The Call of the Wild (1972) / Soundtrack / Carlo Rustichelli
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.” ― Jack London, The Call of the Wild
Wikipedia says: “Charlton Heston in his autobiography In the Arena: An Autobiography made it very clear how unhappy he was with this film and asked people to not watch it. Although it was poorly received upon release, and was not released in the United States until 1975, today the film is seen in a better light. Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide described it as a “swinging back to action-adventure”, starring “Charlton Heston at his best”, another in the “long line of Annakin’s panoramic films featuring a myriad of beautiful locations”.”
“46%” by users. That’s not too good.
Buck is described by London in his book as a powerful mix – the son of Elmo,
a huge St. Bernard, and mom Shep, a Scotch Shepherd.
Most film versions of The Call of the Wild depict Buck as a German Shepard or a Husky.
They came close in the 1935 version though.
Yet, to me, NONE of the film adaptations of The Call of the Wild do the book justice. Which doesn’t mean they’re all bad movies – just that the book is so great. Yet their main failure (IMO) is that none of them see through Buck’s eyes
– which is how the Book is written.
Did they not realize that this perspective was perhaps the main appeal of the Book?
I guess not.And I can understand it would difficult to find the correct breed of dog and train him.
In 1972 it looks like they employed more than one trained Shepherd to portray Buck.
If you look closely these dogs do appear to be different.
Can’t say whether I recommend this movie or not? Chuck is good and the movie has its moments – but the production is uneven. Available to watch on YouTube or Netflix should you wish.
Next: The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon / 1997
starring Rutger Hauer and narrated by Richard Dreyfuss
Major Amos Dundee (Heston):
“You surveyed this whole area with Grant in ’47, didn’t you?” Capt. Benjamin Tyreen (Harris): “Yes, the tequila was excellent.”
My Major Dundee cast Bio on Charlton Heston was turning into an encyclopedia – so I’m taking a different tack and sliding over to Major DundeeTrivia.
Trivia, of course, is often not a very credible source of information – and is sometimes just gossip. We may assume it has credibility, but … in the case of Major Dundee, the trivia is hardly trivial, and may indeed be very telling about what really happened on this project.
Let have a peek:
Although Major Dundee was originally said to be based on a true story, it was actually just loosely based on historical events. (Can you imagine an opening screen saying: “Based loosely on historical events”?
Major Dundee was Peckinpah’s first big budget film. (Luckily it wasn’t his last)
John Ford was originally approached to Direct the movie, but he was busy at work on Cheyenne Autumn.
Columbia cut short the film’s shooting schedule and kept reducing the running time from over four hours (!!!) to 156 minutes, 136 minutes at its initial release, and finally 123 minutes. Columbia added more stress to the production by moving the wrap date up a full month. Sam Peckinpah wasn’t pleased. (But REALLY Sam!? 4 hours?)
Heston signed on the film to work with Sam Peckinpah, having really enjoyed Ride the High Country (1962). But he later cited that Major Dundee began filming without a properly finished script and that none of the major parties involved had agreed on what the film was truly supposed to be about. Heston later regretted breaking his own rule of never participating in any film where the script wasn’t finalized. However Peckinpah was famous for re-writing scripts and making things up as he went along anyway – so it might not have mattered. For instance: The main character in the original script was Trooper Ryan, but Peckinpah guided script changes and re-writes to make Major Dundee the focus of the story.
The romance with Teresa (Senta Berger) was added by the studio – and was not in the original script.
Also the original script written by Harry Julian Fink contained a great deal of violence and profanity – which would have been forbidden in any screenplay for a film made during the mid-’60s.
It’s said the original budget was $4.5 million and scheduled for 75 days of principal photography. But only two days before start up, a change in the top brass at Columbia occurred, and the new regime cut the budget down by $1.5 million, and the schedule down by 15 days. Peckinpah considered this an act of extreme betrayal. Shooting was also ended early by studio executives, in the interest of controlling costs, and before some important scenes were filmed. Then, after the success of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), Columbia Pictures told him they would allow him to re-shoot parts of Dundee that had been cut from the released version. Peckinpah declined.
Apart from Peckinpah’s constant battles with the studio over the film’s shooting schedule, budget, content, and length, he was drinking and often absent from the set – as well as sometimes antagonizing his film crew and Cast. Peckinpah fired at least two dozen crew members in screaming fits of rage, drank all night and patronized local brothels, paid for out of the film’s budget. At one point during a shoot an enraged Heston allegedly threatened Peckinpah with a saber. Heston later said this is only time he’d had such in incident in his film career.
