The fear... the terror... the nightmare... they will never forget it!
Year of Release: 1984
Also Known As: Monster dog - Il signore dei cani
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Claudio Fragasso
Alice Cooper ... Vince Raven
Victoria Vera ... Sandra
Carlos Santurio ... Frank
Pepa Sarsa ... Marilou
Pepita James ... Angela
Emilio Linder ... Jordan
Barta Barri ... Old Man
Carolyn De Fonseca ... Sandra (voice) (uncredited)
Ted Rusoff ... Vince Raven (voice) (uncredited)
When singer Vince Raven returns to his hometown to shoot a music video, he and his crew are confronted by a terrifying local legend. Packs of wild, bloodthirsty dogs seem to be on the loose attacking the population, but in fact, there's something even more monstrous and supernatural at work: a clawed, demonic beast straight from the depths of hell.
Monster Dog, remindin' us that not all dogs to go heaven. Specially not gigantic disembodied Spanish rottweiler heads with peasant shrapnel in their teeth an a drool problem. An speakin' of reasons to stay indoors, I been listenin' to a lotta folks lately bitch about how all the snow's been givin' 'em a cabin fever of a hundred an three an it's startin' to get old. Like last week for instance I ran into Marv Chintzley at the Make Love Not Whargarbl gun shop where he'd been chewin' Clovis Skidman's ear for the past hour while he was tryin' to take 12 gauge #4 shot inventory, an I knew I'd made a mistake not backin' outta there the moment I seen that glazed over look on Clovis' face. I won't bore ya with everything Marv told me, mostly cause I don't wanna cause an internet data storage crisis, but basically he spent the next 90 minutes bellyachin' about how there's nothin' to do cause of the weather. Some guys're just like that. Don't mean there's actually nothin' to do, it just means the thing they *wanted* to do is a little less palatable at that particular moment, an so they generally go park their hinders at the front counter of Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks an spend the next seven hours drinkin' the same cup of coffee an tellin' the waitresses about what the doctor found durin' their last prostate exam. They're like little kids that got the wrong dinosaur changeable transformer in their Happy Meals; makes you just wanna slap 'em an take away their pigeon slingers until they can learn to appreciate what they've got. Oh... right, the point. What I was gettin' at was, you can't always get whatcha want. Take me for instance, I didn't *want* to be stuck with nothin' but old Perry Mason reruns on Me-TV, but that's what happened. No big deal though, cause I got other ways of entertainin' myself, an one of my favorite standbys is to kick on the police scanner an see what's goin' on here in town. A lotta people've lost appreciation for the simpler things in life, an listenin' to the police scanner's a great American pastime that I feel's dyin' out. Which is a real shame, cause you get all the excitement of watchin' COPS, except when you're in a small town you actually KNOW everybody involved, so it can be pretty interestin' sometimes.
For example, 3:26pm, March 1st: Undersheriff Angus Mackle responds to a frantic 911 call from Mavis Crenshaw at 3210 Bunker Street in which she's babblin' nonsense about 'er children bein' scarred for life. So Mackle puts the pedal to the floor an gets an ambulance on the way, only to pull up to the Crenshaw place an find Mavis' two kids hidin' behind a tree bawlin' their eyes out while these two ugly ass dogs're goin' at it in their front lawn. Mackle breaks the dogs up an calmly explains to Mavis that 911 is for emergencies only, an when she tries insistin' her kids are gonna turn into nymphomaniacal free love hippies he gives up an tells 'er how at the rate she's parentin' that'll be the least of 'er problems an to call Shanghai Muttley if it happens again. The kids are 16 an 14, think I forgot to mention that.
Then nothin' for a few hours until 6:12pm when Officer Diedra Duggen gets called out to Mom & Poop's Senility Acres Hospice Care to rescue the residents' beloved communal cat. So Diedra pulls into the parkin' lot an notices a crowd of old ladies huddled around the Elm tree on the south side of the buildin' an when she finally makes 'er way through the crowd of distraught senior citizens she looks up an spots a stuffed tiger caught in the tree's crotch. Diedra's a pretty nice gal as cops go, so she climbs up an "rescues" the plush toy anyhow, much to the relief of the residents.
