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They Only Kill Their Masters (1972)

California small town police chief investigates a suspicious death involving the victim's own dog that presumably killed its owner.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Abel Marsh
Kate Bingham
Dr. Warren G. Watkins
Capt. Daniel Streeter
Mrs. Watkins
Christopher Connelly ...
Lee Campbell
Mayor Wendell
Jenifer Shaw ...


An enigmatic young woman has been murdered in a small California coast town. The investigation by the local sheriff uncovers a complex web of relationships centering on the victim; the scattered trail of evidence ranges from a mysterious photograph to the victim's own dog. During the investigation, the sheriff meets and becomes romantically involved with a woman whose connection to the murder is ambiguous. Written by Elisabeth Pruitt <foosi@global.california.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Was the murderer a man... or man's best friend?


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 July 1973 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Anha fagat mikoshand  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In addition to her big entrance late in the movie, June Allyson appears in glimpses, walk-ons and cameo appearances throughout the film. She is in a scarf, walking across the town park during the opening credits, as well as in a cut-away close-up of her eyes when Able Mash first comes to the vet clinic and meets Murphy and Kathrine Ross for the first time. See more »


In the original theatrical release, when James Garner enters the vets office for the first time, a trainer was visible above the set wall, jiggling his hands to get the dogs in the vet's office to bark. See more »


[repeated line]
Abel Marsh: Neat!
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Rather nasty
30 May 2014 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

Whodunit with a full roster of old MGM players in support of James Garner, who's a rather nasty police chief we're supposed to like because he's James Garner. He does bring a lot of his personal charm to this murder mystery involving a small coastal California town, a possibly homicidal Doberman, and some twisted sex play. But there's an acid atmosphere, and it's dully shot and directed. Katherine Ross, as a veterinary technician who becomes Garner's love interest, is profoundly uninteresting, and among the supporting players I liked Ann Rutherford as a clueless but salty secretary and June Allyson (not playing a sweetie for once, and she's good) as…a woman with secrets. The small-town, everybody-knows- everybody atmosphere is nicely maintained, and Hal Holbrook, as always, brings major acting chops, in this case to an underwritten part. But Garner's character, forever ramming his police car into something deliberately or threatening violence against his girlfriend or a local sheriff (Harry Guardino with an amusing '70s mustache), isn't that easy to root for.Also, it's just the period, but it's a casually homophobic piece. The plot involves lesbianism, and we're supposed to find the suspected miscreants that much more awful for being lesbian. And during one seduction scene, Ross asks Garner why he isn't married and he jokingly replies, "I'm a faggot." And that's supposed to make him endearing and amusing and clever. Nasty times, children, and we've come a long way.

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