"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Wolf Dog (Fox, 1958)


Jim in Canada




 
 
It’s a contemporary Western (set in the 1950s) but it’s a Western alright. Reader John Knight mentioned it in comments on the Jim Davis picture Frontier Uprising, so I thought I’d give it a go. You can get it (in poor quality) on YouTube.

It’s a low-budget black & white B-picture, made by Regal Films (Canada) and shot in Ontario. They used their widescreen process Regalscope so today we view it in rectangular format, wide but not deep.

Jim plays an ex-marine sergeant who killed a man (unintentionally) in a fight and did a stretch for manslaughter. His kindly colonel, though, played by Sydney Brown, lets him have a ranch he doesn’t want, and so Jim, with his wife Ellen (Alison Hayes) and his young son Paul (Tony Brown) decide to run cattle. The trouble is, there’s loathsome landowner neighbor Clem Krivak (Austin Willis) who will stop at naught to get his greedy hands on the ranch. Yep, it’s one of those ruthless-rancher-wants-the-whole valley plots.

And of course the ruthless rancher has henchmen with guns (I think they were obligatory) and a tame sheriff (Edward Holmes).

Jim deals with one of the henchmen

OK, it’s set in the 1950s but it could just have easily been 1870.

Dogs play an important part in the plot, as you may guess from the title. First the villain cruelly sets his fierce brute on poor little Spot, Paul’s mutt, with fatal results – for Spot. Then the boy finds a replacement, half wolf (though it looked just like a German Shepherd to me), which he imaginatively names Dog (maybe that was where Longmire got the idea). Finally there is a showdown on Main Street – between Dog and the bad guy’s (anonymous) canine. You may guess who wins.

The first dogfight causes the worm sheriff to turn, finally finding the guts to stand up to the arrogant town boss.

The picture was produced and directed by Sam Newfield (left), brother of Sigmund Neufeld, head of PRC Pictures (often known as Poverty Row Corp). Sam was one of the most prolific directors in the history of American cinema. He churned out B-Westerns for various studios, including Tim McCoy oaters for Sam Katzman. The IMDb bio says that “Sam shot films in two styles: fast and faster.” A week was considered long for filming and he didn’t believe in retakes. Tragically, this was his last Western.

Wolf Dog was written by Louis Stevens, who worked on some really enjoyable Westerns such as the 1936 The Texas Rangers (the Fred MacMurray one), Massacre River (Rory Calhoun and Guy Madison’s first Western), Sante Fe with Randolph Scott, Horizons West with Robert Ryan (a Budd Boetticher picture), The Cimarron Kid with Audie Murphy and Border River, a Joel McCrea movie. It’s not a bad CV. Wolf Dog was also Louis’s last oater.

It’s all a bit family-friendly, and the scenes with the boy and his dog and pony verge on the cloying. But there is a final shoot-out to even things up and make it a bit more Western. Reviews were “mixed” (viz. they slammed it) and the picture seems to have sunk without trace (except in John Knight’s heart) but it does have its naïve charm. It might have been better, though, if they had cast Jim Davis as the ruthless rancher, as in Republic’s excellent The Outcast four years before.


It's not mentioned in the credits but maybe it's the source novel?


 
 

6 comments:

  1. Jeff,I always tend to forget youtube good that you got to see it.
    I know it's a film collectors have always been after so I guess youtube
    is the only way that we are going to get to see it.
    I loved the comment regarding Newfield's shooting style.
    This mini Davis fest is uncovering some interesting titles.
    I certainly wish more of these RegalScope epics were available in widescreen
    in pristine quality.

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    1. There are so many Westerns worthy of remastering, and so many lost or buried in some vault so that we never get to see them. Woe is us.
      Jeff

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  2. Jeff, good review and I agree that Jim Davis would have made a better ruthless rancher than Austin Willis, or any other of the other villains in the movie. Although, I think Davis was okay as the father and husband.

    The movie brought back some memories for me, especially life on a small ranch in a rural community setting. Our neighbors were more friendly, although my Uncle Abe and Aunt Vinia had had some troubles with a family of wild Oklahoma cowboys during the 1940's. They were happy when my parents bought the place joining them in 1957. The same year WOLF DOG was filmed in and near Markdale, Ontario.

    There was a showing of this movie in Markdale celebrating the 50th anniversary of filming, in 2007. The movie has a facebook page, which I found interesting.
    https://www.facebook.com/WolfDog1958Markdale/ Also a fan page website. http://wolfdog1958moviefansite.yolasite.com/ Check out both sites. On the fan site there was a movie collector offering to sell a 16mm copy of the movie for $500 in 2011.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I saw on Internet news of that Markdale showing. Interesting about the $500 sale. Good value, I'd say!
      Jeff

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  3. Just for fun,I thought I would make some comparisons between Jim Davis
    and Bill Williams two actors who often appeared together in various
    films: CALIFORNIA PASSAGE,THE CARIBOO TRAIL,ROSE OF CIMARRON,THE
    OUTLAW'S DAUGHTER,THE WILD DAKOTAS.
    Both had leads in Regalscope films and Bill also had the lead in an
    Edward L Cahn cheapie OKLAHOMA TERRITORY.
    Like Davis,I prefer Williams as a heavy rather than the good guy.
    Bill and Jim also appeared in minor roles in A.C.Lyles productions.
    Both actors delved into cheap Sci-Fi-Horror films.
    Davis:JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER,DRACULA VS
    FRANKENSTEIN,THE DAY TIME ENDED.
    Williams: SPACEMASTER X7,SPACEFLIGHT IC1,THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION.
    I guess Williams would,perhaps had a far better career had he not
    turned down the highly successful SEA HUNT TV series.
    Jeff,I cannot find Williams on your Actor/Director checklist....
    is that correct?

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    Replies
    1. Hello John
      Very good! Excellent comment. I must give Bill Williams more attention. At the moment, as you say, he has been shamefully neglected!
      Jeff

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