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Where are all the protesters who gather whenever some idiot tries to
censor artwork or expression that is contrary to American culture? None
of them seem to have shown up when this great work was put on the
shelf, then later chopped up. Europeans, with an open eye to American
society (only due to the benefit of being distant), were able to see
this film with honesty. I say this because that's where it was shown
uncut and critically acclaimed.
The truth is that it is a statement about and against racism, completely misunderstood by the civil rights groups and the others who opposed it. It is a good, hard look at the way racism is propagated in America, through the training of not only this one single dog, but of young people by racist adults and peers as the young people mature into adulthood. It tackles the subject with an honesty that is sadly missing in the statements of most anti-racist organizations.
Most groups prefer to gloss over the true causes of racism with platitudes, and a few often have a political agenda that promotes socialistic ideals, so they really don't give full attention to the true causes of racism. Everybody now is so afraid of offending anybody else, that everything becomes a watered-down, grayish, inoffensive litany no more bothersome than grouchiness. Sam Fuller stated in film what it really is, and that is that people learn from others throughout childhood, not always by overt indoctrination but by subtle methods, to think in stereotypical and racist terms. Not just whites thinking of blacks as uneducated gangster-rappers, but also those who think of Native Americans as lazy drinkers, Italians as loud-mouthed mob disciples, country folks as hillbilly trailer trash, and so on.
And Hollywood does little of significance to dispel this, because they mostly grind things down to these kind of stereotypes to fit into the 2-hr film story mode that they like, which is long on violence, sex and action, and short on character. It's easier that way. Thanks to Sam Fuller for his courage.
ADDENDUM: I had the opportunity to see this again recently after 25 years, and it is still as powerful as I remembered. It does have a B-movie quality to it, a roughness that actually makes it better than if it had been a polished film. The final sequence remains as terrifying as anything I've seen in any type of film, horror, suspense, Hitchcock, and so on. And it has a fabulous music score by Ennio Morricone. I'd confidently call this one a must-see!
"white dog" is one of the best films of the 80's,it's a very very hard film but also a really clever and lucid film about racism,conditioning,hatred and the complex connections between people and animals. The acting (especially from Kristy McNichol and Paul Winfield) is great,Fuller's direction and his sense of editing and use of slow motion are really effective,the screenplay is brilliant and ennio Morricone's soundtrack is really beautiful and haunting. I have only an old VHS (with bad dubbing and full screen format)of "white dog"...this underrated masterpiece really deserves a beautiful edition on DVD!
White Dog is often mentioned on lists of all-time most controversial
films, and there's a good reason for that. Samuel Fuller's film is
controversial because it confronts the theme of racism head on, and
succeeds where modern films such as 'Crash' fail in that it actually
makes you think. Rather than actually being 'about' racism, White Dog
tells a story and lets the themes flow; thus meaning that the audience
is allowed to see the themes shining through, rather than being beaten
over the head with them. The film is really clever and is based on a
premise that isn't immediately obvious. In fact, if it wasn't for a
series of little niggles; this film would be an absolute masterpiece.
The problems with the film are largely down to the execution, as Samuel
Fuller uses too many close-up shots; and the scenes where the title
animal attacks in particular suffer from poor editing, which means that
it's sometimes difficult to tell exactly what's going on and most of
the time gave me a headache. Furthermore, the plot doesn't move
particularly well and the film can seem like it isn't going anywhere at
It's a good job, then, that Fuller utilises his themes so well. Racism isn't a subject that interests me generally (mostly because of tacky, sentimental dross like Crash), but the plot here is used in such a way that it's impossible not to be taken in by it. We follow a young aspiring actress that accidentally runs a dog over. After becoming attached to it, she decides to take it in; but pretty soon the dog attacks someone, and she finds out that aside from being a white dog, it's also a 'White Dog'; a dog used by white people to kill blacks. The main reason why this film is so good is down to the title animal. Here we have an entity that is entirely innocent of its crimes; the guilty party being the racist that trained him. By letting us see what the dog is capable of, but making sure we know that the dog is only doing what it has been programmed to do ensures that the true horror of racism is allowed to shine through; as well as the futility of hatred down to skin colour. Films like White Dog are few and far between; here we have a movie that dares to tell a story despite its implications, and a movie that forces its audience to think about their own prejudices. It's just sad that we live in a world where films like Crash win Oscars while films like White Dog are banished into obscurity. Highly recommended!
Quite an interesting film about a hound trained to attack black people, and a black animal trainee, Keys, played by Paul Winfield, for whom it becomes a very personal matter to do a difficult job of deprogramming a dog. Misunderstood by many as a racist film at the time it came out, now it became sort of cult-classic. The most remarkable thing about this movie is certainly the most amazing performance from the main character - which is the dog itself. Only to see this dog acting is a sufficient reason to see this film. 6/10
I can't let this be the only comment for White Dog.
The best film about racism and hatred I've ever seen, with the basic message that hatred isn't something a child is born with, it's something they have been taught. And the question is raised, can you un-teach them?