But the best one came at around 10:45pm, when Sheriff Hardassian gets a report from the dispatcher about a domestic dispute takin' place at Amos Anderson's residence. I hadn't heard of a guy bein' whipped this badly since Kunta Kinte refused to accept his new cracker handle on Roots, but apparently Amos actually called the cops when his wife, Nan "the raging cuss" Barnabas, took the TV remote away from 'im right in the middle of the Bassmasters Classic replay an switched to some godawful British costume drama on PBS. Sounded like he tried takin' it back, but ended up with a fist in his mouth. I guess he refused to press charges an decided drive to the BLM buildin' an crash on his desk for the night. Prolly afraid he'd get it twice as bad if he sent 'er to the Crossbar Hotel, an I can't say's I blame 'im.
I dunno why more people don't have their own scanners, ya know? They're WAY cheaper'n a newspaper subscription in the long run, an if you've got the foresight to hook one up to a tape recorder you can even worm your way outta some pretty embarrassin' situations. Maybe if you guys promise to behave yourselves I'll tell ya about some other stuff that happens in the future, but for now we prolly aughta get back to the flick.
An what a flick it is, Monster Dog, directed by the incomparable Claudio Fragasso of Troll 2 fame, thus making this flick directed by an Italian, filmed in Spain, an starring an American rock legend whose lines are all dubbed. I can't be the only one that thinks the spaghetti sauce's gone to Claudio's head, can I? I mean, you hire a guy who's known for his VOICE to star in your movie, an then dub all his dialog? That's like hirin' Usain Bolt for your Nike ad an usin' a stunt sprinter. There's somethin' in those Italian stogies, I'm tellin' ya, an while I'm not sure exactly what it is, I think our American congress could benefit from about a wheelbarrow full of it. Love the giant mutant rottweiler head for sure, but Claudio, buddy; open a window an let some fresh air onto the set already, okay? It's pretty plain to me that after havin' explained our cinematic situation there's no need to convince you what a font of wisdom this flick's gonna be, so let's get to it. First thing you're gonna learn from this movie is that if you put raincoats on everyone an turn on a rig's wipers, no one'll ever notice it's not actually raining. This's why the rain in Spain is of so little consequence. Second, monster dogs will sometimes lug a corpse up a flight of stairs an prop it against a window to get their humans' attention. Cause when you've gotta go, you've gotta go. An third, monster dogs are neither impressed, nor deterred, by police roadblocks.
But ya know, this's the kinda movie that makes you stop an think. Usually somethin' like: "did she really just say that?" or "now why in the HELL would you do that?", but also about the more important things. For instance, where does a guy hafta go to find a woman as understandin' as Alice Cooper's chick in this movie? Cause I think a lot of us guys'd like to find a woman like her. To give you an example of the depths of this gal's empathy for 'er fellow man, Alice tells 'er that his dad had this heart disease that turned 'im into a werewolf an made 'im kill a whole mess of people when the moon was full, an she just stares blankly at 'im with 'er big brown eyes an tells 'im she'll love 'im no matter what. She don't even CARE about his family history of total eclipse of the heart disease. The girl doesn't even flinch. No intrusive questions like: "are you sure you didn't mean a psychiatric disease?" or "does this mean our kids're gonna unroll the toilet paper in the bathroom constantly an have wet noses?", nothin'. She's the picture of complete, undying devotion to the guy. I hope I can find a woman like that some day. Someone you can look right in the eyes an say: "look, babe, I know I shoulda told you this before we got serious, but I've got a family history of raidin' chicken coops for some original recipe durin' the full moon," an get nothin' but a look of total adoration in return. Most women, you give 'em a story like that an the next day you come home to find all the furniture missin' an a restrainin' order stuck to the fridge. Maybe it's Alice's irresistible combination of Jim Siedow an Bobby Carradine's facial features that does it for 'em, I dunno, but it sure ain't fair. Rod Stewart was right, some guys really do have all the luck.
