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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A long time ago on now 'pay-only' forums, I used to discuss animation...I don't recall discussing plague dogs (though Watership Down was discussed at length), though now having seen the film a few times, I realize that this is in so many ways a theoretical example of what animation could be. Had I not actually seen Plague Dogs, I would have gathered no film like this actually existed. Perhaps it's something like the researchers who first discovered the naked mole rat, finding something that in all probability shouldn't exist, but seems--at least theoretically--possible. Plague Dogs is an animated film simply telling a great story without a single limitation placed upon it because it belongs to a genre. For this very reason, it has never been reissued in the US so if you want to see it, it might be worthwhile investing in a region free VCR that plays PAL. I've never read the book, but the film takes a stance that would be difficult were it done as an animated film, live action or any other possible way. In the end, I'm not sure it matters whether it is about animals or not. Hope persists in bleakness, memories (love and loyalty) outweigh the present, and innocence is shattered by a world more bitter than a dozen R rated movies. Dumbo perhaps perceived the world given to us in Plague Dogs, but finds an all too easy solution. Plague Dogs has no solution other than to live...even in death. The balance between the two strong dog personalities is perfect. Rowf is both a hardened cynic, yet his spirit and willingness to fight carries the film. Snitter, who strangely leads the duo, is idealistic, yet emotionally and psychologically crippled. But strangely, I'm reminded of Aldous Huxley who once said that in a world of insanity, perhaps those who are crazy are the most sane. Snitter's remarks, though clearly irrational often feel more right than the actual choices left to the poor dogs. When Snitter settles in his old home next to the fire (all an illusion), one really wishes he could stay there. These delusional episodes are often aimed right at the heart. Snitter is an immediately sympathetic character who makes his point from the beginning of the film: to find a new master. Snitter knows his persuers are not masters, he in fact defends masters to the very end. It is a crippling blow to anyone who's loved an animal, has children, or had any other responsibility to the innocent. There's no one there to tell Snitter that masters and man are the same. That those who hunt him would probably just as readily give him a home. It's fate that's put him on this road and there's no way out. As much as Watership Down is a good film, Plague Dogs is a great film. A once in a decade film. Perhaps the only thing like it is Grave of Fireflies. I can't think of a single western animated film that comes close except perhaps those early wild wanderings by Walt when he still believed that 'love is a song that never ends' and that animation could be a medium for everyone. Haha! Like that once, now abandoned hope, snitter's last line cries out 'there isn't any island!' Plague Dogs is just that fleeting hope, now crushed, never to be repeated in cinema. Miyazaki may perhaps give animation a grand treatment that is well deserved, yet even Mononoke is not so brave as to do what Plague Dogs did. A Wonderful yet tragic film for so many reasons.
A perfect film. Strong characters, wonderful animation; a rarity. It
manages to be real; it actually CAPTURES the totality of its components
without catering to any audience.
It's a difficult film to watch. You suffer alongside, vicariously. The hardships portrayed here are viciously painful. You'll hug your pets tight and be glad they wound up as your pets.
This movie is very special - considering the content, it could have easily been pandering and preachy. It manages to go so far beyond anything you've ever experienced. It's quite an achievement on every level.
It won't leave you happy, but it will affect you permanently. It is emotional, but never manipulative. It's a tragic and unrecognized masterpiece.
Don't even think about showing this one to the kiddies. It's about two
abused lab animals that escape only to find that the experiments that
have been conducted on them leave them unfit to survive in the wild.
Their desperate flight for survival leads them through a series of
cruelties, heaped upon their lives already made wretched by torturous
and seemingly unnecessary experimentation, that culminate in one of the
most moving moments in the history of animation.
I've always thought that animation could be more than an after-market money-machine vehicle for creating cloyingly sweet garbage for which actors can earn voice-over money without having to be too closely associated with the work. And yes, that's what I think most animated features are.
But not this one.
