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Deprogramming a dog who kills Blacks is the ultimate challenge for an unorthodox African-American trainer. When a young Hollywood actress finds the injured stray, she nurses it back to health, not knowing it's a "White Dog" trained by a racist to attack only Blacks. Julie's appalled when the otherwise gentle, white German Shepherd breaks out, then returns from his nighttime foray dotted with human blood. Julie desperately races from trainer to trainer, advised to kill her pet, until the top Hollywood canine expert refers her to his former protégé, Keys. Written by
The major reason the film was buried by Paramount was due to the criticism claims by the NAACP stating the film was trying to push a racist message across in its depictions of the dog's actions while the film was in pre-production. Once a release date was set, the NAACP then threatened Paramount with boycotts which soon scared off executives largely due to the film's subject matter. The film was then limited to a series of limited screenings throughout 1982 in cities such as Seattle, Denver and Detroit and Paramount finally aborted its release in the U.S. and shelved the film soon after. Paramount then tried to bury it for almost 25 years and yet the film was seen sporadically during this time appearing on cable and even a very brief, enjoyable run in art houses around the U.S. Paramount finally acknowledged the film and lifted its studio imposed ban by licensing the film as part of Criterion Collection, which released the film on DVD in 2008, more than 25 years after its intended and aborted release. See more »
(at around 11 mins) While at the dinner table, platter of vegetables is across table from girl, then next to her at closeup, then back across the table again at next cut. See more »
Adapted by Fuller and Curtis Hanson from the Romain Gary novel (to whom the picture is dedicated), WHITE DOG was the iconoclastic director's last Hollywood effort and one of his most remarkable, in my opinion. However, due to accusations of racism, the film was never released to theaters in the U.S.; undaunted, Fuller took it to Europe instead!
Having watched it twice myself (first on Italian TV and now on DivX, both viewings compromised by the full-screen format since it was originally filmed in Panavision and the latter even more so by the VHS quality of the source!), I have to say that I really don't see it as a racist picture at all. On the contrary, the film deals extremely tactfully with its delicate subject matter, and nowhere does it condone such views! One perhaps tends to forget that, hand in hand with the racial angle, the film also tackles another very sensitive issue: animal cruelty. This is handled just as effectively, particularly in the scene towards the end where the dog's previous redneck owner appears out of the blue to reclaim it.
Despite the violence it commits, the dog is never portrayed as a 'monster' that should be destroyed like the ones we encounter in conventional horror films. However, it does carry undeniable connotations with the genre notably Robert Louis Stevenson's perennial "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde". Like the leading character of that story, the dog seems to register two diverse and entirely opposing personalities docile, protective and even playful with its mistress (Kristy McNichol), then turning suddenly into an unstoppable beast out for blood whenever a colored person crosses its path!
The 'reconditioning' scenes with Paul Winfield are exceptional, and really give one an idea of what trained animals have to go through before they finally learn to 'perform'. The rather bleak final scene (so typical of Fuller) is especially powerful and poignant. The film is accompanied by a simple yet tremendously effective score by the great Ennio Morricone. From the cast, both McNichol and Winfield are superb; Burl Ives is admirably cast against type; Jameson Parker (from the SIMON & SIMON TV series) appears as McNichol's boyfriend; and there are nice cameos by the likes of veterans Marshall Thompson and Dick Miller, director Paul Bartel and even Fuller himself (as McNichol's agent).
Twenty-five years after the fact, it seems that Paramount has had enough time to reconsider its position and accommodate this important motion picture with an official release, at long last which is rumored to be coming via a Criterion DVD, no less! I truly hope that we will soon see this fascinating and thought-provoking film receive the exposure it so well deserves: if anything, it ought to be made available for its valid sociological aspects which it doesn't exploit for sensationalistic value but rather aims for maximum eloquence with a direct, realistic style that really shouldn't offend anybody...
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