The movie begins with Alice Cooper gettin' out of a limo an costume hoppin' every few seconds like he's starrin' in an old Laugh-In episode, while these two clown hookers swoon over his dapper threads as he performs the song "Identity Crisis" in its entirety. Then we pan back to a van where Alice, his silicone lipped girlfriend (Sandra), an his highly trained crew of sycophants (Angela, Marilou, Frank an Jordan) are headin' to Alice's old stompin' grounds to shoot a music video so he can get rich enough to go on MTV an talk about how shallow the music industry is. Unfortunately, while that's goin' on, the caretaker's tryin' to rig up the house to withstand the force of Alice's subwoofers, an when he opens up the back door for a little air he gets eaten alive by a pack of stray dogs who aren't inclined to just sit around waitin' for table scraps to hit the floor. Then Alice stops the van at a police roadblock an listens to the cops talk about The Bloodhound Gang runnin' roughshod over the neighborhood, an that anybody who ain't already been nibbled an bit's holed up at Jess Franco's house. So Alice an his cable monkeys haul their pasty white butts outta there, an pretty quick the county mounties learn the hard way that Alice was wrong about only women bleedin', cause the next thing ya know more P.O.'d pooches show up an the deputies get dogged. Then things really go to hell when Alice ends up with another mutt under his wheels an he hasta stop to invite its skull to a private rock concert an put it out of its misery, only before they can get goin' again some nut that looks like a coupla hand grenades went off in his pocket comes up to 'im an tells 'im he's gonna get it now cause "he" has come back to command the hounds. Course, Alice's dove into mosh pits with weirder guys than this, so he an Sandra decide to follow the guy when he wanders off an end up runnin' into Bloods McKenzie, who uncorks an epic Bud Light flavored burp an chases 'em back to their rig an sends 'em packing. Eventually they make it to Alice's ancestral home in the Spanish countryside an settle in for the night, cept after awhile Angela starts dreamin' that the mangled guy from the roadside's in the house deliverin' poorly translated English dialog an murderin' everybody in sight, an when she runs to Alice for help he turns around to welcome 'er to his nightmare in the best werewolf makeup the Lira Store has to offer. That's about the time she wakes up screamin' next to Sandra an Marilou (cause Claudio's got this weird thing about allegedly straight twenty-somethings of the same gender sleepin' in the same bed), an when the guys rush in expectin' to see some hot lesbian action they're sorely disappointed by the nightmare story.
Everyone cept Alice. Alice just kinda stands there lookin' like he can't wait to get ahold of his agent's windpipe. Then everyone goes back to bed while Alice rocks back an forth in the study readin' Lon Cheney Jr.'s autobiography until Sandra comes in an gets an earful about how the lunar-tic hound situation's happened before, an that his dad had this heart condition that made 'im bark at the moon like Ozzy Osbourne. Apparently they tried to kennel the guy, but he kept diggin' under the fence an turnin' the villagers into gazpacho surprise until they finally got tired of it an roasted 'im alive an had themselves a little Korean barbecue. Sandra's response is basically, "Well, that's a bummer honey. Don't stay up too late." So the next evenin' everybody finally gets their stuff together to shoot Alice's new video. Some emo rock ballad called Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore or somethin' I kinda missed the title of it, but anyway, halfway through, the body of the caretaker crashes through the second story window an gushes cadaver creole all over Angela's bridal gown til she looks like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill an she ends up wanderin' down the road like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, while Alice an company try to find the reciept for the double-paned shatter-proof windows. Alice is P.O.'d, so he waves his shotgun barrel in everyone's face (a fact made all the more horrifyin' when you realize that Claudio liked to keep 'em loaded in case he needed to let off some steam) an heads out to find 'er, but while he's gone these four Spaghetti Western extras wander over from the set next door claimin' to be huntin' an ask to be let in before the maneatin' mongrels show up to make 'em their quarry in the latest episode of Dogs: The County Hunters. Unfortunately, our band of doggie bags're the kinda people who think an innuendo is an Italian suppository, so they invite the desperadoes in an think nothin' of it when they start cacklin' like Mercedes McCambridge on a cough syrup bender about how they used to know Alice's pop. Naturally, they deck the kids the moment they're in the house an make it clear that obedience school's out forever, an that when Alice comes back they're gonna load up with silver bullets an ship 'im back to Wonderland in pieces. Then Alice finds Angela an brings 'er back to the house, only the Spanish Imposition waits so long to open the door that Alice runs around back to grab the spare key from under the General Franco doormat, an while he's gone they fling the door open an ventilate Angela. Which is a real bummer, cause if anybody finds out about this they're gonna hafta immigrate all the way to America just to maintain their right to own a firearm.
