Opens strong, with great location photography featuring a pair of wolves running through a snowy forest. Then a jarring cut to an obvious soundstage resets our expectations.
The story bears no resemblance to the Jack London novel. Franco Nero plays a journalist who arrives in the Yukon to investigate a mining town and its de facto ruler, played by John Steiner. I enjoyed this part. Nero and his buddy prove general bad-asses by hammering nails with their palms, ripping signs off walls, and beating the daylights out of Steiner’s goons.
But the titular White Fang part of the story proved a mixed bag. He’s a wolf-dog mix, who threads through the story like Lassie. Pulling a kid from a frozen lake and barking for help, jumping through windows when he’s trapped in a building, and—my favorite—teleporting from a tiger trap to Nero’s bedroom to stop a would-be assassin. It’s a silly distraction that mars an otherwise entertaining western.
Or does it? I’m not sure of the intended audience. Given the dog’s presence, I expected a kid-friendly adventure film, but the graphic violence points to an older target audience. But what did the producers expect when they hired Lucio Fulci to direct?
Regardless, White Fang isn’t an awful film. Nero’s entertaining and Steiner relishes his cartoonishly evil role. Good fun, but too uneven.