Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#1,345. The Pack (1977)

Directed By: Robert Clouse

Starring: Joe Don Baker, Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull

Tag line: "They're not pets anymore"

Trivia: This movie was also released as The Long Dark Night

I first learned about The Pack in 2008, while watching 42nd Street Forever Vol. 3: Exploitation Explosion, a collection of grindhouse-era trailers released by Synapse video. I was so impressed with the movie’s preview that I immediately searched for a DVD copy of The Pack, only to find one wasn’t yet available. So, every few months, I’d check Amazon.com to see if a release had been announced, and finally, in 2011, it was put out as part of the Warner Archive Collection. Needless to say, I quickly bought a copy, and I'm happy to report I’m not the least bit disappointed I did so; The Pack is a tense, engaging movie.

Seal Island, a popular vacation spot, is in trouble. Every year, tourists flock to the small isle, but before some of them leave, they abandon their pet dogs, which have become too much trouble to care for. Hungry and with nowhere else to turn, these dogs have formed a pack, which, led by a ferocious mongrel, has attacked several people, mauling them to death. Jerry (Joe Don Baker), who recently moved to Seal Island with his wife Millie (Hope Alexander-Willis) and his two sons, first learns about the pack when they kill his beloved German Shepherd. When the attacks become more frequent, Jerry joins forces with his neighbor, Cobb (R.G. Armstrong), and a few others, putting together a daring plan that, if successful, will finish the ravenous canines off, once and for all.

While some of the films he’s appeared in over the years have been a bit suspect (like Congo), Joe Don Baker is, at the very least, always interesting to watch (along with his star-making turn in the original Walking Tall, he was excellent as the hired hit man in director Don Siegel’s criminally underrated 1973 thriller Charley Varrick). As Jerry, the lead character in The Pack, Baker is at his ass-kicking best, and the final showdown between him and the lead mongrel is intense, to say the least. And while the rest of the cast does an adequate job (with the exception of Sherry Miles, who’s beautiful but ineffective as Lois, a young girl brought along on a fishing trip), the supporting ‘character’ that makes the biggest impact is the mongrel, the leader of the dog pack, who’s downright vicious when he’s on the hunt. As he's leading a nighttime attack against McInnimmee (Delos V. Smith Jr.), a local resident of Seal Island, we catch a glimpse of the mongrel peering through a window. With a wild look in his eyes and his lips curled in a snarl, this pooch looks like a damn monster, and at that moment, we realize just how dangerous he can be.

The Pack is one of several good movies I discovered while watching the 42nd Street Forever trailer collection, which, as of this writing, is a five-volume set (along with Vol. 3, I also liked Vol. 5, with trailers hand-picked by the employees of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Tx). If you haven’t seen any of the 42nd Street Forever DVDs, I strongly recommend you do so.

And after that, check out The Pack.

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