Cept now Alice's wise to their buckshottery an leads three of the Vito banditos on a chase up to the roof for a high stakes game of Hogan's Alley, where he splatters their Spanish eyes all over the villa with his clips of venomous poison. Meanwhile, the mullet-headed redneck beatnik with the John Lennon glasses is still inside holdin' the kids at penile-extension point, until he's temporarily distracted by the gunfire on the roof an ends up takin' a fire poker through the bunion an pretty quick all heck breaks loose when Snuff McGruff an the toker slaying dogs bust through the front door. The beatnik tries scarin' 'em off with an oil lamp, but only succeeds in settin' 'imself on fire an havin' to dive off the balcony like New Jack durin' a Philadelphia street fight, an by this point Frank's been pretty well been Cujowned an now resembles a pot of minestrone fixins that got left in the sink for three days. Then all the sudden the dogs excuse themselves to go potty on the lawn an the house gets eerily quiet like that pregnant pause between profanity laced screams an the subsequent gunshots emanatin' from the trailer down the block with the confederate flag on the porch, an just a few seconds later Bloods McKenzie installs his own doggie door an goes for the throat. Jordan volunteers to stay behind an serve as rawhide chew toy while Sandra an Marilou run upstairs, but then the hounds of the baskervillas come pourin' back in an purt'near tear their buns up like a coupla old tennis balls before they're able to get a door between 'em. The girls're used to bein' treated like pieces of meat but this's beginnin' to go a little beyond what they signed on for, so the two of 'em hit the sack for awhile until Sandra wakes up an finds Alice downstairs holdin' the dogs at bay with his "no more mister nice guy" stare, which evidently turns 'em all into contented puppies that fall asleep on his feet an make cute little whimperin' noises while they kick their legs dreamin' about chasin' rabbits. Nobody seems to think it's weird how they all went from Cujo to Beethoven in the course of half an hour, seemingly chalkin' it up to all the THC in Frank an Jordan's bloodstreams, but Alice figures it's prolly a good time to get the heck outta there before the junkyard dogs turn rabid again an start throwin' headbutts an grabbin' cakes an what not, so the three of 'em pile into the redneck-mobile an gun it on outta there. Course, we know that there's no way half the cast is walkin' away from this, so if you wanna see how it ends you'll hafta buy a copy or call Claudio long distance to find out. Just don't bring up the twenty minutes that got hacked out of it, cause that's kind of a sensitive subject.
