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Dog Night

13th Jun 04

It's always great to see dogs in movies, which is why Dog Night features two of the best in show when it comes to canines in cult / horror movies.

In the left corner - Blood Ė a telepathic mutt from post-apocalyptic flick A Boy and His Dog and in the right corner - Cujo Ė the rabid killer St Bernard from the pages of Stephen King. Remove the muzzles and stand well back, itís dogfight night tonight.

A Boy and His Dog Cujo 


A Boy and His Dog (1974)

Plot
In a post-apocalyptic future, a boy - Vic - communicates telepathically with his dog - Blood - as they scavenge the world for women and food.

Rawshark
A Boy and His Dog is the only real feature L. Q. Jones directed amongst his prolific career as an actor, which is a shame as this film shows enormous potential.

The opening scenes (following a title card that reads: "World War IV lasted a few days") of the post-apocalyptic world are stunning, and it's easy to accept both Vic (Don Johnson) and Blood (his telepathic companion voiced by Tim McIntire) as a renegade team scavenging the world for food and women.

The two share great dialogue as they loot other scavengers, take in a trip to a cinema (while munching on a little pop-popa popcorn!), and evade the dangerous threat of the 'Screamers'. "They're like Zombies, yeah?" asked Jim hopefully.

Sure, the film dips slightly in the middle with a change of tone that takes Vic away from Blood to explore the underground (not a good idea) but sit tight, it's still cool in a 70s kind of way, and wait for the ending. It's a killer, and all done in the possible taste.

Jim
I remember catching A Boy and his Dog on TV in the late 80s - probably as part of Alex Cox's moviedrome series - and I was impressed with it then. I still am - this flick has some of the coolest and most believable post-apocalyptic sequences I've ever seen, which is saying something considering this movie is 30 years old and I own copies of Battletruck and Steel Dawn.

Unfortunately, it all goes a bit weird when Vic goes 'underground', where life is a little like a bad acid trip, or one of the more bizarre episodes of that cult show The Prisoner. I'd forgotten all about this bit - the juxtaposition to the cool outland sequences is mind boggling, and for a while we just shot knowing looks at each other and blamed it on 'those crazy 70s...'

Don Johnson is suitably barbaric as the sex-obsessed 'Vic' and his telepathic relationship with his dog is at times both touching and amusing, although the chatter did remind me of Knightrider on more than one occasion. But Rawshark's right, the interplay between the two leads (dog lead - get it?) is the main hook of the movie right up until the ending, which annoyingly was the only bit I could clearly remember from when I first saw this.

That's no surprise, though, it's pretty unforgettable.

Zomblee
What an odd little film. Directed by non-other than LQ Jones, whom I always make the connection with his being a regular bit part player in Sam Peckinpah films, and starring a young Don Johnson (desperate for a shag), itís a film that really lost its way for me when it literally went underground.

However, a lot of the rest of it worked for me. Itís often highly amusing, e.g. ďYouíre starting to sound like a goddam POODLE!Ē Ė Vic insulting the dog, and although I was looking forward to seeing Jason Robardsí appearance, I was disappointed that as soon as he appeared, we quickly lost interest.

ďIím starting to get slightly bored...Ē Jim stated at one point, and I was really relieved as I thought I was missing the point completely. Daydreaming then started happening and I was lost a bit from there on in, until another great line from Zombie Jim: ďHeís some kind of big robot!Ē Brilliant.

The concept sure looked promising enough, and the pre-underground scene often made me laugh out loud, but alas, I couldnít totally recommend it. Sorry guys! Maybe I was just looking forward to Cujo too muchÖ

A Boy and His Dog

Director
L.Q. Jones

Cast
Don Johnson
Susanne Benton
Jason Robards
Tim McIntire
Alvy Moore
Helene Winston
Charles McGraw
Hal Baylor

Rating
Rawshark
Jim
Zomblee

Runtime
91 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Cujo (1983)

Plot
Rabid St Bernard dog stalks mother and son trapped in a car.

Rawshark
Take one St Bernard. Take one rabid bat. Mix together and you get Cujo, a supremely taught and tight suspense horror.

The great thing about Cujo is that it's basically one set-up; a kid and his mother are trapped in a car and stalked by a killer dog that has turned rabid. And yet the film never rushes to get there, instead investing time into these characters.

So we have Donna Trenton (Dee Wallace - as lovely as ever) having an affair, young son Tad fearing monsters, and dad Vic is in a lot of trouble at work with a cereal company. They all have their problems that they're trying to put right, so we really care for them, even as we're feeling the suspense build as Cujo changes from cute cuddly dog to ferocious killer.

The photography by cinematographer Jan de Bont (11 years before he progressed to directing Speed) is fantastically claustrophobic (check out the multi 360 degree spin shot inside the car!), and the dog, all slobbery-jawed and snarly menace, is a real threat.

Indeed, the scene where Donna makes attempts to make a break for the house with Cujo under the car rivals anything in Jaws for supreme tension, as the music swells, and Cujo steps into frame behind our heroine as she desperately searches under the vehicle for any trace of the beast. It's a classic moment, in a gem of a 'small' film.

"Nope, nothing wrong here."

Zomblee
I hadnít seen Cujo since I was about 13, and I know that back then I thought it was brilliant, but that doesnít always mean its gonna be brilliant 15 years on, in all my late 20ís wisdom.

Cujo shocked me so much this time around; it was actually BETTER than I remembered it! It is very tasteful in its execution and quite simply one of the most suspenseful and engaging films Iíve seen recently. Dee Wallace is so beautiful and is superb in her role as devoted mother / cheating wife with a conscience, and the kid - Tad, is so convincing. Itís always noticeable when you see a gifted child actor and Tad is great in an 'I want my daddy!' kind of way. Heís terrified of monsters, and constantly being told that monsters donít exist, only to face Cujo in his worst nightmare come to life. He's not going to get over this episode in a hurry, that's for sure.

And that dog? If I ever came face to face with something like that, Iíd quite simply shit my pants.

Jim
Hang on a minute, let's get some things straight. Both films have dogs in, okay, but both films also have lead characters called 'Vic'? And, I don't know about you, but I thought this Vic had big hair, a bit like an early 80s David Hasslehoff which meant... yes, Knightrider! My God, a Knightrider themed night, eh? Whadda you know..?

Still, I was that kid's age when this movie was made, and I hated being holed up in cars. Not only that, but I hated big dogs, so boy did Cujo work for me tonight. Holed up in a car for 48 hours? I'd go fucking nuts man, Jesus...

A top class film by all rights, and even more so deserving of the quick homage it get's in the original Fletch, like Rawshark pointed out. Don't you remember - Chevy Chase walks down the spooky corridor, pauses and says... "Cujo..?" You know if a horror film gets a mention in a Chevy Chase movie that it has to be good.

Cujo

Director
Lewis Teague

Cast
Dee Wallace-Stone
Danny Pintauro
Daniel Hugh Kelly
Christopher Stone
Ed Lauter
Kaiulani Lee
Billy Jayne
Mills Watson

Rating
Rawshark
Zomblee
Jim

Runtime
91 mins

Available From

Amazon UK
Amazon US
CD WOW

Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!


Conclusion
Dog Night over, and it looks like Cujo wins by a nose (probably the same nose that was bitten by the bat at the start of the film). Blood from A Boy and His Dog showed a ferocious start, but was let down by a weak mid-performance, whereas Cujo sparred early on like a champion to eventually come through with the knock-out finish.

(N.B - No animals were harmed during the writing of this feature)


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