TCM Overload: ‘The Pack’ (1977)

October was a busy month for me, both as a writer and outside of the written realm. Constantly running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I ultimately fell behind on my planned horror-watching, including everything I had recorded off of TV. If anything ran itself as ragged as I did in the build-up to Halloween, it was our family DVR. Turner Classic Movies was the cause of most of this wonderful strife, resulting in 100+ hours of horror movie recordings piling up on our set. Now it’s time to finally dive into those titles. Behold and tremble, as TCM Overload is born…

thepack1977The Pack (1977)

Directed by Robert Clouse
Produced by Fred Weintraub
Screenplay by Robert Clouse
Starring Joe Don Baker, Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull, Bibi Besch, Ned Wertimer, and R.G. Armstrong

For any fan of genre cinema, especially exploitation films, Robert Clouse is a familiar name. At least if you are someone who values cinema made before the late 1980s. Probably best known for his action films, Clouse famously worked with legendary martial arts superstar on both Enter the Dragon (1973) and Game of Death (1978), finishing the latter after the action phemon passed away. Other notable slice o’ action entertainment from the filmmaker include Black Belt Jones (1974), The Ultimate Warrior (1975), The Big Brawl (1980), and the unforgettable Gymkata (1985).

Lesser known are Clouse’s forays into horror cinema, of which this killer animal opus was the first. Its a subgenre that Clouse would latter return to with 1982’s Deadly Eyes, but that’s a subject for another day. The Pack sees a small group of people, some residents and some tourists, trapped on a remote island with a pack of ravenous, feral dogs. In a rather sly way, the film makes for an entertaining chiding of people who take in pets and then abandon them to starve. After all, there would be no titular “pack” in this film had these canines’ owners properly fed and cared for them!

Our lead in this man versus nature tale is none other than Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall, The Living Daylights). A staple of 1970s cinema in particular, Baker might seem an odd choice for a romantic lead today, but certainly was not in the ’70s. He had previously worked with Clouse three years earlier on Golden Needles (1974). Given that said film is apparently an adventure flick centering on Joe Don Baker and others in a race to find an ancient Asian statue that can grant super stud sex powers, don’t be surprised if I track it down and review it as well in the near future.

Baker tangent aside, The Pack also stars genre cinema staples R.G. Armstrong (Race with the Devil, Predator) and Bibi Besch (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Beast Within), among others. Sadly, Clouse regular Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones, Golden Needles, etc.) does not show up to kick the crap out of some manflesh-craving mongrels. I won’t hold that against it though, as not all films can be perfect.

So how does The Pack stack up? Pretty well. Clouse managed to craft a well-paced, well-directed slice of nature run amok entertainment here. While I didn’t take to it as enthusiastically as I might have had I actually caught it as a child, there’s no denying that it is one of the better entries in the subgenre. I wasn’t exactly sure how much I truly liked it after watching it, but I find myself still thinking on it days later. It’s a shame that Warner Bros. has yet to bring this under-loved gem to Blu-ray, but I’ll certainly settle for their Warner Archive DVD release. Knowing my luck, a Blu-ray will be announced shortly after I snap it up.

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