Alrighty, Monster Dog, from the eccentric but lovable Claudio Fragasso. You ever get the feeling that maybe Claudio's movies might turn out a little better if he wasn't trying to write *and* direct? Cause I remember reviewing a flick a while back called The Other Hell where he only co-wrote with Bruno Mattei, and that flick was dang near watchable. Seems like maybe the guy takes a few too many trips through the ole cinematic buffet line and piles too much on his plate, only in a strange twist of fate, it's the audience that ends up gettin' sick. Or, since his wife actually wrote this one and he simply took the credit, it could be that she's just not a very good writer, who knows. But to be fair, with regard to this particular movie, unless you're watchin' an old Japanese bootleg VHS tape, you're not even seeing Claudio's cut, cause some Spanish editor got a little scissor happy with the original version and did some elective surgery until 15 minutes of the goddamned movie went missin'. Now, if you've watched the theatrical cut it's obvious why the editor did that, because it's *really* slow even with that 15 minutes exorcised, but if it was gonna be slow either way, it *might* actually be better to be slow, while still making sense, ya know? I watched the deleted scenes, and at least a few of them added some much needed character development and backstory. Besides, they cut the thing down to 84 minutes while including Alice Cooper's goofy "Identity Crisis" mock music video TWICE as bookends, so really, if you cut that encore presentation out, the flick is actually only 80 minutes. I'm not saying it would've changed everything, but even with all that extra footage included (assuming they dropped the second showing of the video), we've got a running time of 95 minutes, which is pretty standard for a horror flick. All that said, when you've got an Italian director, an American star, and a Spanish crew, there's probably no escaping the fact that you're gonna have some problems. Like when a Spanish still photographer yells "STOP" in the middle of a difficult scene because he was out of film and Claudio hasta chase him around the set with a shotgun blowin' holes in the ceiling, for instance. Little stuff like that tends to happen when you've got a communication problem. And of course it wouldn't be (at least partially) an Italian movie without a little animal cruelty. They did manage not to kill anything this time, but at one point all the dogs on the set were starved for two days so that when the big attack scene was ready to shoot, they'd be good and voracious. Apparently they heated up some dog foot (I assume canned) and packed it in with the special effects guts so the dogs would smell it and become gung-ho about tearing through the actors' clothing to get at the food, and it certainly appears to have worked when you watch the finished product. Pretty despicable thing to do, but that was the 1980s Italian horror genre for ya.
Anyway, let's take a closer look at the moving pieces and see if this thing's the whole kitten caboodle, or whether it goes to the dogs. The plot is a goddamned mess, starting with the premise that Alice Cooper's dad had a "heart disease" that turned him werewolf. That's asinine enough on its own, but it's made worse by the fact that historically many cases of supposed werewolfism could easily be attributed to *mental* illness. Change that from a coronary disorder to a mental disorder and everything's fine, but nope, it was the guy's ticker that did it. And did they ever explain why the heart disease gave him power over the pack of dogs? What the hell's that about? That'd be like somebody's athlete's foot givin' 'em control over Tom Brady's throwing arm for cripes sake, what's the connection between these two things? Then you've got the redundant, bizarrely structured dialog (which, to be fair, could be the dubbing translation rather than the writing), the numerous logical fallacies (such as the dry raincoats and the windshield wipers moving despite the lack of rain, the innkeeper's corpse being moved to the second story and then staying propped against the window, etc.) and the abrupt night to day transfers, which combine together into a pretty potent dog-doo stew. The acting, as always in an Italian production, is impossible to judge because every single character in the movie is dubbed. Including Alice Cooper. Hey, I know what we should do, hire a guy known almost exclusively for his *voice* and dub him on the soundtrack; anybody else think this is a brilliant idea? Now, being that it was one of his earliest starring performances, and given that he had a director with a history of not realizing when an actor's delivery is terrible, it's *possible* that Cooper wasn't much of an actor. That said, he had a small cameo in Freddy's Dead, and he was just fine in that, so I'm gonna say they probably just screwed up by dubbing him. But even if he wasn't any good, the movie is billed as STARRING Alice Cooper, so ya know, maybe we should be listening to Alice Cooper deliver lines? Just my opinion. The rest of the cast at least appears animated enough throughout the movie, so who the heck knows if they're any good or not. If any Italian readers wanna write in and fill me in I'd be interested to find out.
