Don't pet them... fear them!
Year of Release: 1976
Also Known As: Slaughter
Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30)
Director: Burt Brinckerhoff
David McCallum ... Harlan Thompson
Sandra McCabe ... Caroline Donoghue
George Wyner ... Michael Fitzgerald
Eric Server ... Jimmy Goodman
Linda Gray ... Miss Engle
Dean Santoro ... Aintry
Holly Harris ... Mrs. Koppelman
Sterling Swanson ... Dr. Martin Koppelman
The quiet, remote campus of a Southwestern university is thrown into chaos and terror when all of the dogs in the area, once gentle pets, begin banding together and hunting down their masters. As the residents scramble to find safety it falls to a young college professor, who makes the connection between the dogs' bloodthirsty behavior and a series of government experiments that have been funneled through the school's laboratory. The only question is, will he find the answer before he becomes the next victim?
Dogs... "don't pet them... fear them!", says the tagline. Sounds kinda like a desperate plea there don't it? Maybe like the guy who wrote it's thinkin' "never you mind the way that Labrador retriever looks like he just walked outta the Westminster Kennel Club dog show arena an onto our set." Alright now, don't get bent outta shape, I'm sure he's as vicious as they come when nobody changes his Evian water every coupla hours, besides we try not to dwell on little stuff like that here at Nintendementia cause once you start gettin' too caught up in those kinda details you sorta lose perspective an end up watchin' nothin' but Sally Field movies from underneath an afghan. The blanket, I mean, not some guy named Habib who hasn't shaved since the Carter administration. Not that there's anything wrong with that, though I don't suggest doin' that *during* a Sally Field movie, otherwise the guy prolly won't ever call you back. But speakin' of guys that that're just adherin' to their "cultural backgrounds", how come this kinda plot never happens to guys like Michael Vick? Now, I'm not sayin' that I can't enjoy watchin' these psychotic schnauzers go all Hannibal Lecter on these particular numbskulls, all I'm sayin' is it'd be twice as entertainin' if we were watchin' a pitbull chew the hundred million dollar throwin' arm offa Michael Vick instead of these poor people whose only real crime in life is wearin' bell bottoms an havin' Mike Brady's haircut. The only downside to my scenario is that the dogs prolly can't afford the kinda attorney Vick could so they'd definitely get sent to the McDonald's renderin' plant like all those poor mutts that started vanishin' around the time the Sochi olympics kicked off, but it'd kinda be a moral victory at least, wouldn't it?
Well, in any event, we're talkin' best killer dog flick of 1976 to feature David McCallum as a Miller Lite chuggin' research scientist who looks like Sawyer offa Lost after he'd been passed out for three days straight in an alleyway durin' Mardi Gras. So with that in mind, lets take a look at what happens when a buncha TV actors an a TV director try makin' a horror movie, an what their unique perspective on the genre has to impart unto us. First of all, particle accelerators are not toys, and under no circumstances should you ever rev that sucker up to ludicrous speed an start firin' like John Wayne on an Indian reservation. Now, if you've never been hit by a particle flyin' at the speed of light before, what happens is it flies in through one of your ears an dislodges the little guy who sits in there workin' air traffic control in your nervous system an pretty quick you turn into a paranoid schizophrenic an start tryin' to kill the mailman cause you think he knows too much. I know this cause it happened to me one time an the only way the guys in white coats were able to unscramble my brain waves was to go in there an cut out my Mascuba Oblambada so the little guy workin' the gear shifter would quit doin' the bossa nova all over my logic center. It's not a pretty sight, so I hope everyone takes that particular lesson to heart, even if nothin' else from this review takes root. Second thing, dog skeletons get so embarrassed by bein' put on display buck nekkid right in front of God an everybody that their tails're perpetually tucked between their legs. Talk about bein' disrespected, at the very least they could put one of those Mr. Rogers sweaters over 'em til there's an actual anatomy lesson goin' on. Then again, that might be even more embarrassin'. An third, if you're fat enough, colleges're actually required by law to give you a copy of the key to the cafeteria kitchen just in case you get hungry outside of the scheduled meal times. It gets pretty ugly when these people have to make use of these keys too. Remember that scene in Critters 2 where they all roll into the hamburger factory? It's kinda like that, only more disgusting.
