‘Day of the Wolves’ *** Movie Review 080309

This is the best of the available 'Day of the Wolves' DVDs but be aware, I am not sure how good (or bad) the transfer is. Still This is the best thing available until there is an official DVD.

The Work = ***
I am recommending 'Day of the Wolves' but I have to give a little bit of a warning up front. The film is a very low budget movie that has little onscreen violence and a ton of low budget quirks (poor print quality, technical errors, etc.) There are many of you out there who will be turned off by the film from the very start and I supposed it could just be dismissed as a cheese-fest. If you stick with ‘Day of the Wolves’, you may just find that the movie is more entertaining than you might expect. There are no huge stars in the film (although when I showed my father part of the film, he instantly recognized actor Richard Egan.) I was not familiar with any of the crew either. Maybe it was that I had zero expectations or maybe it was the catchy (and often repeated) score. Whatever the case, ‘Day of the Wolves just worked for me and I found myself grinning like an idiot all the way through the film. The technical gaffs and quirks that could prevent some from getting wrapped up in the film only added to my enjoyment. (On a related note, I did an interview with the director of a documentary about 'Day of the Wolves' that you can see HERE.)

‘Day of the Wolves’ revolves around a group of criminals that are brought together for one big job. They don’t just show up for work though. Instead each bandit is given a test of sorts. They have to pull off a job of one type or another. If they succeed, they are then given instructions that they have to follow to the letter. The instructions are odd; amongst other things they have to grow a beard. They are each separately blindfolded and brought to an undisclosed location out somewhere in the desert. Once they arrive, they are each given a number by the man who brought them all together, Number One (Jan Murray). He collected the criminals on the promise of a big payoff. They will train for their unknown crime and each will be given an identical outfit to wear. With each man having grown a beard and then donning matching outfits, it will be very difficult for them to be identified after the job is done. Not only that but what could they say about each other when all they know is the number they were assigned?

If this sounds somewhat familiar it may be that the movie has some famous fans. Arguably, one of the first that comes to mind is Quentin Tarantino. His ‘Reservoir Dogs’ has some similarities to ‘Day of the Wolves’ and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was a fan of the film and paid a bit of a tribute with ‘Reservoir Dogs’. (Of course it could just be a coincidence or Tarantino could have got the idea from the original 'Taking of Pelham 123'.) The sad thing about ‘Day of the Wolves’ is the film will probably not get a legitimate release on the home video market anytime soon. Supposedly there are problems with the copyright on the film and its catchy soundtrack by Sean Bonniwell. The copyright issue is a shame because if you get wrapped up in ‘Day of the Wolves’, the film really is a lot of fun.

Writer/ director Ferd Grofe Jr. keeps things moving right along and as a result, there is almost no down time. Grofe tells a story parallel to the criminals, the story of a small town sheriff, Pete Anderson (Egan.) Anderson is a bit of a hard ass but not without reason. He gets into trouble when he chastises a young man with political connections in the town. In such a small community word spreads fast and it is not long before Anderson finds he is going to be out of a job. Anderson seems like a good sheriff but he is not so good with town politics and after the reprimand he is frustrated and bitter.

How Anderson’s story intersects with the criminal’s I will leave you to discover. I was fortunate when I saw ‘Day of the Wolves’ for the first time as I knew little about the plot (about as much as I have said in this review) and consequently I often didn’t know what was going to happen next. While the film does have its share of violence, it is largely bloodless (probably due to budgetary limitations.) The criminal’s beards may have been real but they look onscreen like stuck cotton balls. Footage that plays during the credit sequence turns out to be from scenes later in the film. During a few sequences there looks to have been repeated footage (I’m guessing to pad out the run time.) The camera crew is visible in at least one scene and there are shots where footage seems to be missing as actors suddenly appear a few steps ahead of where they had just been walking. Some of the dialogue is dubbed in a less than convincing manner and at times the sound is quite hollow.

All of the technical gaffs never really hindered my viewing experience while watching ‘Day of the Wolves’. Like I said before, I was grinning almost the whole time that I was watching the film. Despite the violent subject matter, I was left with a feeling of outright fun while watching the film. Apparently I am not alone as the film is going to be the subject of a documentary by Greg Quinn called ‘Return to Lake Havasu: The Making of 'Day of the Wolves’. Currently the documentary is set for a 2009 but I have no idea if that release will be in theaters, on cable, and/or on home video.

As for ‘Day of the Wolves’, yes there are mistakes, looped footage, and more but if you are like me and particularly if you have a soft spot in your heart for low budget 60s and 70s productions, you should give ‘Day of the Wolves’ a try. From the very start of the film, when the theme song starts I was hooked but I suspect this is just one of those love it or hate it movies. Sadly, because of the unfortunate copyright situation you will have to seek this one out. Consequently, I am guessing if you give this movie a try, you are at least somewhat sympathetic and interested in the material. The less you find out about the plot ahead of time the better (even IMDb’s page on the film says a bit too much in my opinion.) Recommended.


‘Day of the Wolves’ Links:

My interview with Greg Quinn, the director of ‘Return to Lake Havasu: The Making of 'Day of the Wolves’.

IMDB Page for 'Day of the Wolves'

Quinn’s blog about the documentary on ‘Day of the Wolves’.

The official site for ‘Return to Lake Havasu: The Making of 'Day of the Wolves’.

Sean Bonniwell’s official website.

Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.