Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, December 15, 2008

DVD - White Dog

White Dog is something of a legend in the film world. In the early eighties, Paramount Pictures tapped legendary director Sam Fuller, just of his recent success with The Big Red One, to direct a film based off of the novella about a young couple who take in a stray dog, only to find out that the dog has been trained to attack and kill black people. Fuller made the film, having made several anit-rascism pictures in the 1950's before equal rights and de-segregation were even seriously being considered. Upon initial viewing of the film, however, Paramount executives thought it to inflammatory, and shelved the project except for a short release in France. This was a slap in the face to Fuller, and all who worked on the film, and Fuller never saw the film released in his lifetime. This month, though, Criterion put White Dog out for the first time, as far as I know, on home video.

The story of White Dog is fairly simple - A young actress in Hollywood comes across a stray dog while driving through the Hollywood Hills to her home. She takes the dog home with her, and seeks to find the owner. When no owner shows up, and the dog saves her from being raped (by a white man), the girl, who's name is Julie, decides to keep the dog. Little does she know, though, that the dog wasn't just trained to attack those that would put someone like Julie in jeopardy, but was also trained to attack and kill black people, which she first finds out when the dog attacks and maims one of her friends. Feeling like she has developed a real bond with the dog, she tries to avoid having it put down by taking it to a black animal trainer named Keys, who is looking for a challenge. But can Keys break the dog of its ways? or will it kill again?

White Dog is alright, but it FEELS very 80's. And, I don't know, maybe I'm just a product of a different era, but watching the movie now doesn't seem like its as impactful as it probably should be or might have been back in the day. I know people are rascist, I know people do horrible, unspeakable things to animals, and I know animals can be made into dangerous weapons... Ultimately what I was left feeling about the film was that we got good performances by Kristy McNichol, as the optimistic Julie, and by Paul Winfield, as the animal trainer Keys, but the story itself really didn't draw me in the way I wanted it to, and it didn't really impact me the way I thought it would. White Dog is good, but its not life changing. For me, a film like Shock Corridor, Fuller's 1963 film about mental illness and asylum's was much more interesting as a "topical" film.

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