In all seriousness though, I'd like to take a moment now to discuss a situation that may very well threaten not just the safety of our pets, but perhaps, mankind itself. It's absolutely critical that we, as pet owners, move to the front lines in this war on canine gang violence. We've got to start doin' all the right things, right now, or we're gonna send our beloved pets right into the waitin' arms of the doberman death squads. Not tomorrow. Not next week. NOW. From now on, your dog is a member of your family. An equal. Every bit as important as your ungrateful punk children. You've gotta be there for 'em, take 'em for a walk every day, an quit buyin' that cheap-ass sack dog food outta China that's made from 97% under-performin' World of Warcraft gold farmers from the Jixi prison labor camp. If you wouldn't eat it, don't expect them to. Now I don't wanna have to go into every single thing that you're gonna have to start doin' cause I shouldn't *have* to. Once you figure out that your life's at stake you'll start pickin' this stuff up easier'n a swamp donkey at last call anyway. An I really want you to consider this next part anytime you're thinkin' that the family pet's just an animal an don't need a birthday gift, cause when you think about it, a dog has the same basic intellect as a two year old child. Now, you remember that time when you smacked Fwuffles right in the brain pan with that rolled up newspaper so hard he forgot how to poop, all because he wanted a bite of your hamburger? Cause that's exactly the kinda thing that'll drive your beloved pooch right into the Malamute Mafia. It all starts innocently enough, the other pack members pretend to be Fwuffles' friend, maybe share some mushrooms they found out by the landfill with 'im so he can relax an start fittin' in. But the next thing you know he's stayin' out all night doin' run-bys on cocky squirrels an fat contented house cats that stray just a little too far from the yard. Only after a while the Saint Bernard Syndicate's numbers start to climb into the stratosphere an they begin to realize that we're the only thing holdin' 'em back from takin' over an about that time they turn on us. An dogs ain't got these silly prejudices like we have, they'll happily merge their own gang with the Afador Alliance, Collie Coalition, Greyhounds Guild, or the Foxhound Federation til they've got us completely outnumbered an the next thing you know we're all goners. Then they all move into our houses a la Animal Farm an proceed to eat our steaks an hang pictures of humans playin' poker in their dens. Ain't a real pleasant thought, is it? Ever since I watched this one I've been takin' Apollo (he's my Boxer) to the dog park every day just so he knows whose side I'm on, an I'd suggest that all you shiftless lumps of mashed potato start doin' the same with your own dogs. If we're gonna survive as a society, we're gonna have to start dishin' out some equality an maybe some pork tenderloin to our pets. So that's it, you've all been warned. Now, if the dogpocalypse happens tomorrow, I'm holdin' all of you personally responsible.
The movie begins with this Irish setter wanderin' around the outskirts of this yuppy pool party sniffin' people in embarrassin' places an doin' everything he can to avert his eyes away from the 70s fashion trends an eventually has to get the heck outta there after he comes down with a case of acute leisure suit poisonin'. This dog has had it. HAD IT, with these people not havin' the decency to do the Hustle behind closed doors, an sets out to form a violence gang with all the other psychologically traumatized dogs in the area while the credits roll. Later that evenin', this stuffed shirt of a dean (Koppelman) from the university introduces his faculty to their newest colleague (Fitzgerald) who's transferred over from a good college after bein' caught enrichin' one of his students' learnin' experience in the janitor's closet an so everybody starts suckin' up to 'im cause they ain't never met anybody that could give a lecture without readin' from a textbook before. Well, everyone except Harlan. Harlan's this sour puss Brit that spends all his time suckin' down Miller Lites an railin' against the system cause Koppelman won't get off his case for lookin' like a Scruffleupagus. Then the lights go out in Georgia cause somebody over at the lab where all the real scientists work is playin' with this particle accelerator an firin' off particles into the electrical substation's fuse box. So while they wait for Bob down at the sub-station to say "let there be light", they pass the time by askin' this cue-ball physics professor (Kaplan) about his run in with this P.O.'d German Shepard that tried rebuttin' his take on String Theory with his canine incisors so Fitz'll be too distracted to realize he's moved to a city so pitiful that they can't even keep the local power grid up an runnin'. Then, once everybody's done laughin' at Kaplan's psychological trauma, Harlan starts to take a shine to Fitz an decides to make sure he knows what a big political shill Koppelman is so he won't expect much from the student body when he starts gradin' midterms. Then this shit kickin' goat roper (Jimmy) comes up to Harlan an tells 'im there's been another killin' an that the keg's just about dry an they have to get their hinies outta there. En route, Harlan an Jimmy're discussin' what may be responsible for all the chewed up cattle in the area an they figure it must be either coyotes, cougars, or Mike Tyson. So I guess we're not even going to consider the possibility of UFOs on this one then? Real professional, guys.
