Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day of the Wolves

The Action Mutant…
says “Goodnight, Mr. Walters!” (grumble).

Day of the Wolves

review by Joe Burrows


"You can only put away so much stuff in your closet". – Paul Newman.

Just gonna say a few quick, belated words about the recently deceased Paul Newman. By all counts, the guy fucking ruled it on screen. Cool Hand Luke is one of my favorite movies of all time; true proof that they don’t make films like that anymore. On the day after his death, I walk into the local FYE and they’re playing Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. I just catch the infamous “cliff jumping” scene as I walk in and it instantly puts a smile on my face. There aren’t many scenes in film that can manage to be both hilariously twisted & heartwarming at the same time and that’s one of them. The thing I was most impressed with as I was reading up on him (other than being nominated for an Oscar ten times & winning once, for The Color of Money) was his philanthropic side. His “Newman’s Own” sauce company has raked in over $175 million in profits, which were all donated to charities. That’s pretty much a big middle finger to any celebrity that claims they’re charitable after donating a few thou with plenty of cameras around. Can you imagine the difference that would be made in third-world countries if every actor, athlete, millionaire, CEO, musician (Bono) & so called musician (Diddy) that could afford to give up $1 million for charity…would actually do it? This just reiterates my point that all of the great actor/celebrities are dying & there are very few that are worthy to move into place. I said it when Bronson died and I’ll say it now. Paul Newman had balls because he was an Actor’s actor & didn’t need to be surrounded by paparazzo or fall off the wagon like a spectacular, red haired, Herpes laden auto crash/turned Lesbo-cum political pundit (seriously, does anyone give two shits what Linds thinks about John McCain, a person she most likely heard of twenty minutes before having her publicist blog about him?) to gain attention. Face it, (as this film ends up proving) clowns is the real evil in humanity. Don’t believe me? Look at what’s been residing in the White House for the past eight years!

The Plot, as it was:
Jan Murray (History of the World: Part I) plays a bearded criminal mastermind that has seemingly concocted the perfect crime. He has enlisted six ex-cons (all bearded, as well being completely unaware of each other’s backgrounds) to train for the crime: the heisting of the small town of Wellerton! Designating each by number, the leader (No.1, natch) figures that by catching the sleepy town unaware, the gang will knock off the town’s banks & businesses without much trouble (as well as pocket about $50,000 a piece). Meanwhile, the town council just booted Pete Anderson (Richard Egan) from his spot as Sheriff after he busted one of the council member’s kids for reckless driving. Think they’ll have him on speed dial, just in case? Uh-oh!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Despite sounding like a low rent, Canadian-wilderness adventure, Day of the Wolves is really a very low rent heist picture that is moderately better than that description suggests. Its concept makes it slightly more cerebral & ingratiating than one would expect and that’s the draw here, despite the fact that it’s very uniform in its storytelling & execution (no Reservoir Dogs style backtracking here). Most of it is very straightforward & is more about the buildup, as that takes up about 2/3 of the film’s running time and does a very fair (if unspectacular) job of getting the audience into the act. The cast of mainly amateur, unknown actors does well with the material, as the less melodramatic stuff does come off more like the grassroots filmmaking it is. Old pros Murray & Egan make the most of their roles and bring much needed credibility to the proceedings. Aside from the score by Sean Bonniwell (which is very guitar driven, very 70s & very kickass), the most memorable thing taken from DotW is its ending (Warning: other reviews of the film DO spoil the ending). While it’s not an earth shattering mindfuck of Sleepaway Camp proportions, it does put the previous 90 minutes into perspective & makes for a stellar conclusion (the last shot is priceless, IMO). At the end of the day, Day of the Wolves won’t break any hearts but it will provide a solidly told story & a decent fix for your crime genre gullet.

Body Count/Violence: 2. The low budget does stymie the mayhem somewhat, as the only two dead are done in by shotgun blasts. That particular shotgun battle in the town is actually pretty well done, considering the film’s production values (see below). There are some explosions & a beating or two thrown in but that’s about it. The flick is rated G but (as I’ve always thought) there is slight leeway in the film’s content.

Sexuality/Nudity: None.

Language/Dialogue: Very little. Maybe a “damn”, if that.

How bad was it?:
Most critics give DotW middling reviews & viewer feedback doesn’t go much higher than that. Most seem to agree that the twist at the end is the straw that stirs the drink.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Thought there are no box office receipts to back up if it was a success, Day of the Wolves is certainly an early example of Independent filmmaking. Shot on a shoestring cost of $187,000 in the spring of 1971, DotW was filmed with a non-union crew that was comprised of professional actors & some of the townspeople of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Filmed entirely on location, the film touts the fact that they used live ammo during the gun battle after encountering trouble with the guns firing blanks! That’s hardcore! Day of the Wolves saw a few theaters in 1973 (produced by Balut Productions & released by Goldkey Entertainment) & sank into public domain, as well as some DVD Western compilations. A documentary on the making of the film (Return to Lake Havasu: The Making of ‘Day of the Wolves’) was released in 2008.

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Nice review; the documentary about "Day of the Wolves" (Return to Lake Havasu) actually hasn't been released yet, but hopefully will in the first half of '09.