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THE CALL OF THE WILD
1996

poster

Film

Director:
Peter Svatek

Language:
English

Running Time: 91'

Main Cast:
Rutger Hauer - John Thornton
Vosko, Gessa, Gustave - Buck
Charles Powell - Hal
Bronwen Booth - Mercedes
John Novak - The Gambling Man
Luc Morissette - M. Perroult
Robert Pierre Coté - François
Lynne Adams - Maggie
Richard Dreyfuss - Narrator

Screenplay:
Graham Ludlow from the novel by Jack London

Plot:
Told from the point of view of the dog Buck, this story, as other animal stories, contains a great amount of sentimentalism. However, unlike other animal stories, it contains a great amount of brutality, and disregard for the value of human life. Buck is the only really important thing in the film, as well as in the book. The only other strong character is John Thornton, who sets him free and takes him in his wanderings, thus becoming his only undemanding best friend.
Buck's survival is what counts. The other dogs, and even the humans in the story, are merely a background against which the story of this survival takes place. They can pass out of the picture without explanation or without reason. For example, during a scene, the ice breaks away under Charles, Hal, and Mercedes, carrying them to their death. None of these people has done anything worthy of this cruel death, unless it be that they were mean to Buck. Moreover, John Thornton expresses sympathy only for Buck and not for the victims of this tragedy.
The law of the "club and the fang" is a predominant element. Kill or be killed is what drags Buck relentlessly through his adventures until finally he is released from any hold that civilization has upon him.
At the end of the story, he is not only with the wolf pack; he is one of them.

Notes:
Jack London was born in San Francisco in 1876. The product of a broken home and a poverty-stricken family, he left school at the age of fourteen to go to work. In those times this was not an unusual occurrence for an average boy, because then school was not considered the necessity that we think it to be nowadays. However, the things that Jack London did were unusual. While still in his teens he shipped as an able seaman to Japan and the Siberian coast (just like Rutger, who left home at 15 and sailed for some 10 months, working on a freighter, “Fabian”, of the Dutch Merchant Navy, travelling from Europe to Pakistan, to Canada, Chicago, Singapore and Saigon!) and also worked with a group of oyster pirates. He took odd jobs in mills and a canning factory, and worked his way across the country with a group of socialists who had planned a march on Washington to protest conditions among the poor. He later went to Japan as a war correspondent in 1904 and to Mexico in 1914.
Though poorly educated, Jack London had a tremendous respect for the value of education. This respect was undoubtedly gained in large measure during the years immediately following his leaving school. After wandering about the country and drifting from job to job, he realized that he was not getting anywhere, and that he was still as poor as ever. Not wanting to take the time to return to high school, he crammed enough knowledge into his head during a three-month period of reading and study so that he was able to pass a special entrance examination for college. He enrolled at the University of California; but, after a few months, the lure of the “gold rush” got him, and he was off to the Klondike in 1897.
He died in Glen Ellen, California, in 1916, when he was only 40 years old.

Rutger's Notes:
I enjoyed my last movie, 'The Call of the Wild', even though the star here is not me but a dog. Really it's an action movie about a dog. I save the dog and he falls in love with me for a bit. I die and he moves on.

Jack London (left, a boy with his dog Rollo)

A U.S. newspaper promotional ad


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