“Joe Don Baker” is not what I want to see as the first credit to any film, so this movie had me terrified mere seconds into its running time. Can the man best known to MST3k fans as “Mitchell!” deliver in tonight’s film? Let’s find out!
The Pack (1977) leaps right off the spinner rack of the local drugstore onto the celluloid screen in this adaptation of the novel by David Fisher. The movie is set on a remote island, one popular with summer tourists. Much to the regret of the island’s year-round residents, these city folk have an unpleasant habit of adopting dogs from the pound, bringing them out to the island for the summer, and then turning them loose at the end of the season when it’s time to go home. The dogs run feral and, by the time the movie gets going, they’ve decided that humans are a viable food source. Standing between the islanders and canine Armageddon is Joe Don Baker as Jerry, a Department of Fish and Game researcher stationed there. Can hunky JDB stop the Pack before everyone becomes dog chow?
The premise of the movie is laughable. I’m not saying it impossible that people do decide to adopt a dog, take it away on vacation, and abandon it when it’s time to go home (especially in the 1970s). However, I do have a hard time believing this is a regular thing on Seal Island (which should be renamed “Dog Dump Island” if the movie is to be believed), something that happens often enough to result in a pack of 15 to 20 wild dogs.
That being said, I found myself liking this film a great deal. Not because it’s a work of cinematic genius, but because it feels like such a faithful adaptation of its source material. I don’t just mean the plot, I mean the entire cheap paperback you buy at the drugstore or supermarket feel. The kind of book you ironically take with you on vacation and leave behind when it’s time to go home. The film flies by, every dramatic beat hitting on schedule, and the film ends in the perfect mix of fiery climax and hope for the future. I even enjoyed Joe Don Baker.
Like a warm pile of feral puppies, The Pack melted my heart enough for me to award it a score of 3 and a half out of 5 skulls. You might feel a little less fond of the film if you have a low tolerance for imaginary violence toward animals. There’s a couple shots that made me wonder if there was any actual oversight during the production, but the ASPCA seal of approval appears in the credits. Still, deduct a skull and a half at least if you’re sensitive to such things.