Movie Review: The Pack

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The Pack (1977)
Directed by Robert Clouse
Written by Clouse, based on the novel of the same name by David Fisher (1976)
Starring Joe Don Baker, Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull, R.G. Armstrong, Ned Wertimer, Bibi Besch, Delos V. Smith Jr., Richard O’Brien, Sherry Miles, Paul Willson

Seal Island is just off the coast of Maine and seems to be a tiny place where some people vacation for the summer.  It seems these vacationers have a tendency to bring dogs to the island only to leave them there. And because of this, we eventually have a pack of wild dogs that start to take over the island, threatening the few locals that live there all year round. Joe Don Baker stars as a marine biologist that works on the island and takes charge to try and get rid of this deadly threat.

This is one film that I had never gotten around to seeing until shortly after the death of R.G. Armstrong. When I noticed this film in his filmography, realizing I still hadn’t seen it yet, I figured what better time to pay a little tribute to Mr. Armstrong than to watch one of his movies. So I did. Here, Armstrong plays a local fisherman who lives on the island. While he’s not the scary old man that he usually plays, he does give us some of his usual crotchety old manor, which is always entertaining.

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Directed by Robert Clouse, mainly known for his martial movies he made, such as Enter the Dragon, he did step out into the horror genre a couple of times, with both of them being a group of killer animals. Besides this feature, he also gave us the 1982 film Deadly Eyes, which is about very large rats taking over the city. Strange fact that Clouse was completely deaf, which is why most of his films were action based.

The rest of the cast is filled out with a few other familiar faces.  Richard B. Shull, probably the most recognizable face, is one of those character actors that you know…just might not know from where!  Bibi Besch is another face you’ll know, probably from either Tremors, The Beast Within, or from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If not from those, then probably from the tons of TV work she did.

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The idea of a pack of dogs as a major threat might not seem to frightening at first. But if you’ve ever come face to face with one dog that had that snarling look on its face, knowing that if you get any closer or make the wrong move, it is going to get much worse for you. When you see a mouthful of sharp teeth, and hear that deep growling sound, you can be a bloody mess in a very short time. But then just imagine a pack of 15 or 16 of them all coming at you at once. And when you consider this ‘terror’ to be something very real and could happen anywhere in the world, it hits home even more.

I also have to give some major kudos to both the animal handlers and the stuntmen that were getting “attacked” by these dogs. I’ve seen movies where the dog is just grabbing your sleeve and pulling, but these attacks looked a lot more realistic. It really seemed like these dogs were going way overboard with the whole ‘method’ style. Plus, the scenes when you see a close up of the dogs, with teeth bared and snarling, can’t help but make the hairs on your arms stand up. Definitely not a site you want to see in person.

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It is pretty obvious the similarities to Romero’s classic film, just with dogs instead of zombies. Not to mention maybe a tad bit similar to The Killer Shrews (1959), just on a bigger budget. Being held up in a house, cut off from civilization for a few days before the next ferry shows up, all they can do is board themselves in, hoping that these attacks don’t break through any weak spots and letting more through.

So once again, it is one of these well made films that seem to get lost in obscurity. So now we are going to try and fix that by reviewing it, in hopes that some of you will seek it out to watch as well. It is a movie with a simple but very effective story, and I’m sure is one that will have you a bit nervous during a few parts. Especially if you are not too fond of dogs. Would make a great double feature with Cujo!

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