28 March 2014

Masters Of Cinema Review - Samuel Fuller's White Dog (1982)


Genre:
Thriller
Distributior:
Eureka! Entertainment
Rating: 18
DVD/BD Release Date:
31st March 2014 (UK)
Director:
Samuel Fuller
Cast:
Kristy McNichol, Christa Lang, Vernon Weddle
Buy:White Dog (Masters of Cinema) (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD] [1982]

White Dog is a film about racism. More specifically, it is a film about how racism is a human construct that is taught and not a condition with which people are born. And director Samuel Fuller’s humanitarian vision is so clearly rendered in the film that the allegory at its heart is overt to the extent that the racism it portrays is explicit. The film concerns itself with a young white actress taking home a stray white German Shepherd she hit with her car. It is soon discovered that the dog is an attack dog. Worse still it is a ‘white dog’ that has been conditioned to attack black people on sight. Everyone the actress knows encourages her to have the dog put down but she enjoys the dog’s companionship and tries to find someone who can recondition him. Salvation comes in the form of a black animal trainer who accepts the challenge of changing the dog’s behaviour. He is spurred on by the idea that if there is no hope of changing this animals racist behaviour, what hope is there in eradicating racism from human society. Now, the story is nice enough and the message could not be more clear or serious. The problem is that the film too often feels overly simplistic, particularly with regards to morality. The film also feels a bit ridiculous at times, especially the scene where the ‘white dog’ kills his first victim, jumping through the open passenger window of a street-cleaning truck and mauling the victim as the vehicle smashes through a shop front. Despite the praises of eminent critics such as J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum I remain unconvinced by the power of White Dog. I do, however, recommend that anyone reading this find out the worth of the film for themselves.

★★★☆☆

Shane James


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