Animation is a way of depicting what cannot be shown in live action films. In this case, we explore the tragedy of animal abuse in a way that will never let you forget what a crime it really is. Plague Dogs is insightful, brutally honest, and unflinchingly direct in exposing the gruesome truth about animal research. This is one of the greatest animated films ever made. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I have never been a fan of anthropomorphism in film. Talking animals bug me. Most Disney work is likeable fluff with little substance and loads of Hollywood phoneyness. These aforementioned films are formulaic and frankly rather drab. But the Plague Dogs...the Plague dogs is an exception. The story of two infected dogs who escape from a containment facility is the most heart wrenching story I think I have read, and the film recreates that world perfectly. It is not that there is a bleeding heart liberal inside of me and I would stress that I am not a member of PETA. utr this film hurts. What makes this film hurt so damned much is that there is no option for the characters. You love them immediately for their innocence and nobility. You feel for them because they have no ability even if freed to make anything of their freedom. The dogs are our children. And the world they exist in, is our world, one we have allowed to stand. The Plague Dogs creates a world where the finest of our emotions falls short of saving the day. It creates a world where good things lose and die and bad things remain in control of the world, where friendship can fail, and even the trickster loses...and yet...the beauty of the story is how the best of our emotions, even though they will not neccessarily win the day, can make an ending bearable. Though this ending left me drained and hollow. This movie has the ability to shatter a viewer.
Martin Rosen's second animated film is a powerful piece, which is based
on Richard Adams novel of the same name. The Plague Dogs is a very rare
example of a film in the animation genre which strives for realism in
the grittiest of senses. As far away from fluffy Disney films as one
could imagine, this is a disturbing account of the hardships of two
dogs who escape from an animal testing lab. The perceived haven of the
real world soon turns out to be anything like Rowf and Snitter had
hoped. However the friendship that is built through out the film
between the two dogs and a rogue fox whom they meet, is touching and at
times heartbreaking. To delve much further into the story would be to
spoil certain aspects of the film, so that shall be left down to the
viewer to discover.
Suffice to say, the main strength of Plague Dogs is paradoxically the reason the film has found itself in obscurity. To this date the original, 'uncut', version has not been released on any small screen formats (not to my knowledge at least). This strength is the bravery with which Rosen tackles the story. Resulting from this is a down beat film that isn't suitable for, nor is it likely to interest most, children. This is more than likely the reason it never found the success of Rosen's previous feature, Watership Down.
In short, this film deserves to be released in its full splendor and embraced by a whole new generation of film lovers. Anyone with a heart that isn't made of stone will get the appeal of this wonderful film.
As the plot synopsis has been covered in sufficient detail by many
previous comments, I instead offer this comment as a humble plea to
film and animation enthusiasts, such that they may actively seek out
this criminally underrated and genuinely affecting animated drama. My
hope would be that sufficient renewed interest in this successor to
"Watership Down" might provide the impetus for a well-deserved North
American reissue of the film in it's uncut version.(An uncut, 99 minute
Region 4 PAL disc is now available online through import sites, while
the only available Region 1 NTSC versions are of the 82 minute edit).
The voicing of the two principle characters, the Smooth Terrier
"Snitter" and the noble Labrador "Rowf", is nothing short of brilliant,
with John Hurt providing an especially poignant turn as Snitter, whose
brain has been tampered with at the research facility, thereby
confusing his perception of objective/ subjective realities. There is a
powerful message and some timely social commentary to be had here,
though the film wisely refrains from overt didacticism and
sentimentality. As fate would have it, the film will now stand as one
of the last animated features to have been entirely hand colored (to
great effect, I might add). At once powerful, haunting and emotionally
draining, this film is surely not to be forgotten once viewed (example:
many previous comments having mentioned the author retaining vivid
recollections of the film from childhoods far removed). I implore you,
please seek out a copy (cut or uncut) and view it with those closest to
you. Discuss it with your friends, your children and fellow film
enthusiasts. Let's not allow this masterwork to languish and slip into
"I'm inside my head now. And it's where I should be... I can't come out. If I do, I'll go mad again" - Snitter
As everyone else has already said - this is not a movie for kids,at
least they should watch it with an adult.
I first saw it at the cinema maybe 19-20 years ago and it has never left my mind.I remember crying in the end of the movie and when I hear "time and tide" it still makes me cry.
It is very well made yet disturbing and as said before it has nothing in compare with Disneys animated musicals. There is nothing funny in this movie.Nothing to laugh at and it makes you feel very sad and depressed and ashamed of being a human.
It is very sad that most people have never ever heard of it.It deserves a far better destiny than to just fade away in to the past.
The only animated movies I can think of that is almost as touching (but still far from) as "Plague dogs",is perhaps Watership Down,Secret of NIHM,An American tail and Grave of the fireflies.
