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Wolfpack (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Wolfpack (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Bill Milling
    Cast: Jim Abele, Debbie Barker, Tony Carlin, Nicholas Di Archangel, Anthony Randazzo
    Year: 1987
    Purchase From Amazon

    Wolfpack – Movie Review:

    Filmmaker Bill Milling got his start making adult films in the 1970’s like The Vixens Of Kung Fu, Blonde Goddess and French Shampoo but in 1987 he made a ‘straight’ picture with Wolfpack, a film he not only directed but also co-wrote alongside Fred E. Sharkey.

    Shot on location at a high school in New Jersey, the story revolves around Sam Adams (Jim Abele). Sam and his family are new in town, they’ve just moved into a house in what appears to be a perfectly nice, average American town. At first, he seems to fit in well at his new high school, and once he makes the football team, The Wolfpack, it looks like he won’t have to worry at all about fitting in with the popular crowd, he even hits it off with pretty Myra Abbot (Debbie Barker).

    However, it isn’t long after he starts school that Sam starts to wonder if something isn’t a little off with teammate Jack “Boot” Butkowski (Tony Carlin) and a few of the other guys on the team, like the weirdly charismatic Wedge Randazzo (Anthony Randazzo), who seems particularly good at swaying faculty members and the student body alike. They get increasingly aggressive and start using their clout to run the school and alienate those who don’t see eye to eye with them. Openly using Hitler’s S.S. as inspiration, they soon prove able to work a lot of their fellow students into a frenzy, which doesn’t sit well with Sam when he realizes how they’re treating those who don’t go along with their belief system. When things get out of a hand and an aged family friend winds up getting hurt, Sam realizes that they only way he can put a stop to The Wolfpack’s neo-Nazi ways is to stand up to them himself.

    An interesting look at the dangers of the herd mentality when it mixes with extreme right politics, Wolfpack is more than a little on the predictable side but a movie worth seeing regardless. The story moves at a good clip and does a good job of building the central characters into believable personalities, which lends some welcome impact to the second half of the film where Sam’s new life goes from idyllic to problematic and then dangerous. The film isn’t subtle, it basically places the rise of The Third Reich in a high school setting, but Milling and company make it work quite well, even if the movie is surprisingly low on exploitative content like sex or violence.

    The acting from the leads is pretty solid. A lot of the extras and bit parts were played by locals and members of the student body from the actual school where the film was shot. Jim Abele is solid in the lead. He isn’t really creating a new character with Sam, he’s just the all-American type, and likeable enough as the film’s good guy. Tony Carlin as the manipulative “Boot” does, more often than not, steal the show and Anthony Randazzo is pretty good here as well.

    The production values won’t floor you but despite the fact that the film was clearly made on a modest budget, the score is decent and the cinematography is pretty solid. The editing is good and the film is paced well. It’s a shame that it is more predictable than it probably needed to be, but overall, this is a pretty solid watch.

    Wolfpack – Blu-ray Review:

    Wolfpack arrives on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc with an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen newly scanned and restored in 2k from its original 35mm negative and taking up 22.6GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Picture quality is really nice, the colors really pop throughout the movie and the black levels are inky and deep. A few darker scenes look a tad under lit but that would appear to be how the movie was shot. Otherwise, skin tones look spot on and most of the time the image is pretty much spotless (some slow motion bits show some speckling and the shot around the fifty-one minute mark shows some damage but that’s about it), preserving the grain but showing no real print damage to speak of. Detail, depth and texture are impressive throughout, the movie looks really strong.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds very good. There are no problems to note with any hiss or any distortion, dialogue is crisp and clear and both the effects and the score all sound very good.

    The first of the extras on the disc is Leader Of The Pack, an interview with director/co-writer Bill Milling that runs for just under eleven minutes. He speaks here about how he came to direct the picture, coming up with the idea of transplanting some of the pressures that Germans were under during Nazi rule to an American setting, parallels to the current American political climate, not knowing much about football when he started making the film, co-writing with Fred E. Sharkey, why specific lighting techniques were employed in specific scenes, working on location and more.

    Return to the Wolf’s Den is a featurette that goes over the locations used in Wolfpack for ten minutes, hosted by Mike Gingold. This gives us a look at the high school in Wayne Hills, New Jersey where most of the movie took place as they are shown in the film and as they exist today. We also get a look at the mansion home that is featured in the film, the car wash and the Princeton University campus.

    Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.

    As far as the packaging goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers this release, part of their VSU limited edition line, (limited to 5,000 copies and not to be re-pressed) with a hand numbered bottom loading slipcover, a reversible cover sleeve and a double-sided poster.

    Wolfpack - The Final Word:

    Wolfpack isn’t perfect but it is well-made and, at times, pretty thought provoking. Vinegar Syndrome’s limited edition Blu-ray release isn’t stacked with extras but what is there is worth checking out and the presentation is very strong.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Wolfpack Blu-ray screen caps!

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