Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WOLFHOUND

WOLFHOUND is a 2006 Russian sword & sorcery film, recently released on DVD by the Weinstein Company. While the story (based on a novel by Mariya Semyonova) borrows from numerous sources, director Nikolay Lebedev brings the tale to the screen with style and energy.

The story chronicles the adventures of an ex-slave-turned-warrior (Aleksandr Bukharov), who, like Conan in the 1981 film, is out to avenge the massacre of his clan and the murder of his parents by raiders. In fact, the first scene in the movie is a virtual remake of the opening of John Milius' CONAN THE BARBARIAN. But, fortunately, WOLFHOUND soon takes on a style and tone of its own, with an appealing hero, a solid fantasy plot, exciting (if a bit over-edited) swordplay, gorgeous photography, great, unobtrusive special effects, and a terrific climax. The performances are good, the music is suitably sweeping, and the production design is excellent.

Now, we all know that I'm not hard to please when it comes to sword & sorcery films. Heck, I can recite from memory the plots of all the DEATHSTALKER films, and think watching HAWK THE SLAYER for the fiftieth time is a great way to waste a Sunday afternoon. But WOLFHOUND is a genuinely good movie that treads some familar ground beneath its boots, but does so in a satisfying and compelling way with a number of cool touches. (Seriously, what other movie has a hero with a bat for a pet?) It does slow down just a bit in the middle, but picks up nicely in the third act.

The Weinstein Company/Genius Products DVD is a bare bones affair with no extra features whatsoever. It does present the movie in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, with both English (badly dubbed) and Russian audio options. I recommend watching it in Russian with the English subtitles.

Highly recommended for fantasy fans.

BUY: Wolfhound