Here's who matters and why (besides Alice Cooper, of course): Victoria Vera (School of Death), Emilio Linder (Extra Terrestrial Visitors, Cthulhu Mansion, The Rift, Slugs, Commando Mengele, Pieces), Ricardo Palacios (Alone Against Terror, Night of the Werewolf, The Beasts' Carnival, Where Time Began, The People Who Own the Dark), Luis Maluenda (Licantropo: El asesino de la luna llena), Barta Barri (Horror Express, The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Women, The Sea Serpent, Where Time Began, The People Who Own the Dark, Night of the Walking Dead, Doctor Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo, The Werewolf vs The Vampire Women, El vampiro de la autopista), Charly Bravo (The Cannibal Man, Eliminators, The Sea Serpent, The Beast and the Magic Sword, Night of the Werewolf), Carolyn De Fonseca (The Fishmen and their Queen, Killer Crocodile 2, Alien from the Deep, Il giustiziere del Bronx, Demons 6: De Profundis, Phenomena, The Scorpion with Two Tails, Pieces, The New York Ripper, Piranha II, Absurd, The House by the Cemetery, Murder Syndrome, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, Hell of the Living Dead, Macabre, Beyond the Darkness, Torso, Don't Torture a Duckling, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Blade of the Ripper, The Last Man on Earth, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror), Ted Rusoff (Acting: Absurd, Lost Souls, Riddler's Moon, The Eighteenth Angel. Dubbing: Eternal 2004, In the Land of the Cannibals, Mondo Cannibal, Fatal Frames - Fotogrammi mortali, Cy Warrior, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, Zombi 3, Catacombs, Hands of Steel, Cut and Run, Rats: Night of Terror, The Final Executioner, Escape from the Bronx, Piranha II, The House by the Cemetery, Cannibal Ferox, Nightmare City, Cannibal Apocalypse, Beyond the Darkness, Suspiria, Voyage Into Space, Destroy All Monsters, Yongary Monster from the Deep). Pepa Sarsa went on to play Josefina in the Spanish TV series Cuentame, but beyond that, nobody besides Alice was ever heard from again.
The special effects are pretty bad, particularly given that the flick is being sold based upon the promise of a monster dog (incidentally, the original Italian title "The Lord of the Dogs" is a hell of a lot better) that's actually just a head. The special effects crew had built an actual full bodied dog, but the very first time its operator went to demonstrate its capabilities to Claudio it crumpled up like a tuna can in a trash compactor, so they ended up with nothing but a gigantic dog head. The head itself is not completely terrible, it's just that sometimes it appears in scenes where you should be able to see a body too, which comes across pretty chintzily. Besides the Monster Dog itself, you've got the shot where the regular dogs chew the guy's guts out (not bad, but the blood's an odd color and too thick), the sequence where the roughnecks get blown away by Alice (the torso explosions are decent, but the one where the top of a guy's head gets blown off is pretty obviously papier mache or porcelain), a close-up gunshot (not bad) and the transformation scene. That last one is really funny, because it looks like Belial from Basket Case joined the Hair Club for Men. So the effects aren't very good, but still do less damage than the plot problems. The shooting locations are going to be the high point, because even though it's assumed that the movie is supposed to be taking in place in America, I don't recall anyone coming right out and saying it. If they had, it'd tank pretty hard on this front, because the architecture on the house, while very cool, is unquestionably European. And really, besides the house, there's only one very short driving sequence at the beginning of the movie that shows any actual countryside, which is just a rocky sagebrush area that could probably pass for certain areas of California. So it's fortunate that the house is interesting, because 90% of the movie takes place there. The soundtrack isn't that bad either, although Cooper's "Identity Crisis" is weird and out of character. His second song, "See Me in the Mirror" is better, but given that he was allotted only 15 days to write them both (not realizing before that he'd be asked to do so), one should probably cut him a little slack. The remainder of the soundtrack is comprised of '80s Euro synth tracks that're actually kinda catchy, although some of those were borrowed from The Lift, which came out a year earlier. Not as "in your face" as a lot of Italian horror compositions, but I think that level of restraint is a good idea, given that the general pacing of the movie is so slow. Overall, there's just not enough action to keep things moving, and the plot problems are the final nail in the proverbial coffin. It could have been a curiosity piece had Cooper's voice not been dubbed, but as it stands, not a flick worth tracking down.