I really hope that animators nowadays could watch Plague dogs and get some inspiration.Disneymovies are nice but they are far to sentimental in my opinion.
Thats just one of the great things about Plague dogs - Its dark,grim and depressive but it NEVER EVER gets sentimental.
Why cant anybody re-release it on VHS and DVD?
"Memories is only about the past,the present time will never last, the future lies within your heart.I left this cruel world behind and I found my peace of mind.I don't feel no pain no more..."
simply the best animated film i have seen.nemo's great but this one hits you in places others won't and probably never will again..i watched this back in the early 80's and never forgot it..its great that it has been released on dvd as i have been after it for years..for all those who have not seen it i recommend you to see it as it will always stay with you..its not your average kids animated movie and many were shocked when it was first released..there is one particlar gory scene with a farmer and a shotgun, say no more don't want to spoil it..and this scene could not have been animated and script better...beats watership down every time! I have never been so moved as i have with this film..
Richard Adams's novel 'The Plague Dogs' always stood in the shadow of
his superior masterpiece - the classic 'Watership Down'. The same goes
for the animated films, both of them directed by Martin Rosen. The
animated version of The Plague Dogs, released four years after the
acclaimed Watership Down, never quite achieved the kind of success its
predecessor had; not because it wasn't as good, but because of pretty
much the same reasons for the novel's limited success. While Watership
Down hid violence and severe social-political criticism behind a
disguise of a children's tale, The Plague Dogs is much more
in-your-face, much less subtle, and makes no attempts to hide itself
behind pretty words. The Plague Dogs is a tragic tale that is
mercilessly critical toward modern society, taking a strict stand on
the subject of cruelty to animals. The idea of an animated film
strictly for adults was as difficult to swallow twenty years ago as the
idea of a novel for adults told from an animal's point of view.
Therefore, movie-goers didn't quite know what to make of the film; it
didn't seem right for an adult to go watch an animated film about
animals - and a parent who takes his little child to this film would
face an even bigger problem of explaining to them why the bad people do
such horrible things to the poor dogs.
Fortunately, today we know that animation isn't just for kids, and we can fully appreciate this masterpiece. The story is that of two laboratory dogs, voiced brilliantly by John Hurt and Christopher Benjamin, who escape from their cages and from the lab seeking the freedom of the outside world, and finding out that surviving in the wilderness isn't as easy as that. The scientists have reason to believe that the dogs contacted a bubonic plague virus during their escape, and so the two must run for their lives and fight for survival. Most of the film is from the dogs' point of view (they are later joined by a fox, voiced by James Bolam, who helps them survive in the wild, not without his own reasons). On the other hand we also hear the humans' conversations, yet we never see a human being's face; Rosen doesn't allow us to sympathize or identify with any of the human characters. The animals are clearly the more humane here, and that's the basis of what Rosen and Adams say here.
Be warned - don't let the animation fool you, this is not an easy watch. The violence in The Plague Dogs is more explicit than in most live action films, and the message it bears about human beings as a whole is difficult to swallow. John Hurt's performance as Snitter, alternately funny and sad, dominates the film, and it makes for one of the most beautiful and round animated characters ever seen on film. The story, especially that of Snitter's, is incredibly sad and touching, and is more powerful emotionally than any other animated feature I've seen. A highly recommended film, and not just for animation enthusiasts.
This is easily one of my favorite animated films of all time. The
characters are so much more real than those in the majority of the live
action films produced recently. The animation is very well done with
great English scenery and a style that doesn't allow for any cutesy
cartoonish effects. The music is appropriate (unlike ahem.. Watership
Down). Finally, the message of the movie is clear without being
oppressive or melodramatic. The character of the Tod in particular
seems to be the penultimate representation of a fox.
This is in no sense a children's film, but a mature child of ten or eleven could certainly appreciate it. I don't want to sound corny, but the film can be viewed as a metaphor for a human life. The movie is a kind of cycle from water to water, the dogs try to make sense of a world they can never totally understand, they're constantly searching for some kind of mythical human affection, I could ramble on...
This film, unlike Watership Down, actually improves on the book by refining and/or removing many of the more tedious sections which dealt with people and politics. The final scene of the movie is as powerful an image as I have seen in any film. Any movie that gives the audience something to think about is fine by me. The Plague Dogs does this and tells a good story to boot.
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