Once they get out to the spot, Harlan's able to deduce, in pitch black conditions, that the bite marks're all kinda different sizes, suggestin' that one of the local hillbillys' broods of 15+ children prolly took it down an went to town. But by now Harlan's been without a beer for upwards of seven minutes, which is about three minutes longer'n Jimmy's ever seen 'im go an so they get outta there before he reaches critical mass. The next day, Harlan drives Fitz to the college an spends most of the trip rantin' about how scientists these days ain't got any critical thinkin' skills at all an how they only studied just enough to pass their P.H.D. exams so they could graduate an marry the stuck up bitches from high school that used to laugh at 'em while their jock boyfriends were pantsin' 'em in gym class. Then Fitz goes inside an bores the hell outta all the kids in his biology class who're only there cause it's required for their Cosmetology an COBOL programmin' degrees. Meanwhile, Harlan an Jimmy go back out to the Bitter Gelding cattle ranch to take a closer look at the gross beef sammich an realize it's been killed but not eaten an start gettin' outraged thinkin' about all the starvin' kids in China. That night, the rancher decides to take matters into his own hands sets up a steak out near his cattle to see what in tarnation's goin' on, only he ends up gettin' chewed up worse'n Steven Tyler's pencil when he's tryin' to quit smokin' while his own dog just kinda watches helplessly. Elsewhere, Harlan takes Fitz' class on a field trip to the bar so he can find the strength to go on an once his liver's properly water lagered again he starts gettin' all philosophical with the students so his girlfriend'll think he's brilliant an overlook the fact that he's only 4' 10" an smells like the bathroom at Hooters. Then Jimmy comes by an tells 'im about the rancher gettin' turned into meat salad an so Harlan an Caroline (his girlfriend) head down to the morgue. But once they get there the doctor's kinda occupied by this whacked out hippy who's got more acid in his system than a Dow Chemical factory an so he sends the nurse to show 'em the rancher's gangrene acres. Yikes. Doctor looks like the love child of Barack Obama an Leonard Nimoy. Anyway, Harlan starts pawin' at the body an inspectin' all the maggot holes an what not til Caroline gets grossed out an has to run outside an think about shoe shoppin' til she can calm down an then Harlan comes out an promises to take 'er someplace nicer on their next date.
