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 werewolf franchise – Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox, was a fun hit and even the Teen Wolf Too sequel had mild success. There was also a cartoon spin-off in the eighties. Teen Wolf fever from MGM had continued success on a recent MTV series inspired by the eighties film. And the lead wolf-boy's eyes even glowed red.
Beneath all that teen fur and "fangst", before the werewolf dancing, and basketball, was a lost show named LUCAN.
LUCAN is now on DVD and available to purchase in the WB Shop and through Amazon and other retailers.
Until 2018, LUCAN was hard to find. Original Prints were sold on creative homemade DVDs, but the quality was less than stellar and incomplete. According to some sources there were 16 episodes filmed, and the last 4 were unaired. It's more likely there were 4 additional scripts prepared. Since the official release it's been confirmed there's only 12 filmed episodes.
Why was LUCAN canceled?
It's hard to know the ins and outs, usually the go-to reason is low ratings. But one mistake was that the Network put LUCAN on hiatus for months at a time. I didn't see any Writer's strikes mentioned during that time. Were they using LUCAN to fill slots when they yanked other shows off the air?
When you tinker with an audience's viewing habits, they forget and lose interest fast. It's unfair that LUCAN was tossed around. The show would've 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, as it sets the stage and backstory in amusing/touching clips showing Lucan’s behavioral and learning process. After an impressive feat on the ropes, Lucan is sought out by gym coaches to play on sports teams but he politely declines. Meanwhile, the school administration doesn’t trust that Lucan’s been fully “domesticated.” Despite evidence to the contrary, they fear he’ll revert back to his wolf-like behavior and harm campus residents or cause them trouble outside its walls. Lucan’s Mentor, Don Hoagland, puts up a fierce defense, but he’s voted out of the school.
The latter half of the movie 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 the meandering scenes. In anthology shows, we rarely meet the supporting characters a second time because the lead's always on the move. We’re gradually shown Lucan’s abilities, the gym sequence is fun, another scene where Lucan's chased down by hired thugs, as well as Mickey’s dramatic rescue. The show went through more plot changes after this, so don’t be surprised to see Hoagland again. I’m glad he stayed. 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’s out jogging and see’s a pretty girl bike riding. She’s ambushed and chased by a man who tries to drag her into his car where his partner-in- crime’s waiting. Lucan rushes to help. Her name’s 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 baby animals. At first Tashi doesn’t trust him, and is curious why he doesn’t have a last name. They develop a fast bond and Tashi asks Lucan to help her get a letter to her best friend Elena – only if she’s alone to receive it. Lucan genuinely wants to help, and he’s also attracted to Tashi.
At a hotel Elena get into a car with a mustached man. Focusing his senses, Lucan runs the entire length of the car ride. They stop at an arena where a pre-olympic Gymnastics tournament will be held. Lucan gives Elena the letter. She’s very worried, but she’s also working with the mustached man, her husband Miklos. While in the control room, they trap Lucan in the Arena and automatic lock the exits. 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, pretending to be cops. Who better than Brian Dennehy to play the more evil of the two? They threaten him with imprisonment and by now we know that Lucan hates cages. Lucan jumps out of the moving car.
Tashi tells Lucan the truth. Her real name’s Natasha Travolinka and she’s a world class gymnast from Bulgaria. She’s afraid because someone’s trying to kill her. Within three days they’d tripped her in the dark, cut her practice ropes, and left her dangling in mid-air, and finally the men grabbed her in broad daylight off the bicycle path. The International Gymnast Festival, there’s a lot of money is gambled and invested on the winner. In the park, Natasha shows off her athletic skills, and Lucan stuns her with his flipping. She can’t believe he’d 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. Lucan responds that he’s unsure and 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 are being followed and he takes Tashi’s camera and chases the man. He shows Tashi the photo 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. 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 and 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, 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.
“Listen to the heartbeat” is the sweetest episode because it introduces Lucan to a romantic first love. Lucan proves he’s loyal and trustworthy. He discerns a need and gets involved. He puts his life on the line to help others even if they don’t ask. We know their relationship won’t last, but you hope that Lucan will eventually find the answers he seeks so his heart can be settled enough for true love and the possibility of a stable life.
“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)
Lucan returns to his old countryside in Minnesota. He finds a job at a small diner run by Penny, a kind woman who takes a liking to him, but is curious about his mysterious comings and goings into the forest. He soon runs into trouble as the farmers hunt down the wolves he grew up with, and a local Sheriff with a guilty secret develops a grudge against him.