A black animal trainer (Paul Winfield) attempts to re-train an attack dog taught to kill people with black skin.
Paramount tucked it's tail between it's legs when protesters who had never seen the film claimed it was the work of racists.
Fuller moved to France and never made another American movie. (He made one in France)
PS: to the lady above me, that annoying piano is Ennio Morricone and he has forgotten more about music than you will ever know.
As someone who was raised to abhor racism & any discrimination for that
matter, maybe there is some truth to the idea that a person's beliefs
(whether questionable or not) all begin with how they are raised. This
could very well transfer to the animal kingdom if WHITE DOG is any
Just from reading the synopsis of the film, I was prepared for a movie that would not be making its points subtly, but rather pulling no punches whatsoever. Director Samuel Fuller was always known for telling it like it is, as well as maintaining his independence from the Hollywood mainstream. At first, Paramount had intended to distribute this movie after owning the rights to Romain Gary's story for years. However, I can guess that the powers that be were still very afraid of the adverse reaction WHITE DOG was likely going to generate, mainly by people who either had not seen the movie, or had misunderstood it. That was why Paramount pulled out before the film's American release, and to this day, it has not been seen in our theaters.
It is thus easily understood why Fuller never made another American film (to which I say, good for him!) because even as liberal as we Americans often claim to be, sometimes a certain subject such as that portrayed in WHITE DOG hits a little too close to home. Fuller dared to talk about racism (a problem still alive & well even decades after the advent of civil rights) without any sugarcoating whatsoever, and it was this take-no-prisoners approach that meant curtains for the film even before it had a chance. No surprise, European audiences & critics loved WHITE DOG, and understood the movie for what it was: a statement against racism, not condoning it. Furthermore, Fuller dared to put forth the theory that racism can be taught to another person (or in this case, animal) by careful teaching. Whether or not deprogramming in the opposite direction can happen is unclear. WHITE DOG succeeds by not giving any clear-cut answers, and that is another reason why Americans probably would not have taken to it well: for every message picture we get, we expect to see some solutions for the problem. WHITE DOG does not do that.
To say WHITE DOG is a film ahead of its time would be an understatement because I do not think even today, a movie like this could be green-lighted by a major studio. Coalitions & interest groups would likely protest loudly enough to force WHITE DOG off the screen. Some would say the violence is to blame, and yes, it IS graphic. But the film does have a PG rating, so it is not gore of the highest order. Even when the film did make it on to American cable, cuts were made so that the dog merely bit its victims rather than killed them. Others would say the mere plot of the movie itself is hateful enough, but sometimes an unvarnished approach to a brutal subject is necessary to get the point across. All I can say is be prepared to have the film's message beat you over the head, for I highly doubt Fuller would have done it any other way. It will also cause heated debate & discussion, yet another result that Fuller (R.I.P.) would also have appreciated totally.
If you get the chance, by all means see this movie, but try to leave your
Before this movie came out, it was roundly denounced by people who misunderstood what it is about. The story is not, as many feared, about a dog trained to attack black people. It is the story of a man (Paul Winfield) and his determination to do something that everyone says cannot be done - FREE the dog of its programming. Unfortunately, it seems that too few people were able to break THEIR programming and give this movie a chance.
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...
Meandering at times, but sensitive thriller about a white-colored, racist dog trained to attack African-Americans. Kristy McNichol nurses him back to health after hitting him with her car, soon learning his true nature and dedicating herself to curing the gorgeous but brainwashed creature. The random scenes of attack on black characters--one in slow-motion--are probably what doomed this film's chances at getting a theatrical release (it played Mexico, but only "preview performances" in the US). True, they are upsetting, but deliberately so. They are necessary in showing the reasoning of what happens next, but that certainly doesn't erase the controversial undermining. McNichol has a difficult time getting a grip on her character (we don't get a good idea of who she is either), but the actress's mere presence is reassuring--she's like a lovely ray. Paul Winfield gives his best performance ever as the black man who attempts to retrain the dog, knowing how slim his chances are. Some shots are repetitive, and Ennio Morricone's music is as well--though I found the passages lovely and melancholic. The slow motion taxed my patience, however all is nearly redeemed by that final shot. What tragic beauty there is in it, what a loss of innocence for all concerned. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film demonstrates how racism is a learned behavior. The man who taught the dog to attack blacks will pass his hate onto his two young daughters. The daughters will most likely pass this onto their children and the cycle will continue. It will require a strong minded individual to recognize this ignorance and end the cycle, however the dog's behavior after being reconditioned by Keys implies that the director believes the hate will just be redirected. While I do not agree with the directors final implications, I feel this film had a great message. However in my opinion, the editing choices were very poor. There was FAR too much slow motion in this film. I laughed to myself at several scenes in which slow motion was used seemingly just to use slow motion. The extreme unrealistic intelligence of the dog was very frustrating to watch as well as seeing the dog leap heights and distances that were in no way possible. The film was made cheesy by these points and overall I felt was ruined by them. While the message was obvious, the rest of the film was lacking to me. I would not recommend this film to others.
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