When it so happens you stumble upon a film that
no one seems to have seen, a film no one has bothered to review,
and it’s tiny cast or crew have disappeared into a filmless
oblivion, it is many times safe to assume that the film in question
isn’t that great, if it was, well you know, it would have
garnered at least a modicum of attention somewhere. So when Mark
Johnston from Shocking
Videos mentioned that he had gotten his hands on a little
crumpet of 80s American cinema that he had not heard anything
about and not only that, but the film featured a Fascist-style
high school football team and that it was a sleazy new entry to
his already overloaded catalog, well, I had to get my grubby paws
on it. Call me old fashoned, but a Jew-baiting, neo-Nazi bunch
of soda crackers roughing up drug addled metalheads in between
hoisting the pigskin just sounds like entertainment to to me.
Oh, sports sucks you say and so do Nazis, bah, I say.
WOLFPACK starts like so many mid-80s clunkers, on the football
field of a big high school football game. The Wake High Wolfpack
are horrid, they haven’t won a game since their old coach
drove them to the state championship before he made the jump to
the next level, State University. That was two years ago. The
current Wolfpack coach seems to only be interested in his son
getting some playing time as quarterback. We are shown a series
of very bad offensive plays as the coach’s son, Ralphie,
demonstrates the lack of any true athletic ability. Ralph actual
begs his dad to take him out of the game. But of course, “no
son of mine is a quitter,” is the coach’s cry. On
the sidelines is a chiseled faced, second stringer anxiously awaiting
a chance to prove himself. That future Kurt (Jesus Woshipping)
Warner is Jack Butkowski. The angry crowd in the bleachers is
screaming for a replacement but the coach ignores them, choosing
to keep his son in the game. Butkowski gives a wink to one of
the lineman, something must be done. On the next play from scrimmage,
as the quarterback rolls out he is nailed from behind “accidentally”
by one of his own linemen and is knocked unconscious. We see a
shot of him, neck brace and all being loaded into an ambulance.
Jack Butkowski will get his chance, now. Of course, the Wolfpack
stage a triumphant comeback on the shoulders of Jack Butkowski,
to the chants from the crowd of Jack Boot, Jack Boot, Jack Boot!
One thing is apparent about WOLFPACK as the opening credits roll,
you don’t recognize any of the names involved. But the film
is so drenched in the 80s aura you feel as if you’ve seen
all these faces before. Sam Adams arrives in town with his mother,
Sam is slightly older than high school age to the casual viewer
but nonetheless, he’s got a year left before heading to
college. Princeton is his dream, he tells the owner of the house
that he and his mother are moving into. He’s gonna play
tight end and along with his good grades he’s looking to
get a scholarship, full ride, of course. His new landlord is Pudge
Purdy, a retired auto shop teacher from Wake High, Pudge loves
his football as well, and tells Sam that watching him on the field
will be like “watching one of his own.” HIs boy played
back in the state championship days...until a bad accident left
Sam’s first day of school is ripe with all the classic
high school movie bullshit. Sam enters the bathroom full of dope
smoking “punks,” he of course, gets warned by them
to say “it’s alright” so they know he ain’t
“the man.” He also drops his books in the lunch line
and is helped out by a cute gal that is very anti-jock. Inevidably,
he gets punched by Wedge Randozzo, the team’s linebacker
while trying to defend her honor. Jack Butkowski steps up to help
Sam and flashes a big smile, is very articulate and gives Sam
a place to sit at his lunch table, while inviting Sam to football
practice. Jack, is the sort of all-American QB we all went to
high school with, he wears his jersey everyday to school, his
hair is impeccably parted on the side, his teeth white, his chin
like Gibralter and he says all the right things. Jack describes
to Sam, how he trying to capture the school spirit, to bring back
pride in the team and in the school itself. It all sounds just
fucking great. If you don't mind the smell of a gas chamber.
The next day at school, Sam and his classmates are given a lesson
about messages and the medium they are delivered. The history
teacher has decided to use a Nazi propaganda film in class to
demonstrate his point. He quotes Hitler and even throws in super
Anti-Semite Henry Ford for good measure. He also gives Jack Butkowski
the floor to spin his bit of wisdom regarding “The Big Lie,
” asking ”Is it really a lie, at all, whatever a really
great man decides is true, people eventually believe, so then
it becomes true.” This Jack, has that homespun, “aw
shucks” sincerity. This Jack is good, he sounds like a leader.
My quess Jack missed his Bah Mitzvah and opted for bologna instead
of chopped liver for the shiva.
But football isn’t the only thing going down at Wake High,
there is also a student election, Jack is of course, running as
is the school’s uber-nerd. Walter Abrams, conveniently Jewish,
by the way. Walter's slogan is priceless “Anybody but Jack
Boot!” Myra, Sam’s cute gal helper is Walter’s
friend, she wants Sam to side with her and the nerds to help keep
Jack from winning the elction, but after Sam’s initial success
on the field he whines to her “I don’t care about
politics.” But like all pussy whipped high school seniors
he relents and decides to go to Walter’s campaign headquarters
with her. The obviously Yiddish Walter is pure asshole, which
is strange really, given the blatant anti-fascist slant the film
takes, Walter is very difficult to like even though he has good
ideas regarding the school's politics. The filmmakers consciously
decided to make Walter a sniveling, paranoid little Jew caricature
of sorts, instead of just making him the school's "nerd."