It’s also noted that Heston and Richard Harris didn’t get along – but that Harris simply did not get along with anyone due to his rebellious nature. Heston later insisted that things weren’t as bad as reported, but it’s well documented that Harris liked to party and was often drunk, hung over, and late to the set – the exact opposite of Heston. (MFW: You’d never know it by Harris’ performance on screen though – which was great) Yet Heston did lodge a formal complaint about Harris‘ behavior with producer Jerry Bresler.
In the end, Heston was reportedly more or less directing the film to complete it since Peckinpah often wandered away from the set in a drunken haze. Heston, however, gave up the salary for the film in order to appease studio executives into keeping Peckinpah at the helm.
Ultimately, Columbia more or less broke its contract and edited the film itself instead of leaving it to Peckinpah. A film cut close to what it’s believed Peckinpah wanted(?) wasn’t released until 2005, and even then it’s largely guesswork. Prior to DVD release, much restoration was needed for the original film reels, and many cut scenes were reinserted. This includes an opening scene which makes the overall story much easier to follow. Fact is however, that Sam’s real film is lost for good.
Several slow motion scenes (Sam’s specialty) in tribute of Seven Samurai, an inspiration for many Western movies, were filmed, but later cut.
Many of the actors in Dundee, came to be known as the “Sam Peckinpah Stock Company” because they later appeared in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)and other films. They included Warren Oates, BenJohnson, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Dub Taylor, Aurora Clavel, Enrique Lucero, R.G. Armstrong and several others …
The role of Captain Tyreen (Harris) was intended for Anthony Quinn, who pulled out.
James Coburn role of scout Samuel Potts was initially offered to Lee Marvin, but hedemanded too high salary. It was Marvin’s own agent who suggested Coburn for the role. Coburn then went on to Star in Peckinpah’s, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).
Woody Strode was considered for the part that went to Brock Peters.
There’s more … but that’s plenty enough.
Stunning. Shocking. Grown men with millions of (other people’s) dollars in their hands – and other people’s livelihoods, careers etc. – behaving worse than kids.
And yet … somewhere, somehow a movie finally emerges. 2 Versions. A bad one – and a not too bad one. Neither is what was initially intended. But still worth watching.
Major Dundee(1965) doesn’t really show any of the bloody mayhem that Peckinpahshortly became notorious for in the Wild Bunch (1969) – no slow motion body’s flying throught the air or long gory bloody shoot outs. What is depicted may have been graphic by 1964 standards (?), but by today’s standards seems fairly tame.
Casting Harris ?
Harris‘ casting in Major Dundee has always puzzled me. He didn’t really seem to have a great body of notable film work behind him at the time – that would justify Star status in a Western. He was certainly up to it though – and did a great job. I guess somebody knew something.
The year was 1965 and Spaghetti is high on the menu – Sergio Leone had released two Western Classic‘s: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More’ to massive success. Westerns are IN … again.
But Sam Peckinpahand Richard Harrisare in Mexico – not Spain. And Major Dundee is not a Spaghetti Western. It’s something entirely different …
Starring the great Charlton Heston, as Major Dundee, the movie has all the components for success: a good story, a great cast, and often brilliant Director. Except for one thing: that Director, it’s greatest asset is also it’s greatest liability: Sam Peckinpah. the self-destructive genius.
I won’t go into the specifics here – the anger – the angst – the infighting – the Editing – the boozing – the brawling – the brothelling. It’s sad really. Because this should have been a great movie – Sam’s Masterpiece. And shows flashes of it – but falls – truncated – disjointed … unfinished. There was some grand schemes/themes behind this project. Unrealized. Sam was completely unable to keep himself under control. Incredibly, exact same scenario was repeated years later with Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett and Billy Kid’(1973) – another flawed project that was later completed/restored by others after he died.
For myself, knowing some of the history and background surrounding the film enhances my viewing. You see things that you would otherwise miss. But it’s not necessary. What truly is amazing is that anything eventually manifested at all. But somehow it did.
The original 1964 Trailer:
The 2005 Extended Edition Trailer:
Is it worth watching? Yes. At least, the 2005 Extended (restored?) Version is. You can see what it had going for it and what it could have been … Hestonand Harrisare both great. And the support cast is outstanding.
Casting Call Part 1 / Pike Bishop
The Wild Bunch 1973
I always like to check who got a particular role/part/casting – and how – why? Who refused it – missed out? The casting story for The Wild Bunch reveals some very interesting candidates.
Who would you have picked? Why? A very tough decision.
Wikipedia says: “Director Sam Peckinpah considered many actors for the Pike Bishop role, before casting William Holden: Richard Boone, Sterling Hayden, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, and James Stewart. Marvin actually accepted the role but pulled out after he was offered a larger pay deal to star in Paint Your Wagon (1969).”
