MGM has had their paws in the wolf genre since the Tex Avery Little Red Riding hood cartoons of the forties. They produced the highly successful film, Dances with Wolves. MGM specifically loved the young wolf franchise – Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox, and even the Teen Wolf too sequel. There was also a cartoon spin-off during the eighties. Teen Wolf fever from MGM continues successfully today on an MTV series inspired by the eighties film. And the lead wolf-boy's eyes even glow red.
Beneath all that teen fur and "fangst", before the werewolf dancing, and basketball, was a lost soul of a show called:
Update: Lucan is now on DVD and available to purchase in the WB Shop
Until 2018, Lucan was hard to find. Original Prints were sold on homemade DVDs, but the quality is less than stellar and incomplete. According to some sources there were 16 episodes filmed, but the last 4 were unaired, but there are 12 filmed episodes.
Why did the series fail?
It's hard to know the ins and outs, but I think what contributed is the powers that be at ABC Studios and MGM put the show on hiatus for months at a time. Was there a writer's strike? I didn't see any mentioned in the history of Hollywood strikes. Or were they just using Lucan to fill slots when they yanked other shows off the air? When you mess with an audience's viewing habits, they forget and lose interest fast. It's unfair that Lucan was tossed around. The show may have had a fighting chance with a normal weekly schedule.
1. Pilot: Lucan (Air date: May 22nd 1977)
A 10yr-old child raised by wolves in Northern Minnesota is brought to a California University and taught the ways of civilization by a kind scientist. He is given the name Lucan. At twenty years-old he ventures out into the world to find his parents. Lucan has remarkable agility and wolf-like characteristics, but he is also wise, kind and gentle. On his first job at a Construction company, Lucan's immediately persecuted by the foreman and his cronies. Lucan befriends the shady company owner's daughter and helps her to find the courage to make her own decisions in life.
The Pilot movie is very straightforward and I actually don't think it's the strongest entry of the series. I liked the first half more. It set the stage and backstory in amusing clips showing Lucan's behavioral process. The latter half focuses a little too much on side characters we won't meet again, nor would we care to, but the lead performances make up for it. We're gradually introduced to Lucan's abilities, the gym sequence is fun, as well as the dramatic rescue of the Construction owner's daughter. The show went through more plot changes after this. I appreciated the simplicity of Lucan's journey at the start, but it needed more "oomph" as a whole to capture an audience.
2. Listen to the heartbeat (Air date: September 12th 1977)
Lucan falls in love with a gymnast and must protect her from a sinister plot to keep her out of the competition.
Lucan is out jogging and see's a pretty girl bike riding. She's ambushed and chased down by a man who tries to drag her into his car where his partner in crime is waiting. Lucan rushes to help. Her name is Tashi and she's unsure why she was attacked but she needs a place to hide. Lucan takes her to the Zoo where he temporarily works taking care of the baby animals. At first Tashi doesn't trust him, and is curious as to why he doesn't have a last name. (Which becomes a sort of running joke on the show.) A bond develops and Tashi asks Lucan to help her get a letter to her best friend Elena – only if she's alone. Lucan genuinely wants to help, and he's also attracted to her.
At the hotel Lucan sees Elena get into a car with a mustached man. Focusing his senses, Lucan runs the entire length of the car drive and it stops at an arena where an important Gymnastics tournament will be held. Lucan sees Elena alone and gives her the letter. Elena appears very worried, but she's in cahoots with the mustached man, her husband Miklos. While in the control room, they trap Lucan in the Arena and put all the exits on automatic lock. But then Miklos lets him go. Lucan attempts to run all the way back to the Zoo. (Kevin Brophy must have been some kind of track star with all that running he did!) The baddies stop Lucan and pretend to be cops. Who better than Brian Dennehy to play the more evil of the two? They threaten him with imprisonment and by now the viewers know that Lucan hates the idea of cages. Lucan jumps out of the moving car.