About that time, this guy ridin' a dirt bike through the center of town blows by an ends up havin' to lay it down on the concrete when he dang near runs over a buncha dogs that're havin' a kegger in the middle of the street. Everything's cool til the guy starts harshin' their buzz by critisizin' their choice of venue, at which point they go from "I love you guys" drunks to "you think you're better'n me?!" drunks quicker'n a Kennedy at last call an proceed to gnaw off his Kibbles 'n Bits. Then this old hag across the street sees what's goin' on an starts threatenin' to call Cesar Millan on 'em til they get real P.O.'d an tear 'er apart like she tried walkin' through the Cairo University campus without a burqa. The next day, Harlan goes to see Fitz again so they can rub their P.H.D.s together an try to figure out what hunts in a pack, sheds all over the corpses, an leaves remnants of the chewed up Sports section behind at every crime scene til Nibama calls from over at the morgue an tells 'em they'd better start figurin' things out a whole lot faster cause he's so low on space that he just had to clear out the fridge so there'd be a place to stash the latest victims. Then Harlan an Fitz finally start figurin' things out an head over to Koppelman's place so he can declare martial law an try to get the Kremlin to come clear up their dog problem, only he's playin' the same role as Murray Hamilton in Jaws an so he doesn't wanna shut anything down cause it's the peak shoppin' hour for college kids goin' out to buy beer so they can get hammered enough to partake in the latest Girls Gone Wild DVD. Meanwhile, some kids're havin' a dog show over at the local high school football stadium an tryin' to impress this judge that looks like Carol Burnett with how well their dogs can not kill everybody in attendance til all the dogs go ape shit an she has to disqualify every single one of 'em after the dogs chase everybody outta there. Cripes almighty, I haven't seen a stadium exodus like this since half time at Super Bowl XLVIII. So once Koppelman hears about the happenins at the Westmonster Kennel Club dog show he finally agrees to call the mayor while a buncha vigilantes start formin' up a mutt militia to go euthanize the raucous rat terriers an then they all start cluckin' like chickens til they get Jimmy's goat an he agrees to go on the hunt with 'em. These guys know exactly how to get a goat, if you follow me.
Then Harlan an Fitz borrow Koppelman's dog an stick it in this big crate so they can drop silly putty in with it an see if that'll keep it from tryin' to turn everybody in town into sentient Snausage links. Unfortunately, the silly putty proves ineffective an the moment Big Dread hears all the rest of the dogs howlin' on the outskirts of town it busts outta the crate like a Vietnamese mail order bride that forgot to drill 'erself some air holes. All that howlin', by the way, was the signal for the rest of the pack to move in on the great trite hunters, an when they do, everybody but Jimmy forgets how to operate their gun an gets mowed down quicker'n Hank Hill's front lawn. Jimmy, meanwhile, figures it's about time he got started on that gettin' the hell outta here that he's been meanin' to do an heroically leaves the bumpkins to be slaughtered like the lambs in Jodie Foster's nightmares. Unfortunately, Jimmy gets mastiffcated by a doberman that hung back to seal off the most likely escape route before he's able to put Cujo down an has to proceed on belly towards his pickup. He's eventually able to get back to the rig, only by then most of his internal organs've been lost in the move an so he decides to just lay down an die in the cab of his 1972 Blazer like every real man should. While all this is goin' on, Kaplan's droppin' Ms. Engle off after their date an she has to give 'im the cold cooter after he tries to invite 'imself in cause she mostly just likes havin' 'im around to pay for dinner. Besides, she's got an entire harem of stupid jocks at the college that're all there on athletic scholarships that really need the extra credit, so Kaplan's not exactly top shelf penis in this situation. Then she gets in the shower an... alright, this lady's making a lot of really jerky, gratuitous movements an she's always got one hand just outta view. Anyway, while she's slippin' somethin' past the MPAA in the shower, somethin' noses its way in through 'er slidin' glass door (not a euphemism) an jumps in the shower with 'er an proceeds to chew 'er loofah off before diggin' up 'er flower garden.
