A Whiter Shade Of Horror: The Movie, “White Dog”

Cover of "White Dog - Criterion Collectio...

Cover of White Dog – Criterion Collection

I wonder whether they’ll ever make a movie about today’s black-on-white violent crime, of which there is a lot.  What was made instead, though it was decades ago, was Sam Fuller‘s White Dog (1982), about a dog trained by a sick racist to attack black people.

TV actress Kristy McNichol plays an aspiring thespian who finds the dog, initially lost, and then discovers what he was intended to be.  A white dog.  Like other Fuller films, this one is moderately unusual but, in addition, it shows that Fuller soundly possessed a mind.

At a training spot for animals used in movies, a black man acted by Paul Winfield painstakingly tries to cure the dog of its ugly instinct.  Progress is so frustratingly slow that the dog has time to escape and, yes, actually kills a man.  The film shows us the ease with which evil becomes real, becomes evident, and how lost we often are when trying to eliminate it.  Fuller’s directing is far from ideal with its camera zooms and clunkiness, but the story’s power to disturb remains.  McNichol and Winfield turn out decent, if unspectacular, performances.  As always, Burl Ives is agreeably authoritative.


Sam Fuller In Japan: “House of Bamboo”

Harry Kleiner‘s screenplay for the Samuel Fuller film, House of Bamboo (1955), consists of too many coincidences for the plot to hold up well, but it’s interesting to see American gangsters in Tokyo (post-WWII).  What they’re doing is robbing U.S. ammunition trains, and since the trains are guarded by American soldiers and Japanese policemen, I don’t know why the crooks are so successful.  But they are, and so it’s time for military law enforcement to get really active.  They send a man’s man named Eddie (Robert Stack) to infiltrate the gang, and Eddie’s Japanese lady friend, Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi), ends up helping in a big way.  At one point we fully expect Mariko to be killed or at least beaten to a pulp, but it doesn’t happen. . . Now that Americans are done fighting the Japanese, they’re having to fight other Americans—hoodlums.

The main hoodlum, Sandy, is enacted with smooth potency by Robert Ryan.  He adds to the high entertainment value of this unique thriller.


Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (Big Deal)

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flecks of disrespect toward people who profess to be Christians are found in some of Sam Peckinpah‘s movies (The Deadly Companions, Ride the High Country), and clearly Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) is no exception.  (I’ll give Straw Dogs a pass; it’s different).  But Christians need not be offended by Garrett:  the entire film is unloved pig vomit, not to be taken seriously.

It is easy to mistake the picture for a Bob Dylan musical, with bad songs aplenty—Dylan wrote the, uh, score—but, no, it is of course a Western.  This one, though, is not much enlivened by its scenes of violent action, gripping as these can be.  When it isn’t ludicrous, the material is tired.  The film is inert. . . As many as six film editors worked on it, with Peckinpah typically denied further control of the flick.  If only screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer had been denied any control of it.

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