Janie and I have been binge-watching GAME OF THRONES and our raggedy dog Chloe has been joining us. Chloe is quite taken with the wolves in the series and is now demanding to be referred to as our “dire” pup.
She’s good company though, so I’m trying to nurture her new-found cinematic interest. I allowed her to choose tonight’s film.
Unsurprisingly, she chose a 1941 Rin Tin Tin/Lassie wannabe; SIGN OF THE WOLF.
The title is totally misleading. There are no wolves in the film – not one – zilch – nada.
There are however, not one but two big athletic Alsatian Shepherds named Smokey and Shadow. And if you think about it, that makes a kind of sense. You can’t reasonably expect any one dog to replace Rin Tin Tin or Lassie and to be perfectly honest about it, Smokey and Shadow combined are not really up to the mark either. Oh sure, they can climb walls and fences. They can jump hurdles. They can survive plane crashes. They’re faster than a speeding bullet (For real! They actually seem to outrun the dozens of rifle shots taken at them in this flick) – it’s uncanny. The dogs do all these things in the film. To quote that great philosopher, Groucho Marx; “It’s a hell of an act!” But in the personality department, they are sadly lacking. It doesn’t help that they spend most of the film running around in dirty snow. How charming would you be? In my world, the only thing worse than snow is dirty snow. It’s a black and white flick – I can’t tell if the snow is yellow…but it’s dirty.
This is a Canadian production which is fine by me, but it means Smokey and Shadow bark in Canadian accents. It changes things in subtle, but disconcerting ways. Using the identical barks that Lassie employed to say; “Come quick! Timmy’s fallen in the well!” Shadow’s rescue-seeking bark is interpreted as; “Come quick! Mantan Moreland is trapped in a plane crash!” Frankly, I was baffled.
The film also features Dobie Gillis’ brother, Darrell Hickman as the “Timmy” character. I find most child actors to be quite moving and effective…and awful. Hickman simplified things by going straight to awful.
The film is based on the story by Jack London but that’s okay, Mr. London had died by the time this film was made so he didn’t get to see what happened to his story.
Then of course the snow fell on Friday and Chloe spent Saturday running around in the new, clean snow, barking in Canadian, and looking for plane crashes.
The neighbors fear she’s gone mad.