Tashi finally tells Lucan the truth. She's world class gymnast Natasha Travolinka from Bulgaria, and someone is trying to kill her. They tripped her in the dark, cut her practice ropes and left her dangling in mid-air, and then the men grabbed her broad daylight off the bicycle path. All within three days. The International Gymnast Festival is upcoming. There's always a lot of money gambled and invested on the winner. In the park, Natasha shows off her athletic skills, and Lucan stuns her by flipping. She can't believe he never trained professionally.
A recurring theme on the show is when every one tries to guess Lucan's ethnicity. Natasha asks if he's Indonesian, because of his darker features and the fact that he doesn't use a last name. As always, Lucan responds that he's unsure and he opens up about not having a family. Although he doesn't keep his identity a secret, he doesn't tell her he was raised by wolves. Lucan senses they're being followed and he takes Tashi's camera and chases the man down. He shows Tashi the photo later and it turns out to be Miklos' cousin, a journalist.
Tashi doesn't want the Police involved because she can't betray Elena, her friend and fellow gymnast. She's convinced that Elena is only going along with her husband's plan. Miklos begged Tashi to lose on purpose and let Elena win. Tashi's still very young, but this would be Elena's last chance to fulfill her dream. Tashi refuses to do that even though she loves Elena.
Back in Lucan's bunk, Tashi asks Lucan to be her bodyguard until the competition. He obliges and they share a kiss. Later Tashi and Lucan are kidnapped by Miklos' men. Lucan and Tashi find an escape, but she sprains her ankle. She's determined not to lose. Lucan teaches her to control the pain.
Miklos attempts to sabotage Tashi while she's competing, but Lucan thwarts him. Tashi flubs the landing in her first attempt because of her ankle. But her last routine is flawless. Miklos is arrested and deported. Tashi cries that she never wants to leave Lucan. He cries too, because she's his first love. But it's impossible to care for her. He has no home, and he needs to find his family. He tells her to make the best of her life for him. As the plane flies overhead we hear mournful howls.
I think "Listen to the heartbeat" is the cutest episode because it introduces Lucan to romantic love. Lucan proves he's a loyal and trustworthy person. He gets involved and puts his life on the line to help others even if they don't ask.
"Listen to your heartbeat. Listen so hard it becomes as loud as thunder."
"I don't see what I could get by winning a game that would be important to me. Or how losing a game could hurt me. But doing your best, that's different. You have to do your best…to be the best that's in your nature to be."
"I know what winning is now. It's just status, and status is almost nothing. People shouldn't worry so much about so little."
3. The Search (Air date: December 26th 1977): Review N/A
Lucan returns to his old countryside haunts and runs into trouble as the farmers hunt down the wolves he grew up with, and a local man with a guilty secret develops a grudge against him.
4. The Lost Boy (Air date: January 2nd 1978): Review N/A
Lucan reads an article about a young man who found his family after being separated from them for years. When Lucan discovers that an unscrupulous Lawyer has reunited a lonely couple with an imposter, his life is jeopardized.
5. How do you run forever? (Air date: January 9th 1978)
In an emotionally charged episode, Lucan is at first skeptical of a couple claiming to be his parents. But just as he's nearly convinced, they're chased away by gunmen from their past. This episode introduces Prentiss, a Bounty Hunter hired by the University to hunt Lucan down and bring him back to be institutionalized.
I thought this was the best episode of the series. Lucan runs the gamut of emotions and they're fierce and believable. This was definitely the tear-jerker episode. I often groan when our heroes get hunted down, so it was no surprise I didn't like the character I call "Relentless Prentiss" being introduced. However, these guys tend to surprise as the shows progress. I expect Prentiss to realize that Lucan is not a threat.
6. One Punch Wolfson (Air date: January 16th 1978)
The episode begins with Lucan at a Jeweler in the Detroit area. He believes that a watch engraved with the name 'Sam Williamson, 1960', may be his father or someone who knew him. Unfortunately, Williamson is in the Australian Outback. But that doesn't deter Lucan. Before he leaves, a group of guys come in. They smash and steal and even take Lucan's watch off the Jeweler. Lucan is warned not to “be a hero.”
