Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

White Dog

Lassie, don't come home, please! - White Dog

You know that phrase about an old dog...? Here's a movie all about it.
Sam Fuller's controversial 'White Dog' (1982), with its tale of a dog trained to attack black people, and subsequent attempts to rehabilitate it, got the label of being racist on its release. I must be missing something. Unless you are analysing this movie with a level of subtlety I'm not capable of, I cannot see how anyone could take that interpretation from it. Certainly, it's not a subtle movie, but for that very reason it's message is clear cut, if maybe a little pessimistic. On top of all that, it's very, very good.
The cast are excellent (especially Paul Winfield as the trainer who tries to cure the mutt). However, if ever there was an Oscar for best performance by an animal, the white dogs that play the central part would win it paws down. Chilling. The direction too is very effective, if manipulative (witness the little kid blowing the balloon as the dog noses around some bins). For me though one of the crowning glories of the film is the score by Ennio Morricone. Appropriately enough it is very similar to his score of twelve years later for 'Wolf', but is unsettling where that movie's music is more dreamy. Right from the opening of 'White Dog' it sets you on edge. Afterall all we see is a poor dog knocked down and brought to the vet, yet that simple music makes you believe this is Damian in canine form and should be staked immediately. All the elements come together to make something that made me feel extremely queasy, which is just as it should be.
I've never really been a fully paid up member of the Samuel Fuller Fan Club (though 'Shock Corridor' and 'The Big Red One' will always stay in my memory). Those in search of a neglected auteur built his pedestal a little too high in my book. In this case though, Fuller, who was close to 70 when he made 'White Dog', shows that sometimes the old dog really can learn new tricks.
Anyway here's a much better blog review of 'White Dog' that I came across while looking for a picture.

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