Swords, sorcery, beautiful princesses, valiant warriors, and vile villains; that’s the stuff of fantasy films. There have been many entries into the genre since the turn of the millennium, thanks in no small part to the success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Of course success breeds imitation: “300”, “Immortals”, and “Conan the Barbarian” (remake) to name a few. However, Hollywood isn’t the only place where fantasy films are made and B Movie Man has discovered a treat from behind the former Iron Curtain in the 2007 Russian film “Wolfhound”.
“Wolfhound” is the story of a boy from the “Grey Wolf” clan, whose village is destroyed in a brutal attack by a powerful, evil overlord Zhadoba. The destruction of the village and all of its people is no random act; Zhadoba had learned that the boy’s father had just made a special sword, one that could slay the overlord. After slaying the boy’s father and pregnant mother, the child is taken to die a slow death as a slave in the mines.
Years later, the slave boy has gained his freedom. Now a warrior who goes by the name of Wolfhound, he travels the country seeking to avenge the destruction of his people and to stop the spread of the overlord’s evil. He does not fully understand Zhadoba’s motives, but he feels there is more at stake than simple vengeance.
During his travels, Wolfhound befriends many people, usually by saving them from certain doom. In doing this he reveals the essential goodness of his nature, going out of his way to free a slave, help an old blind prisoner, and rescue a woman and child facing execution at the hands of a backwards tribe of mongoloids. He even saves a princess, named Elen, whose homeland is cursed to endure eternal winter. Wolfhound at first appears to be a simple character, but as the story unfolds and more of his past life as a slave is revealed, it becomes clear he is more than just a two-dimensional warrior driven to seek revenge. But will Wolfhound and his friends have the power to stop Zhadoba from his goal of using Princess Elen’s blood to open a celestial gate, thereby allowing true evil free reign on the land?
“Wolfhound” at first glance seems to be a knock-off version of the original 1981 “Conan the Barbarian”, right down to the opening scenes of a blacksmith forging a great sword, only to see his village destroyed and a child taken into slavery. However, the story is more complicated than that and the character is somehow more noble, interested not just in revenge against those who’ve slain his people, but also in doing what is right and helping the weak. While the plot never becomes overly complicated, it is seasoned with strong characters and enough underlying surprises to make the film enjoyable.
The movie also has strong production values. The Eastern European filming locations, sets, costuming and such do not look cheap or cobbled together. While the film does rely on CGI effects for some of the settings, monsters and even the hero’s companion, a bat named Ragged Wing, the effects don’t stand out the way they do in some films. It is easy to lose track of what are CGI inserts and that is the sign of good effects. One of the film’s strongest point may be the cast. The filmmakers chose their actors well, with their looks and costuming helping to creating a true feeling of a medieval fantasy world. I recommend “Wolfhound” for any fan of sword and sorcery films. It has a good look, an enjoyable story and is fun to watch. So check out the Russian film “Wolfhound” if you get the chance, and you might be pleasantly surprised.