Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 12th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1973
Alternate Title: Zanna Bianca
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Guy Elmes, Roberto Gianviti, Thom Keyes, Piero Regnoli, Guillaume Roux
Cinematograper: Erico Menczer, Pablo Ripoll
Composer: Carlo Rustichelli
Cast: Franco Nero, Virna Lisi, Fernando Rey, John Steiner, Missaele, Daniel Martín, Raimund Harmstorf, Daniele Dublino, Carole André, Rik Battaglia, John Bartha, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Carla Mancini, Maurice Poli, Renzo Pevarello
Synopsis: A journalist goes to a gold mining community to investigate rumors about a ruthless businessman who is swindling the locale prospectors’.
Lucio Fulci’s White Fang is based on Jack London’s novel of the same name. The story of White Fang bears many similarities to Jack London’s most famous novel Call of the Wild. A year after directing White Fang Lucio Fulci would return to the character with the film Challenge to White Fang which also starred Franco Nero in the lead role of journalist Jason Scott.
Lucio Fucli’s legacy as a filmmaker extends beyond the horror films for which he is most remembered. Lucio Fulci was a diverse filmmaker worked in just about every genre and like most of his contemporaries he would work with in the genre that was in vogue at the time. Every now and then Lucio Fucli would diverge away from the latest filmmaking tend. After making a string of successful Giallos in the early 1970’s Lucio Fulci would direct White Fang and Challenge to White Fang. These two action/adventure films are unlike anything that had come before or would come after in Lucio Fulci’s eclectic filmography.
The plot for White Fang follows the adventures of a Journalist named Jason Scott. Some of the subplots’ for the film include an Eskimo boy named Mitsah and a wolf he befriended White Fang. A corrupt businessman that cheats the locale’s out of their gold and an alcoholic preacher who struggles with right and wrong. The film even finds time for a little bit of romance. The plot for Lucio Fulci’s film version of White Fang is not an exact adaptation of Jack London’s novel. There are just as many differences as there are similarities between the two. Lucio Fulci does an admirable job with the subject matter at hand. He doesn’t water it down for the masses. In fact this may be one of the most violent versions of White Fang ever filmed. The level of violence while ample it is still way below Lucio Fulci’s blood-soaked nightmares like The Beyond and Zombie.
The film is wonderfully paced as characters and events are given time to breathe. Lucio Fulci’s does a superb job directing White Fang and this production really shows what he could do if given workable budget. The cinematography in White Fang takes full advantage of the locations used. There are a few outdoor scenes in the snow that are clearly filmed on a sound stage and even though they are noticeable they are never take away from Lucio Fulci’s solid direction. The film features some scenes that features animals attacking each other which some may find objectionable. The most startling of these scenes is a scene where the townspeople have White Fang fights a bear.
White Fang also features an amazing cast which includes Fernando Rey as Father Oatley a drunken preacher and Virna Lisi as Sister Evangelina. In the films lead role Jason Scott is Franco Nero who had previously worked with Lucio Fulci on the film Massacre Time. In the 1970’s Franco Nero was one of Italian cinema most in demand leading men. He most certainly fits the larger than life role of Jason Scott. British actor John Steiner is cast in the role of Jason Scott’s nemesis Charles ‘Beauty’ Smith. John Steiner perfectly captures the essence of Charles ‘Beauty’ Smith. Missaele is cast in the role of the young Eskimo boy Mitsah and his only other film credit includes Challenge to White Fang. While not an experienced actor Missaele convincingly portrays the role of Mitsah. The film also features a memorable score from composer Carlo Rustichelli (Blood and Black Lace, The Whip and the Body).
Ultimately White Fang is remarkable film that retains the visual style of Lucio Fulci without ever taking away from the core of Jack London’s story.