04 August, 2009

Lucio Fulci's WHITE FANG (1973)

Peter Welbeck aka Harry Alan Towers contributed to the script on this intelligent Lucio Fulci adaptation of Jack London's story.

I wanted to watch a Harry Alan Towers related film last night so I put on my old [cut and fullscreen] prerecord of the Towers co-scripted and Lucio Fulci directed WHITE FANG (1973). It's an above average adventure based on the writings on Jack London.

Spaghetti Western legend Franco Nero [DJANGO] is featured as Jason Scott, a New York Herald Tribute journalist who uncovers the corrupt activities of a sleazy business developer in Dawson City during the gold rush. This story is intertwined with the story of the half-wolf dog White Fang who is trapped by Charlie (Daniel Martin), an Eskimo, and his young son. The boy befriends the dog, but the father mistrusts its wolfish nature. The animal, of course, saves the boy. After getting badly mauled by a bear in a sadistic show put on by the villain, White Fang comes back to save the day when the town is threatened by the businessman's planned sabotage of a dam. There are some fairly disturbing scenes of violence here, but they seems to be an integral part of the story and ambiance.

It sounds corny but it's not. The animals are well-trained, completely credible and have as much character as the humans. John Steiner makes a memorable, slimy villain with his slicked back hair and laser stare. He looks like one of those moustache twirling cads in an silent film. This could actually be called a communist western considering that private business interests are presented as evil and self destroying while collective action sets things right. It also has something to say about human nature. When a gold strike in Nome is announced the locals can't wait to abandon the town. Once can really sense Fulci's hand here. This is the same director who made DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING the year before.

Excellent cinematography by Erico Menczer and an atmospheric score by maestro Carlo Rustichelli really boost the action.

A strong supporting cast includes Virni Lisa, Harry Carey Jr., Rik Battaglia and Fernando Rey.

I sure wish I could have seen this in 2.35:1 with good video quality. This needs to be on a deluxe DVD with the Fulci-directed follow up, Ritorno di Zanna Bianca. Joe D'Amato reportedly helped out with some scenes in these films.

Fulci's Eurowesterns, especially MASSACRE TIME (1966) and FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975,) are among the best the genre has to offer.

I'm not certain of Towers exact contribution to the script but this is a well-written, multi-layered Jack London screen adaptation.

a.k.a. Challenge to White Fang, Ritorno di Zanna Bianca, Le Retour de Buck le Loup, Die Teufelsschlucht der wilden Wölfe. 1974.
Directed by Lucio Fulci. Produced by Ermanno Donati. Written by Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Alberto Silvestri. Cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti. Music by Carlo Rustichelli.
Cast: Harry Carey Jr. (Tarwater), Renato Cestie (Bill), Raimund Harmstorf (Kurt Jansen), Virna Lisi (Evangeline), Franco Nero (Jason Scott), Werner Pochath (Bandit), John Steiner (Beauty Smith), Donald O'Brien (Bandit), Renato De Carmine (Leclerc).

a.k.a. Zanna Bianca, Colmillo blanco, Croc-blanc. 1973.
Directed by Lucio Fulci. Produced by Ermanno Donati. S/P- Roberto Gianviti, Piero Regnolli, Peter Welbeck, Guy Elmes, Thomas Keyes, Guillaume Roux. Cinematography by Erico Menczer. Second unit director: Tonino Ricci. Music by Carlo Rustichelli. 101 min.
Cast: Carole André (Krista Oatley), Ricardo Battaglia (Jim Hall), Harry Carey Jr., Daniele Dublino (Chester), Raimund Harmstorf (Kurl Jansen), Virna Lisi (Evangeline), Daniel Martín (Charlie), Franco Nero (Jason Scott), Fernando Rey (The Priest), John Steiner (Beauty Smith).


Ninja Dixon said...

I really want to see both these movies. Hope they will show up on dvd soon. I'll trust the germans in this case, they always are up for some obscure westerns.

Dave said...

I believe these are available in Germany but without English options. The 'Franco Cleef' DVD-r reconstructions which Xploited used to carry may have utilized these releases but synchronising an English audio track from VHS - I regret not picking them up, are they are two of only four Fulci films from the late 60s onwards that I haven't seen.