Meanwhile, Harlan an Fitz head over to the police station an start stockin' up on guns an ammunition like the NRA anytime a Democrat's elected president til the deputy falls outta the gun locker an leaks Old El Paso Thick'n Chunky salsa all over Fitz's brand new top-siders. Damn dogs. Is this what passes for humor these days? Proppin' a dead man up in a closet so he falls on the unsuspecting human that opens the door? I guess they gnawed the sheriff, and they also gnawed the deputy. So anyway, they grab the guns an get back in the car only about that time they spot this guy out in his yard gettin' Alpwnd an Fitz ends up Dick Cheneyin' the guy as he bobs when he shoulda weaved. Then Fitz has to talk about his feelins a little bit cause he's got that awkward O.J. Simpson kinda guilt where he feels bad even though he knows he'll never be convicted. Then they split up so Harlan can go get Caroline while Fitz heads back to the college to try an get all the students to sign waivers before their parents find out about all this an then he has to try to get 'em to realize that the P.O.'d genocidal attack dogs from hell're a little bit higher on the priority scale than pledge week. By now, things seem like they're finally startin' to come up Milhouse, or were rather, cause then this kid in raincoat that looks like Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds comes up to Fitz an tells 'im that his fat roommate's gone to the cafeteria kitchen to beg for leftovers an Fitz has to go pull his rump roast outta the fire so the school won't lose it's accreditation. Course, by the time Fitz shows up the dogs've already got the pork barrel treed up on the counter top an the guy has to make a real tough choice as he sacrifices his Hot Pockets to distract the mutts while they make their getaway. Meanwhile, this potatohead jock whose parents're never gonna get any return offa this investment tells everybody that Fitz musta forgot to come back an get 'em before headin' to the library on account of 'im bein' gone for upwards of three minutes an so he herds 'em all out the door where the mongrel manglers're waitin' an pretty quick we've got the most incapacitated student bodies strewn across the campus lawn since the mornin' after Saint Patrick's Day. Will cut the plot description here so as to not spoil the profoundly insightful ending to the timeless classic, Dogs.
Alright, well, Dogs was released during a period in the 70s where these berserk animal-on-the-loose movies were really abundant, although as far as I know, this is the first to utilize the domesticated dog as the primary antagonist. There were actually quite a few of these released between 1976 - 1983, including but not limited to; The Pack, White Dog, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, Dracula's Dog, Dogs of Hell, Monster Dog, Mongrel, Cujo, and Play Dead; though as I mentioned, Dogs was the first. There were of course, movies before this period that had killer dogs, but often they were more secondary plot devices belonging to a standard human villain (To Kill a Clown, for instance), and yes, I realize some of those titles match this description, but they still fall into the aforementioned era. I suppose you could count The Killer Shrews if you were so inclined, as the shrews were just dogs wearin' shag carpet disguises, but for the purposes of my point, I think that list represents what I'm talking about reasonably well. They still make these kinds of movies of course, though the dogs often have to be made up of terrible CG effects so they can show you something you've never seen before, but even so, for the most part, the sub-genre's been pretty well used up by this point and we seem to be moving back to the regular monster formula. Which is fine, I don't know how much more the killer dog sub-genre really has to offer by this point (though that won't stop them from remaking Cujo eventually), but it was a fun time in cinematic history that I rather enjoy. Can't get enough of the animals-go-nuts sub-genre, even when the movies are just so-so, as this one is. Interestingly, at the time of its release, the studio actually had a sequel planned titled "Cats", which would have been the same deal save, obviously, for a change in the antagonist's species. Of course, the bottom fell out of that when the movie flopped at the box office, though what really surprised me was that Dogs got a theatrical release at all, unless it was a drive-in exclusive kinda deal, which makes complete sense. It actually looks like a made for TV movie, with the exception of all the scenes involving gore effects, and for a movie from 1976 it has a fairly impressive number of those. I'm not saying it's extremely bloody, but when you take the year it was released into account, comparably speaking, it's got a respectable amount of gore. Other than that, though, it's shot like a made for TV movie, and stars a whole lotta people that're going to be best known for their various TV roles over the years, rather than their movie roles.
