The Great Adventure
Adventure, Western, Drama | 98 Mins | Released: 1975
Director: Gianfranco Baldanello
Starring: Jack Palance, Joan Collins, Elisabetta Virgili, Fernando E. Romero (as Fred Romer), Remo De Angelis, Ricardo Palacios, Attilio Dottesio
Our Rating: 4
Set in the Gold Rush days of The Yukon, a young orphan boy Jim and his dog, find their way to Dawson city and with the help of glamorous saloon owner, Miss Sonia, they devise a plan to clean up the corrupt town! However the ruthless kingpin of the town, William Bates has other ideas, the fight for a new beginning for the entire frontier has begun! It’s a cold world out there, for an orphan and his dog. When they hear the Cry of the Wolf, it is time for The Great Adventure..
Jack Palance in A Fistfull of Doggies
by Squonkamatic, November 2006
“Actually, this movie wasn’t that bad though I will concede you probably have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate it’s finery’s. I tried it on a hangover while shut in on a gloomy Saturday with the missus out of town and it was the ideal choice — Brainless adventure with an intelligent dog, the high rockies, a Jack London “family friendly” storyline, and the now late Jack Palance chewing the scenery (albeit gently, since this is a PG rated affair) as a local bigwig corrupt crime boss kingpin who nonetheless knows talent when he sees it.
That talent is of course the real star of the movie, Buck the Wonder Shepard. This is one of a string of Schnitzel/Spaghetti Westerns inspired by “Call of the Wild” aimed right at 8 – 12 year old boys: If anyone else gets anything out of it that’s just fine, but entertaining jaded adult audiences wasn’t the idea. The idea of a Jack London derived adventure yarn is to have a plucky young tyke befriend and bond with a supposedly ferocious wolf doggie who then saves the day for the rest of the movie just like Clint Eastwood would in a Sergio Leone film. He comes running in at the last minute, leaping onto the bar and bearing down snarling on the bad guys. Film buffs with an eye for the absurd will be overjoyed.
Animal rights activists may not: The film has some now questionable scenes of dog vs dog action that are rather fierce, and as an actor dogs are hardly concerned about script issues or character motivations. They are dogs, and must be manipulated by an off-camera handler to do things on screen that are edited in a way to make them appear to be heroic intentional actions by the dog. One cringe inducing scene has Buck win a wager for his do-gooder owners by leaping off a second story balcony (don’t worry, they faked it) and watching it all I could think of was what the HELL were these people thinking?
The film also features the traditional Jack London adventure character types: The bearded plaid wool wearing father (played by Spaghetti Western regular Attilio Dottesio), the clean-cut handsome hero (Fred Romer), the plucky kid, his somewhat jailbaitish teenaged sister (pretty Elisabetta Virgili), the worldly saloon harlot with a heart of gold (Joan Collins looking even more out of place than she did on Star Trek), the corrupt town boss (Mr. Palance, probably drunk: he looks like he didn’t give a damn), the friendly rotund bearded innkeeper (veteran character actor Ricardo Palacios) and various legions of local Injuns, prospectors, hunters, card sharks, and lots & lots of anonymous sled dogs, who were doubtlessly envious of Buck’s more prominent role. Genre film buffs can look for the familiar faces of José Canalejas, Remo De Angelis, and Manuel de Blas, and enjoy another Stelvio Cipriani musical score that transcends the material: There is actually some respectable talent on display here.
But I mean come on, it’s not a blockbuster event film, these were made cheaply and quickly to be watched on rainy Saturday afternoons decades ago by young chaps with nothing better to do — If the leads find romance in each other’s arms that’s fine, but what’s more important is that Buck gets to do lots of cool stuff, have some neat adventures, and in the end run off into the woods until the next installment. If you can live with that and love Spaghetti Cinema as much as I do, this is a fine film that you can even watch with the whole family, though the dog might get a bit jealous watching Buck have all the fun.”