HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Call of the Wild
HTS Overall Score:71
Clark Gable was the staple of many a Hollywood classic film back in the day, pair him up with Cary Grant and Gregory Peck and you have a wicked trifecta of actors that swept the box office for decades. Clark Gable was always a bit more of the rugged and blue collar of the three actors and as such had that sort of rough charm to him that stood out from the other actors. He could play a white collar sort of fellow, and did so frequently, but he was always my favorite as the handsome, rough and tumble sort of character.
For those who grew up with Jack London’s stories of out the outdoors and adventure, “Call of the Wild” is an epic piece of literary history that was infused in education for many a decade. Considered to be his most mainstream work, Jack London’s story of a man, his dog and the insatiable call of the wild frontier is both heartwarming and heart rending at the same time. The cinematic version is a bit more “Hollywood” than the original Jack London story, but it still carries over into a generation that was in love with love at the time.
Jack Thornton (Clark Gable), is a young adventurer trying to make his way in the gold fields of Alaska by snaking cards. Unfortunately for him his luck with cards is pretty much played out, but with the help of an old friend, named “shorty” (Jack Oakie) he’s on his way back to the top again with a map to one of the richest claims ever. The only problem, is that John Blake, the original finder of the claim, has the original map and is in hiatus until someone can find it and go stake an official, legal claim. Jack’s normal luck is still in the toilet with very little money and only a rough map to the claim as a guide. However his luck takes an upswing when he purchases a sled dog, named Buck, for $250 just to keep him out of the clutches of one Mr. Smith (Reginald Owen) who would rather put a bullet in the dog’s head just for spite. Here the man and dog bond in a way that is uncanny, giving rise to a friendship as deep and as strong as any romantic relationship.
On their way to the claim, the two men run across a lone survivor, freezing out it wilds. Lo and behold it is Claire Blake (Loretta Young), the wife of John Black and owner of the original map. It appears that John Blake had gone missing in the previous days and Claire now has to deal with the fact that her husband is no longer coming back. Teaming up with the duo she shares the original map and they aim straight for the treasure. Along the way there is a natural Hollywood romantic relationship where Claire and the rough and tumble Jack slowly bond and fall in love (or quickly if you realize that it only is a couple weeks since her husband is thought to be in the grave). Upon arriving at the claim, Shorty goes back into civilization to put down a legal claim to the site leaving Jack and Claire to work the claim till then. Strangely enough, John Blake DID survive and is on his way back to the claim, thinking that his wife is now dead. Backed by the cruel, Mr. Smith he’s double crossed and left for dead leaving Mr. Smith to try and steal the claim from Claire and Jack.
As I mentioned before, “Call of the Wild” is a bit more “Hollywood” rather than Jack Londonish to be exact. The core essence of the story is there, but it’s got a thick Clark Gable and young Hollywood infused into the flavor, giving way to a stronger romantic relationship with Jack and Claire and leaving much of the meat of the relationship with Buck and Jack on the back burner. That’s not to say that Buck is left out, there’s some fantastic scenes where we see Buck and Jack struggling with that insatiable call of the great outdoors and the bonding that happens between the two. I’m literally amazed how you could create a relationship on screen just with the simplicity of looks and you can literally feel the love pulse between Jack and Buck. I’m always a sucker for animals and the relationships that humans can bond with them, but I was genuinely surprised how REAL and LIFELIKE the bond was between the two in the movie. Some movies can capture that feel, and other just fall short. Luckily they were able to capture that emotion in just the right way here.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14036[/img]“Call of the Wild” is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 AVC (well really 1.37:1 was the academy ratio, but the difference between home theater 1.33:1 and 1.37:1 is almost pure semantics). The print looks really good for a film almost 80 years old. There’s some minor fluctuation with the brightness levels and there is some flickering in the negative, but that’s really due to the filming stocks and techniques of the times. The black levels are extremely solid, even in the day for night shots and the contrasts are well within reason. What makes this transfer a joy is the lack of digital manipulation that went into the disc. There’s no excessive DNR or macro blocking and other compression artifacts are gone from the equation too. Just a nice representation of the good old days of black and white cinematography. There’s some soft spots to be certain, but the thick layer of grain is extremely filmic and looks sumptuous. A very solid effort on Fox’s side and I commend them for it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14037[/img]Now the audio is something that will get a lower score by necessity. With a 1.0 mono track from the 30’s you’re going to see some drawbacks. The dialogue is mostly clear with only a few scenes where it sounds muffled or boxy, and usually those are close up shots where the sound is being compressed from the close quarters and the sound capturing technology of the day. Effects are nicely balanced with the dialogue and keep a nice smooth tone to the track. Now we all know there’s almost no LFE and the surrounds aren’t used, so the score will be brought down by necessity, but for a 1930’s track it’s in surprisingly good shape with minimal hissing (almost none detected by me) and some minor tinny sounding vocals. Still a very serviceable track if you go in with the proper expectations.
• Theatrical Trailers
• Commentary with Darwin Porter
“Call of the Wild” is a fantastic piece of literary history and a definite part of most boys growing up in grade school (at least it was in my day and age). The film doesn’t fare AS well as the book due to only having an hour and half to cram a lot of information into, but it does admirably, giving us a storybook romantic tragedy and heartwarming story of a man and his dog. For those of you who have never seen “Call of the Wild”, I highly recommend it. It’s a stand up piece of art for both book and film, albeit with some minor changes. With very solid video and audio it accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is be the best representation of the film outside of the theater. Recommended
Starring: Clark Gable, Loretta Young
Directed by: William A. Wellman
Written by: Gene Fowler
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 92 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Dec 3rd, 2013
Buy Call of the Wild Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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