Okay then, lets chew this thing up like an aging VCR with a stubborn VHS tape inside it and see how well the director treated man's best friend after a 15 centuries of loyal companionship. The plot's actually a little murky in this one, though it's entirely possible that it is intentionally so. We've got the dogs goin' apeshit attackin' everybody in town, but why it's happening is never entirely clear. It seems like the particle accelerator located in the city has something to do with it, but by the end of the movie (minor spoilers) there're reports that dogs in other cities are also startin' to go loony tunes. It's also theorized in the movie that it's got something to do with the cycle of the moon, but the theory's just kinda put out there and discarded shortly thereafter, so it's never entirely clear why the dogs suddenly develop a sudden case of assholery. I prefer to know these things, even if it's just nonsensical movie science, but I guess it's not completely critical on the whole. The acting really isn't too bad, despite having a few inept dinks in bit parts. David McCallum is pretty entertaining as the beer swilling cynical British college professor, and George Wyner's also pretty good as the "in way over his egg-head" biology professor, Fitzgerald. Caroline Donoghue, if nothing else, is pretty convincing when she goes into full hysterical damsel mode. So in general, pretty decent acting in this one. Here's who matters and why: David McCallum (The Haunting of Morella, Frankenstein: The True Story, The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War, The Unknown 1964), Sterling Swanson (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark), Russ Grieve (The Hills Have Eyes 1977, The Dead Don't Die), Jimmy Stathis (Brutal, Vultures, The Black Room, Hospital Massacre), R.A. Rondell (Constantine, though he's primarily a stunt man most of the time), Freddie Hice (Robocop, The Beastmaster, and he's also primarily a stunt man). Normal people will recognize David McCallum from a whole lotta TV shows, including; NCIS (Dr. Donald Mallard), The Replacements (he's the voice of C.A.R.), Sapphire & Steel (Steel), Colditz (Flight Lieutenant Simon Carter), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Illya Kuryakin). Same deal with George Wyner, who was in; Good Advice (Artie Cohen), She's the Sheriff (Deputy Max Rubin), Hill Street Blues (Assistant District Attorney Irwin Bernstein), Matt Houston (Murray Chase), and Kaz (District Attorney Frank Revko). Additionally, Eric Server played Lieutenant Jim Steiger on B.J. and the Bear as well as Dr. Theopolis from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Linda Gray portrayed Sue Ellen Ewing on both the original, and reboot of Dallas, and Elizabeth Kerr was Cora Hudson on Mork & Mindy.
The special effects, I thought were pretty decent. There're some really mangled up bodies in this one that all look pretty good, most of which are shown as the aforementioned mangling is occurring, though there's also a great scene in the morgue where the dead rancher's traded in his farmer's tan for a lovely shade of freezer burnt blue skin. We've also got a pretty good mutilated cow, but in general, there isn't a lot of variety with the gore effects, as we're almost always dealing with dogs attacking people. But there's definitely no shortage of that, and all the special effects employed range from decent to good, with no stinkers weighing it down. Of course, any time they have to show one of the "dead" dogs, you can see the dog breathing pretty plainly, and in one particular shot you can see that the dog's outright winded, making it clear that this particular shot was probably done immediately after the dog had just gotten through grapplin' with the stunt guy during an attack scene. They don't leave the shots on the screen for too long at least, but yeah, the dogs're all breathing and there's really nothing you can do about this except maybe film them while they're sleeping so that they're at least taking slower, deeper breaths. Anyway, pretty good special effects. The shooting locations are alright. Didn't really do much for me, but they don't come across as bad or unconvincing, just boring. We've got the inside of a couple houses, a backyard pool party, some college classrooms, a bar, a football stadium, a ranch, and a morgue. My favorites would be the bar and the morgue, but for the most part, there's nothing special here. The soundtrack, for the most part, is alright. It generally lurks in the background, only coming to the forefront when it's appropriate to do so, although I've gotta say there are a couple scenes that have really, really inappropriately casual tracks during some pretty grave situations. The shot that really stands out in this regard is near the point where I cut off, as Harlan's going to pick up Caroline so they can hide out at the college. The track playing as he approaches the house is completely relaxed and borderline happy, and keep in mind, this is happening about three minutes after Harlan and Fitz just accidentally killed some guy while tryin' to peel a canine assailant off of him. There aren't too many of these, and that's the really bad one, but that kinda thing just doesn't fit in well at all. I'm assuming the music was added after the editing, otherwise the editor aughta be smacked for letting that go through that way. Overall, it's no Cujo, but still a whole lot better than the IMDB suggests it is. Recommended to fans of the animals-go-berserk sub-genre, and particularly to those who enjoy killer dog flicks.