7. You can't have my baby (Air date: March 13th 1978): Review N/A
Lucan's search for his parents leads him to a custody battle between a young widow and her mother-in-law.
8. The Pariah (Air date: March 27th 1978)
Lucan rescues a lonely boy from falling to his death off a bridge, and the spectacle is televised. The boy grows attached to him and Lucan begins work for the family's kennel. He is curious about the over-protective father and all the precautions he takes to stay isolated. The television broadcast of Lucan's rescue brings danger to the boy's family.
The Pariah was another favorite. I enjoyed Lucan's interactions with the young boy, when he helped him to fit in and avoid bullies. And I liked the daring rescue at the outset. There was always good stunt climbing on the show. The plot twist revolving around the family was intriguing.
9. Nightmare (Air date: November 13th 1978)
While out in the woods, Lucan develops severe pneumonia. At the local hospital, he rambles about a crime he'd witnessed at the University and how he's suspected of being the culprit. The real danger is his guilty doctor – The same man Lucan was trying to find to help clear his name. Lucan must remember the events of that night and prove his innocence. He finds help from a compassionate nurse.
I liked the intensity of this episode, and using Lucan's fever dreams to create flashbacks. But this is where the show gets wibbly wobbly because the writers attempted to add more weight to the series. Making Lucan a fugitive conflicts with the details of the Pilot episode. I'll assume the tragic event occurred when Lucan visited the University and Professor Hoagland at a later time. It's not a bad idea, but it seems like a ratings booster, a gimmicky plot device rather than a natural addition to Lucan's story.
10. Brother Wolf (Air date: November 20th 1978): Review N/A
A forest fire looms over the area and Lucan rescues a domesticated wolf from captivity while on his way to a meet his friend Dr. Hoagland. Lucan teaches the wolf how to survive using his latent instincts. Meanwhile Prentiss finds this the perfect opportunity to trap Lucan in the forest and catch him for good.
11. Creature from beyond the door (Air date: November 27th 1978)
The episode opens up at a circus. We see Lucan having having a great time on a merry-go-round. It's a simple pleasure that he probably never experienced as a child, even after being brought to civilization. Dr. Hoagland meets him with yet another lead to his parents, but he should proceed with caution because he gets many crank callers. Unbeknownst to them, Liutenant Prentiss is watching and waiting in the distance. He knew Hoagland would lead him to Lucan at some point. A man named Sawyer shows up out of nowhere. He warns Lucan about the police and demands Lucan go with him, but a chase ensues and he is blocked on every side. A convertible pulls up and Lucan jumps in to escape. They drive him to a giant mansion owned by an eccentric millionaire named Amos Colefax. He claims to be Lucan's father, but Lucan doesn't believe him.
Howard Stockwood, Colefax's asistant, wants Lucan to take blood and bone marrow tests to compare it to Colefax's deceased wife. Lucan reluctantly agrees to the test and is allowed to talk to Hoagland, but he cannot reveal his whereabouts or Colefax's name. As the days pass Lucan hears strange moans and yells echo throughout the grounds, but nobody will tell him who it is or where it comes from. Hetty Colefax takes a liking to Lucan and believes her father is wrong for keeping him. Sawyer visits Dr. Hoagland and tells him that Mr. Colefax demands to have his antitode for Hallucinogenics. Hoagland refuses because it's still in an experimental phase and never tested on humans. However, Lucan's life is at stake if he doesn't cooperate. Despite being warned not to, Hoagland calls Prentiss and asks for his help. Prentiss is willing to find Lucan but once he does, he's to be arrested.
Hetty feels sorry for Lucan, but she says that he's not a prisoner, rather the world is being kept out because her father is a target for all sorts of terrorists and criminals. She has lived a very sheltered life and can only go out with a guard. At dinner Lucan tells Colefax that he could never get used to their way of life or even the fine French cuisine. He can't live without freedom. Colefax argues that freedom is often counter productive. That night Lucan sneaks around the mansion in hopes to escape but he hears the moans again. In a suspensful scene he follows the sounds to a certain door in a long corridor. When he opens it, a beserk man in pajamas rushes out and knocks him down. Lucan tells a worried Colefax that he can find the man easier than the guards. When the man jumps at him again, Lucan subdues him without force and keeps him calm. He holds his face. "You don't want to hurt anyone, do you?"
