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Luis García Berlanga
In the early 1900s, a bull terrier living on the streets of the Bowery rises from a street-tough engaging in dogfights to pedigreed show dog among the upper crust. All the while, he has two ambitions--to be reunited with his mother and to get even with his father who deserted her. Written by
This is a curious sort of movie, almost one of a kind. It's narrated by its central character, a white bull terrier, and though it would seem to be the sort of "family" movie parents take their kids to, it deals with staged dog fights on which men bet and in which dogs are killed. What's more the dog's first owner slaps his girlfriend around and she seems to enjoy it! Hardly Saturday matinee material. True, these elements are more implied than shown, but more oddities follow.
After setting up the dog as its central character, the movie introduces Jeff Richards and he temporarily takes over the story. Then he disappears and Edmund Gwenn belatedly enters the plot and the story begins to center around him. And then Jeff Richards comes back! Few movies have had such a shifting focus as this one. And why pick a bull terrier since this breed doesn't have the expressive eyes into which audiences can project all sorts of emotions? The bull terrier's blank look often seems at odds with the narration being spoken for him by actor Vic Morrow.
Perhaps most curiously, while this might have been designed as a movie with a special appeal to children, there are no children in it! In fact, two of the main characters are decidedly in the "senior citizen" class: Edmund Gwenn and Dean Jagger.
And yet ... the movie has a certain charm. Its early 1900s setting is pleasantly, though superficially, mounted. The cast is attractive, there are no slow spots in the story, and the whole thing's wrapped up in less than 90 minutes. Those who've seen the movie always seem to remember it, even though some of these memories may now be approaching 50 years in age.
Jeff Richards seems a bit miscast, (he doesn't have a tough-enough edge), but this is still one of his better parts at a time when he appeared to be moving toward stardom. For some reason or other, he never "clicked" and soon faded from view. Here he has a scene without his shirt, showing off the kind of chest hair which other actors shaved, and he looks lip-smackin' good! For even more footage of Jeff's chest, though in black-and-white, check out "Island of Lost Women."
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