewer claimed that the wild dogs showed more compassion to Cal than the humans, which is false. We never see much interaction between Cal and his canine companions, thus negating the role of the dogs as nurturing entities. Trish Van Devere's Maggie certainly shows Cal a level of care he has never seen before, as he rewards her with gifts best given in the animal kingdom--such as a dead bird.
This is an okay time waster, but nothing worthy of repeated viewings, lest you be a fan of one of the stars. As a fan of Trish Van Devere, I was drawn to this film and when it first began, with narration from David Janssen, I imagined that Trish was able to talk her husband George C. Scott, the greatest actor that ever lived, to led his voice for the narrative, given the similarities between Scott and Janseen's gravelly speech.
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