Colefax reveals to Lucan that the crazed man is his only son Steven, but still doesn't tell Lucan that he's being held for ransom – the Hallucinogenic antidote.Hetty is still upset with her father and demands Lucan's freedom. Colefax tells Lucan that he doesn't intend to do him harm. Steve abused drugs at one time and his mind was altered by all the LSD. Only Doctor Hoagland can help him. Colefax gives Lucan freedom of the grounds, but he can't leave. Meanwhile Prentiss sets up a transmitter with Hoagland so he knows the mansion's location. Hetty and Lucan talk and she tells him her brother and father fought often. Steve left the protection of the mansion and later abused the drugs for a few months. Howard Stockwood found him, cleaned him up and helped repair his relationship with his dad. Lucan senses something wrong. If Steve is locked up, he shouldn't still act as if he's on the Hallucinogenic drugs. Lucan has a flashback to when a wolf protected him from touching and eating a certain plant. Certain wolves from his pack that ate the plant would act in a crazed manner. With his wolf senses in full power, Lucan visits Steve again and tests his reflexes. He realizes that Steve is under the drug influence of the same plant.
Hetty helps Lucan escape through a secret elevator that leads out through the wine cellar. He goes into the woods to search for the drug inducing plant. It's not quite clear what kind of plant it is. Though it could be poppies., Salvia or Datura. Lucan eludes Prentiss. Meanwhile Sawyer brings Hoagland to Colefax. Hoagland demands to see Lucan alive and well before administering the antidote. But Colefax swallows his pride and begs him to treat Steve. Lucan finds the plant patch but Prentiss is on him with a gun. Lucan will go peacefully only if they can return to the mansion to stop Hoagland from using the antidote. Prentiss appears touched by Lucan's determination to help this stranger, but he won't budge. His one goal is to bring Lucan in for a trial. Howard Stockwell follows Lucan and shoots at him in the woods, but Lucan escapes both him and Prentiss.
Lucan bursts into the room and tells everyone that Steve is slowly being poisoned through his food. Stockwell runs in and admits the truth. He was always there for Steve, not Amos. Steve ran away from his father. Stockwell did all the work in cleaning Steve up and then when Steve went back to work for his father they both turned on him. Lucan explains that the plant will wear off on its own and no antidote is needed. Amos is grateful and tells Lucan he will try and clear his name with the authorities. He also apologizes to Dr. Hoagland and offers him a new Research grant. Prentiss is foiled again when Hetty gets Lucan off the grounds undetected. She tells him that if he doesn't find his parents there's always a place for him at the mansion. It's obvious she developed a crush, but who wouldn't?
Another solid episode, but it lulled in parts when the scenes shifted from Lucan to Hoagland and Prentiss. They could've amped up the creep factor with the man hidden in the back rooms moaning and sobbing. I expected a romantic relationship to blossom between Lucan and Hetty because he was trapped in the mansion for weeks. But they were more like kindred spirits. Knowing what it means to be trapped. Lucan didn't display much wolf action, but using flashbacks from his childhood in the wild to help him in his modern life was effective.
Amos Colefax arguing with Lucan about Freedom: "Free? Free to do what? Live a useless, unproductive life? Run around with bums and tramps? Talk like them, dress like them, take drugs like them!…no one is free. No one can ever be free."
Hattie Colefax pleading with Amos: "We've used Lucan, tricked him, lied to him! Steve's our problem, not Lucan's. Please father, there has to be another way."
12. Thunder God Gold (Air date: December 4th 1978): Review N/A
Lucan follows a lead to a man who may know his father. He meets two hustlers trying locate a hidden gold mine. While trekking in the mountains, they nearly get shot down by a tough woman who resides there. She eventually helps Lucan find the man. Lucan's superb tracking skills are put to the test with Prentiss right on his tail through the dangerous cliffs.