4. The Lost Boy (Air date: January 2nd 1978)
Lucan reads a news article about a young man who’d found his family after being separated from them many years. His hope for his own family search is strengthened. When he arrives in town, the bullies don’t take kindly to strangers, and have a deep hatred of Mexicans, and they believe Lucan to be one. They do everything they can to harass him. When Lucan discovers that an unscrupulous Lawyer has reunited the 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 after spending some family time with them and being nearly convinced, they’re chased away by gunmen from their past. Lucan faces huge betrayals by everyone he’d grown to love. 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. It’s a tearjerker that makes you feel angry and sad with him. I get irritated when the heroes are hunted down, so at first I didn’t like when the character I call “Relentless Prentiss” was introduced. However, these characters tend to surprise us down the road. Prentiss is given a layered, empathetic personality by veteran TV actor, Don Gordon.
6. One Punch Wolfson (Air date: January 16th 1978)
Lucan’s at a Jeweler in Detroit. He believes that a watch engraved with the name “Sam Williamson, 1960” may belong his father or someone who knew him. Unfortunately, Williamson’s in the Australian Outback. But that doesn’t deter Lucan. A group of guys come in. They smash up the place, steal, and take Lucan’s watch off the Jeweler. Lucan’s warned not to “be a hero.”
Lucan chases them to an alley. The Jeweler calls a Detective Lansing and he’s soon on everyone’s tail. Lucan goes into wolf mode and yells and roars at the thieves. They fight, and Lucan gets them down, without causing much injury.
The Jeweler clears Lucan of wrongdoing and Detective Lansing tries to convince Lucan to earn real money boxing. Lucan plainly tells him, “I don’t like to fight.”
Lansing persists and promises to set Lucan up with a private investigator to search for Williamson. Lucan’s desperate so he agrees, even though the P.I. charges an exorbitant $1,000 retainer and hundred a day expenses. Lucan calls Don Hoagland and asks to borrow $1500. Don readily agrees, but Lucan doesn’t tell him how he’ll manage to pay him back.
Lucan meets a crotchety old gym manager named Drummond. He turns out to be working with Lansing and Murdoch. They make bets and trump criminal charges in order to blackmail boxers into rigged fights. Once such boxer was a black ex-champ named Spider Caldwell. He’s a hero to the local kids, but ashamed of his actions. He’d sold his soul for money. “I hunted for the green instead of the glory.”
Spider becomes fast friends with Lucan
and trains him. Lucan has a unique style in the ring. Rather than
punch right away, he swiftly blocks and ducks and allows the other
fighters to expend all their energy. When it comes time for a
knockout, he does it in one punch. Lucan tells the manager his name’s
Lucan Wolfson. So they play on the gimmick and bill him, “Kid, ‘One
While in a practice bout, Lucan remembers his childhood at the University and how other kids taunted and pushed him on the floor. He was later disciplined by Dr. Don Hoagland. “Fighting is wrong.” Hoagland says firmly. “I was trapped.” Lucan insists. And the camera does quick, surreal cuts – “Wrong.” “Trapped.” “Wrong.” “Trapped.” “Wrong.” “Trapped.”
Lucan rises to fame as every boxer goes down for the count. The current champion, Joe ‘Tiger’ Pardee, demands to fight him in a sensational match. Hoagland finds out that Lucan’s boxing to earn the money and he travels to Detroit. He’s furious at the Private Investigator for stringing Lucan along when he already knows the owner of the watch is not Lucan’s father.
Lucan agrees to fight Pardee, but there’s a catch. He must take a dive in the 10th round. Spider’s threatened with a false drug charge if he fails to convince him, but Lucan stands his ground. “I don’t like to fight, but I’m not losing on purpose!” Spider’s wife agrees with Lucan and derides Spider for his past actions and letting these crooks get the better of him. They’d nearly ruined his life.
Meanwhile, Bounty Hunter Prentiss watches a sports clip featuring ‘Wolfson’ and his rise to fame and immediately continues his ‘wolf’ hunt. Don talks Lucan out of fighting Tiger, but is later kidnapped. Lucan has no choice but to fight. Prentiss is given the runaround by Detective Lansing, and when he gets suspicious he’s thrown in jail on a false drug charge. Lucan visits his cell and Prentiss tells him to call his attorney friend to release him. But once they find Hoagland, Lucan belongs to him. Before Lucan can make the call, Detective Lansing gives him a final warning about Dr. Hoagland.
Lucan allows himself to get pummeled in a dramatic ten bout fight. Spider wants to help him so he runs to save Hoagland. When Lucan realizes he’s not hurt, he summons up strength and knocks out Tiger. At the arena, Detective Lansing and P.I. Drummond corner Lucan, Spider, and Dr. Hoagland with a gun, but the police arrive. Spider feels triumphant again and he air-boxes in the empty ring to an imaginary cheering crowd. Lucan calls Prentiss’ attorney. But he can’t be released until morning, which buys Lucan time to escape.
