Stalk the Wild Child (1976)

Article 2326 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-8-2007
Posting Date: 12-25-2007
Directed by William Hale
Featuring David Janssen, Trish Van Devere, Ben Bottoms

When hunters discover a child who was raised by wild dogs, they bring him to a hospital, where a doctor vows to teach him to speak and bring him back to civilization.

This is one of those movies where I’m just not sure what the nature of the fantastic content is; though it could be argued that having been raised by wild dogs would leave a child’s mental state in something resembling madness, and madness is a common theme of horror movies, this is certainly not a horror movie. It could also be argued that the basic premise is common in several fantasies; consider THE JUNGLE BOOK and the Tarzan stories for starters. Yet this is certainly not a fantasy, either; it’s playing a very different game. Nevertheless, John Stanley included it in his “Creature Features Strike Back Movie Guide”, so here I am reviewing it. Setting aside its fantastic content (or lack thereof), I have to admit I quite enjoyed this movie, largely because the central situation is quite interesting, the acting is good, and it manages to come across for the most part as convincing. The first half of the movie covers the attempt of the child’s surrogate parents to get him to speak; the second half of the movie concentrates more on his adjustment to civilization and his growing disillusionment with those around him. At the end of the movie, he has a choice to make between civilization and the wild, and the movie sets itself up well enough that it could go either way. It fumbles a few of the scenes; in particular, a pivotal scene where the young man watches films of his early youth with a crowd of hecklers hits a false note. Nevertheless, the movie works much more than it doesn’t, and there are some truly wonderful moments; I like, in particular, the scene where he learns the significance of the tinkling bell and the one where he steals the volleyball on the beach. This is definitely one of the more entertaining TV-Movies I’ve seen.


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