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Benji (1974)

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Reviews: 32 user | 5 critic

A stray dog saves two kidnapped children.

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Title: Benji (1974)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Patsy Garrett ...
Allen Fiuzat ...
Cynthia Smith ...
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Christopher Connelly ...
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Herb Vigran ...
Larry Swartz ...
J.D. Young ...
Erwin Hearne ...
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Storyline

The first movie about the famous golden mutt. Benji is a stray who has nonetheless worked his way into the hearts of a number of the townspeople, who give him food and attention whenever he stops by. His particular favorites are a pair of children who feed and play with him against the wishes of their parents. When the children are kidnapped, however, the parents and the police are at a loss to find them. Only Benji can track them down, but will he be in time? If he can save the day, he may just find the permanent home he's been longing for. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 October 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Beniamino  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$500,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$39,552,600 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Joe Camp made this film in response to the overabundance of low-quality family films released through the "four wall distribution" concept. ("Four-walling" is a sort-of self-distribution process where a filmmaker and/or distributor rents a theater to show their films, and receive all box-office revenues.) In an interview with "Variety Magazine" in 1977, Camp said, "It has become an industry-caused thing, but the G rated classification has to some degree become 'if it's G, it can't be for me'." Camp was concerned that "four-wall fast-buck distributors" had oversaturated the market for G-rated films, so in response to the low quality of these films, he created "Benji." See more »

Goofs

When Benji first enters the children's home on his own at the beginning of the film, a very obvious man in a white collared shirt opens the door. See more »

Quotes

Paul: Is Benji here yet?
Mary: Yes, Benji's here yet.
Paul: [calling out the kitchen door] Cindy, he's here.
Mary: Well he won't be here for long if you don't stop that yelling. You know what happens if your father walks in.
Paul: I don't think Dad understands about us and Benji.
Mary: I don't think you understand what an understatement you just made.
Paul: What's understatement mean?
Mary: It means don't yell down the hall.
Cindy: [entering the kitchen] Where's Benji?
Mary: Don't yell in the kitchen, do you want your father in here?
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in K-9 (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Benji's Theme (I Feel Love)
Music by Euel Box
Performed by Charlie Rich
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Best Dog Movie Ever Made -- Comparable to Buster Keaton's "The General"
14 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In looking over previously posted reviews, it is obvious to me that people either love this film or hate it. I happen to love it. I consider it to be not only the best dog movie ever made, but also among my 10 most favourite movies of all time (yes, including Casablanca, The Thin Man, Gun Crazy, Chinatown, etc.).

What makes this movie so wonderful is Higgins, the dog (under the direction of his trainer, Frank Inn). Higgins was so far beyond other dog actors that it is impossible to explain to folks who don't own dogs or train dogs. Not only is he cute and photogenic, expressive and believable, he did all his own stunts -- and he was 14 years old when he made this film!!!

Folks who review this movie tend to mention the kid actors, or the creaky kidnapping plot -- but, you know, that's not the point. If you wanted to look at it that way, you could also mention the wonderful interactions between Higgins and Edgar Buchanan, an actor he had worked with for many years on the TV series "Petticoat Junction." Those scenes have a delightful sense of improvisation and charm that easily offset the whiny kid scenes. But the movie is not really about those kidnapped kids at all. It is about a small dog, his daily routines, and how, when those routines are broken, he must rise above his simple life and accomplish a great deed.

In a way, the film that "Benji" most closely resembles is Buster Keaton's magnificent silent classic, "The General." The slow, repetitious set-up of Keaton with his train and Higgins with his rounds about town, the focused realism, the slightly down-at-the-heels outsiderness of the hero, the hint of love about to blossom if only the hero can provide for his beloved, the insistently lengthy attention paid to the immediacy of ultra-mundane cause and effect -- these are the same in both films. The openings have a documentary quality to them -- until, without warning, all hell breaks loose and the plot comes crashing in. Keaton's train is stolen! Kidnappers come to Benji's home! Then, in both films, we see an under-dog, so to speak, rise to the challenge of events and, working with only the slenderest of means and very little advance planning, counter one villainous turn after another, all the while attempting to right the wrongs that have been committed.

The manner in which the heroes devise solutions to the problems they face, both in "The General" and in "Benji," flow logically from the daily routines we saw them perform in the documentary-like first halves of the films, so they seem believable. We gain confidence alongside the heroes, see the sense in what they are doing, cheer for them to triumph, watch them rise to the verge of success -- and then a huge blow falls, a colossal set-back occurs, and we feel despair -- they'll never make it now, too much time and too much ground have been lost! But again, they apply themselves to the task, and now we hope against hope that they will be able to pull it off in time ... except that most people watching The General experience jaw-dropping amazement at the stunts and most people watching Benji really have no idea how great Higgins' stunt-work really is, and spend the last third of the movie in tears because Benji is such a small dog, and he's so dang CUTE, and ... awwww.

I've watched "The General" at least 10 times and never cried once. I've watched "Benji" 10 times and cried every time. I cried just know, merely writing about it. But "Benji" is not just a cute dog movie, any more than "The General" is just a Buster Keaton comedy. Like the best of Keaton's work, it is a heroic movie, and a love story, and a story of physical action and bravery. I just love this movie, that's all.


10 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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