Many anthology shows in the late
seventies and early eighties turned to one of the best boxing
inspirations – The original Rocky film. Lucan’s
no exception. The boxing manager yells insults like Burgess Meredith
and the background music offers shades of the Rocky theme.
“One Punch Wolfson” offers more insights into Lucan’s character. We learn his attitude toward fighting and his feelings about race. Skin color doesn’t matter. (See quotes.) There hasn’t been much research done on wolves, but they may be partially colorblind due to only having red and blue photo receptors in their eyes. Humans have red, blue and green. So that could be part of the joke when Lucan responds, “I don’t think so” when asked if he was colorblind.
As in the previous episode, when Lucan growls and yells, there is no voice manipulation to make him sound like a real wolf. It brings the point home that he’s still a human displaying wolf-traits.
The only slight distraction are the cutaway inserts of his red eyes, you can tell they are footage from a different episode. I don’t blame them, those eye contacts in the seventies hurt like crazy, and there’s a budget to keep. I’m not big on sports, and I feel that a lot of the “Boxing” episodes on TV recycle plots. This one had a twist with making the heroic boxer a black man and having Dr. Hoagland kidnapped. Most of the action was kept in the ring, so those who like boxing would find this a solid entry in the series.
Lucan: “I was raised by
Spider: “I can dig it. Down in the jungle, the Ghetto is full of animals. Wolves, sharks, wild dogs, you need to learn to become one or else you get eaten alive.”
Spider: (Offering Lucan a handshake and an extra room at his apartment.) “You ain’t gotta worry man, it doesn’t rub off on the sheets.”
Lucan: “What doesn’t rub off?
Spider: “The color, baby.”
Lucan: (Looks at his own hand) “Neither does mine.”
Spider: You’re really color blind, man.”
Lucan: (Grabs Spider’s hand in a gesture of friendship.) “I don’t think so.”
Don tells Lucan to forget about the $1500 loan: “Forget the whole thing. It’s against everything you ever learned. Everything I ever tried to teach you.”
Lucan: “You also taught me that a man has to pay his own way in this world and that’s important to me too.”
Lucan (Consoling Spider): “Just because you threw a fight once, that doesn’t mean you can’t believe in yourself anymore.”
7. You can't have my baby (Air date: March 13th 1978)
Lucan's search for his parents leads him to a fierce 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 episode. I enjoyed Lucan’s interactions with the young boy, especially when he helped him fit in and avoid bullies by reasoning from nature. I liked the daring bridge rescue at the outset. The show featured good stunt climbing. The plot twist regarding 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 the use of Lucan’s fever dreams to create flashbacks. But
this is where the show changes again because the writers attempted
to add more intrigue to the series. Making Lucan a
fugitive-on-the-run conflicts with the details of the Pilot
We can assume the tragic event occurred when Lucan visited the University and Professor Hoagland at a later time. But that also conflicts with him trying to avoid Prentiss and being institutionalized by the University. Having Lucan witness a crime on campus is 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)
A forest fire looms over the area and Lucan rescues a young, 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 at a circus and Lucan’s having having a great time on a merry-go-round. It’s a simple pleasure that he’d never experienced as a child, even after being brought to civilization. Dr. Hoagland meets him with another lead to find his parents, but he should proceed with caution because he gets crank callers.
Lieutenant Prentiss is watching and waiting from a distance. He knew Hoagland would lead him to Lucan at some point. A man named Sawyer shows up. He warns Lucan about the police and demands Lucan go with him, but a chase ensues and Lucan’s blocked on every side. A convertible pulls up and Lucan jumps in to escape. He’s driven 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 assistant, 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 shouts echo throughout the grounds, but nobody will tell him who it is or where it comes from.
Hetty Colefax, Amos’ daughter, likes Lucan and believes her father’s wrong for keeping him. Sawyer visits Dr. Hoagland and tells him that Mr. Colefax demands to have an antidote he created 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, Hoagland calls Prentiss and asks for help. Prentiss is willing to find Lucan but once he does, he’s to be arrested.
Hetty feels sorry for Lucan, but she says 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 bodyguard. 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 looking for an escape but he hears the moans again. He follows the sounds to a door in a long corridor. When he opens it, a berserk 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 for the Hallucinogenic antidote. Hetty is still upset 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 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 tells Lucan 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’s locked up, he shouldn’t still act as if he’s taking 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 crazy. 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 searches the woods 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. 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’s 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.
Another solid episode, but it lulled in parts when the scene shifted from Lucan to Hoagland and Prentiss. They could’ve amped up the creep factor with the hidden man 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 how it feels 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 disagreeing with Lucan about the illusion of 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
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)
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.