Pretty well a Who’s Who of Western film Icons.
Who would you have Cast?:
Richard Boone Western Filmography
Way of a Gaucho – (1952) / Pony Soldier (uncredited) (1952) City of Bad Men – (1953) / The Siege at Red River– (1954) The Raid – (1954) / Ten Wanted Men – (1955) Man Without a Star – (1955) /Robbers’ Roost – (1955) Star in the Dust – (1956) / The Tall T – (1957) The Alamo – (1960) / A Thunder of Drums – (1961) Rio Conchos – (1964) / Hombre– (1967) Big Jake – (1971) / Against a Crooked Sky – (1975) Diamante Lobo – (1976) / The Shootist – (1976)
Richard Boone TV Westerns Frontier– episode – The Salt War -1956) Studio One in Hollywood – episode – Dead of Noon – (1957) Have Gun – Will Travel – 225 episodes – (1957–1963) Cimarron Strip – episode – The Roarer – (1967) Hec Ramsey – 10 episodes – (1972-1974)
Sterling Hayden Western Filmography
1949 El Paso / 1952 Flaming Feather
1952 Denver and Rio Grande / 1952 Hellgate
1953 Kansas Pacific / 1954 Arrow In the Dust
1954 Johnny Guitar / 1955 Timberjack
1955 Shotgun / 1955 Top Gun
1955 The Last Command / 1957 Gun Battle at Monterey
1957 The Iron Sheriff / 1958 Terror in a Texas Town
1975 Cipolla Colt
Sterling Hayden TV Westerns
1957 Zane Grey Theater / 1957 Wagon Train
1982 The Blue and the Gray
Charleton Heston Western Filmography 1952 The Savage / 1952 The President’s Lady 1953 Pony Express/ 1953Arrowhead 1955 The Far Horizons / 1957 Three Violent People 1958 The Big Country / 1965Major Dundee 1968 Will Penny / 1972The Call of the Wild 1980The Mountain Men / 1993Tombstone
Burt Lancaster Western Filmography 1951 Vengeance Valley /1951 Ten Tall Men 1954Apache / 1954 Vera Cruz 1955 The Kentuckian / 1956The Rainmaker 1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral /1960 The Unforgiven 1965 The Hallelujah Trail / 1966The Professionals 1968 The Scalphunters/1971 Lawman 1971Valdez Is Coming / 1972 Ulzana’s Raid 1976Buffalo Bill and the Indians / 1981Cattle Annie and Little Britches
Lee Marvin Western Filmography Gun Fury(1953) / The Raid(1954) The Comancheros (1961) / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Cat Ballou (1965) / The Professionals(1966) Paint Your Wagon (1969) /Monte Walsh (1970) The Spikes Gang (1974)
Wagon Train, Bonanza, and The Virginian …
Robert Mitchum Western Filmography
1943 Hoppy Serves a Writ / 1943 Border Patrol
1943 Leather Burners / 1943 Colt Comrades
1943 The Lone Star Trail / 1943 Beyond the Last Frontier
1943 Bar 20 / 1943 False Colors
1943 Riders of the Deadline / 1944 Nevada
1945 West of the Pecos / 1947 Pursued
1948 Blood on the Moon/ 1949 The Red Pony
1952 The Lusty Men / 1954 River of No Return
1955 Man with the Gun / 1956 Bandido
1959 The Wonderful Country/ 1967 El Dorado
1967 The Way West/ 1968 Villa Rides
1968 5 Card Stud/ 1969 Young Billy Young
1969 The Good Guys and the Bad Guys
1993 Tombstone Narrator / 1995 Dead Man
Robert Mitchum TV Work
1985 North and South
Gregory Peck Western Filmography
1946 Duel in the Sun / 1946 Yellow Sky
1950 The Gunfighter / 1950 Only the Valiant
1958 The Bravados / 1958 The Big Country
1962 How the West Was Won / 1967 The Stalking Moon 1967Mackenna’s Gold / 1982 The Blue and the Gray 1989Old Gringo
James Stewart Western Filmography 1939 Destry Rides Again / 1950 Winchester ’73
1950 Broken Arrow / 1952 Bend of the River
1953 The Naked Spur / 1954 The Far Country
1955 The Man from Laramie / 1961 Two Rode Together
1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1962 How the West Was Won / 1964 Cheyenne Autumn
1965 Shenandoah/ 1966 The Rare Breed
1968 Firecreek/ 1968 Bandolero!
1970 The Cheyenne Social Club
1976 The Shootist
Amazing … stunning. You can’t lose. Put all the names in a hat and pull one out … any one of them would have done a great job.
Next let’s have a look at Ernest Borgnine’s role of Dutch Engstrom …