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White Dog

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White Dog was never released theatrically in the US despite its quality cast, infamous director and evocative subject matter... Racism.

Controversy and preposterous charges of racism kept the film from being screened.



More Trivia from White Dog
Actress Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) is driving through the Los Angeles hills late at night when she hits a white German Shepherd dog.

The actress takes the injured dog to emergency veterinarian (Vernon Weddle), where it is saved on the operating table. After establishing that the dog will live, Julie is landed with a $280 bill for treatment, which she doesn't hesitate to pay. Yet she is taken aback by the attitude of the vet and the nurse (Christa Lang) who are clearly only interested in the cash and show no signs of sympathy or empathy for the injured animal before them.

When Julie enquires what the likely fate of the dog will be, she is told matter-of-factly that the dog will be kept at the pound for seven days and if he hasn't been reclaimed or adopted, then he will be put down. Julie decides she will take home the dog. As the vet says, the chances of a fully grown German Shepherd being adopted are pretty slim.

We next see Julie with her new found hound lounging around her rather plush residence in the LA hills. Julie charms her canine friend into taking his medicine and when her boyfriend Roland (Jameson Parker) sees the chemistry between the two, he suggests that she may have serendipitously found herself a bodyguard.

Later when Roland drops Julie home we see that German Shepherd has taken up the mantle of bodyguard as he gives the boyfriend an ominously steely gaze as he embraces his sweetheart after a date.

That evening as Julie sits alone at home watching TV, an intruder breaks in and attempts to strangle her. The struggle is initially drowned out by the blaring TV set, while the dog snoozes, but he is soon roused and goes for the attacker. In the ensuing mayhem the attacker stumbles and believes he has escaped by slamming a door on the dog. But as he staggers through the backyard our heroic canine spectacularly jumps through a plate glass window and mauls the hapless fiend.

Following the heroics of the previous night, we see Julie chilling out with the dog... He soon spots a rabbit and goes chasing after it. Julie initially amused by the chase becomes concerned as her German Shepherd goes on the disappearing act. The following day she visits the dog pound to see if he has been rounded up.

The whole experience is really depressing as Julie searches for the lost dog to the crescendo of distressed hounds. The whole scene is shot from Julie's viewpoint as she wanders along looking for her lost new found companion. Her search ends rather unnervingly and symbolically at the cremation tank.

She then wanders out into the bright sunlight as the last dog catcher of the day arrives. Again the camerawork is excellent in it's portrayal of the worried owner checking to see if her mutt has been picked up, but alas it hasn't.

The dog has made his way into town and while sniffing about is disturbed by a road cleaning truck. At the wheel is a black man (Tony Brubaker) smoking a "phat" cigar, the German Shepherd immediately goes storming into the vehicle through the passenger window. The petrified driver struggles against the ferocious, wild dog, as it snaps viciously at his face in the struggle he loses control of the dumpster and it smashes through some roadside stores.

Later, when Julie is sitting at home the dog comes back, still covered in blood from the attack. She then showers down her new best friend.

The carnage soon continues through as the dog attacks a black actress (Lynne Moody) on the set of one of Julie's jobs. Her boyfriend pleads with her to have the "attack dog" destroyed but she opts for having the dog cured. So she visits a professional animal training centre, where animals are trained for the movies.

It is here she meets Keys (Paul Winfield), a black animal trainer who soon realises... "that dog is not an attack dog...it's a white dog!", which means that it has been trained to attack black people on sight. The film then follows the attempts of the altruistic animal trainer in his quest to re-condition the ferocious white dog.

Verdict?

The immense thing about the film for me, was using the white German Shepherd dog as the vehicle to illustrate the cruelty and the seething hatred that is bred from racism. The film deals with the provocative subject, without actually giving a platform to a racist person. The product of this despicable ethos comes through, though.

The scene I found most powerful was when White Dog is sniffing around some neighbourhood bins, the morning after attacking the black driver of the dumpster. We see a young black child chase an errant ball from their garden into the alleyway. We know that if the dog sees the child it will tear them to pieces. For anyone with a humanistic bone in their body, this would-be a terrifying and atrocious act...

The message on racism has never been so powerfully portrayed, yet achieved without displaying a burning cross or the usual bigotry language... brilliant.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: One of the most powerful films on this provocative subject... great camera work and editing with fine acting and a witty script!

Weaknesses? The director's message is displayed through visual suggestion and may be too ambiguous for some viewers to get it!

Our rating: 9 out of 10


Review Written by Stuart Fitzgerald:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Stuart Fitzgerald
White Dog