On the field, Jack and Sam are a great pair and now that the
coach is basically powerless, Jack calls all the plays, when they
want a player from the opposing team out of the line up, no big
deal, they just key on him and he hits the ambulance. The Wolfpack
racks up the points. The school spirit is at an all time high,
the victories keep coming and Jack’s popularity soars. The
whole thing plays sort of like RUDY meets MEIN KAMPF. Everyone
is merrily following along with whatever the Wolfpack wants. Soon
the escapades begin to run their course off field, Jack is fixing
test scores, the Wolfpack is beating down the dopeheads in the
bathroom and Jack Boot's disciples have little problem ripping
poor old unlikable Walter’s campaign posters off the walls.
With all the fervor of a bad high school Pep Rally, Jack Boot
typifies the Reagan youth of the time period, he’s becoming
the school’s leader, and even the school’s administration
doesn’t seem to mind. After all the Wolfpack just may win
the state championship and who wants to go in a bathroom full
of cigarette smoke anyway. Jack Boot! Jack Boot! We’re #1,
We’re #1 goes the populace. Meanwhile the school has taken
on a “mob rule” mentality, of course, that mob is
a the Wolfpack and Jack Boot is King Shit of Fuck Mountain. Or
I shoudl say Der Furher Shit of ...you get my point. He has linebacker
cronies to do his bidding, cheerleader molls to satify his urges
and the backing of the school’s intellectual elite, most
of the schools adults. I’m not giving much away to say that
all this control shit escalates as the film hits its stride and
ultimately Sam and Jack are going to butt heads, teachers will
be implicated, folks might die and Wake High might become it’s
own little Fascist State, albeit with a State Title.
If you are my age, you remember how in the underground of America,
i.e. America’s Hardcore Punk era of the early and mid 80s.
The punks were scared of what WhitebreadTM American might do to
this country and to everyone's collected freedoms, Jack Boot is
the epitomy of what punks feared might happen. Screw individuality,
let’s have “pride’ in our sameness and let’s
crush those who stand against us. The scary thing about that period
in U.S.History is that most young adults bought into the greed,
lock, stock and barrel with money and power becoming the real-world
equivalent of Wake High’s State Title…win at any cost
and fucking have no mercy on those who ain't into the game.
Digging a little deeper into some of the names involved with
the making of WOLFPACK you find a common thread, low-budget exploitation.
WOLFPACK is directed by William Milling. Milling had a small career
as a writer/producer, his most recognizable project was SILENT
MADNESS, a mid-80s entry into slasherdom, which for some reason
is basically overlooked even though it features among others one
of personal favorites Sydney Lassick in a bit part. SILENT MADNESS
was also released in 3-D, making it a rather strange picture given
the context. Milling also produced and wrote a couple of strange
children’s features THE MAGIC PNEY RIDE and THE MAGIC HAT.
I can’t find any other information on directors gigs, who
knows, no one knew of this one either. Sam Adams, the Princeton
bound hero is handled ably by Jim Abele, Jim pops up in a few
of Chuck Vincent’s softcore teen comedies around the same
time. The most notable, STUDENT AFFAIRS, which features Vincent
regular Veronica Hart, as well as Ron Sullivan aka Henri Pachard
and even David Friedman shows up. Abele floated around the late
80s in and out of zero budget teen comedies and still seems to
get a taste of the business now in tiny roles. Jack Boot is the
real star of WOLFPACK and the actor responsible for Jack’s
believable character, Tony Carlin, comes from good stock, his
mother is TV and movie character actress, Frances Sternhagen,
whose face is instantly recongnizable from her numerous re occurring
appearances on everything from Sex in the City to Cliff Clavin’s
mom on Cheers. Tony’s Pops was acclaimed stage actor, Tom
Carlin, Carlin is best known to numbnuts like me as Sandy McFiddish,
head groundskeeper in CADDYSHACK. Tony has picked up small parts
in decent films and continues to act. Sadly most of the rest of
WOLFPACK are as unknown as the film they had parts in.
Should WOLFPACK be better known, I think so, if there is a fault
that might relate to its obscurity, it doesn’t seem to take
it’s initial rumblings at neo-Nazism far enough as a plot
device. Although Jack and his thugs are quite ruthless on the
field and have no problem ridding themselves of opposition, the
pro-American, pro-Fascism message is implied rather than really
driven home, Jack uses the words “pride” and “control”
a lot but the film fails to really develop into a hard punching
3rd Reichish tome. That being said, it is effective as a good
“what-if” statement about high school clichés
and organized sports. There is a lot of truth in WOLFPACK, but
it’s doubtful that most high school quarterbacks have the
intelligence of Jack Boot to wield the power they no doubt might
possess over the mindless minions who Rah, Rah and Sis, Boom,
Bah every Friday night in Hometown, USA. Had Milling turned up
the cruelty it’s possible that WOLFPACK would be considered
another of the 80’s classic “bad kids” films,
on par with CLASS OF 84 or MY BODYGUARD. Bottom line, if you like
your movies with a smidge of Reagan era ideology and a nod to
bad fashion, feathered hair and tight Levis then WOLFPACK is a
nice time capsule, if you want to see how a dangerous subject
like neo-Fascism was addressed in that era, that is another reason
to catch a viewing of WOLFPACK. If you try real hard, we can all
think of a potential Jack Boot in our high school histories, many
of them are probably the guys you buy your cars from I bet these
days. Get yourself a copy of WOLFPACK real easy-like from Shocking
Videos. Tell Mark, Tread sent you.
|This guy went up
against the Wolfpack...pre-stretcher era I guess...
|If I had directed
WOLFPACK I would have made Jack make a sexual pass at Sam,
just for fun.
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