Devil Dog: Hound of Hell
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Starring Richard Crena (First Blood, The Evil) and Kim Richards (Escape/Return to Witch Mountain, Assault on Precinct 13) Eerie '70's horror gem pitting a relatively normal suburban family against a slavering, demonically-possessed German Shepherd whose h
- Interview with director Curtis Harrington, actress Kim Richards, and actor Ike Eisenmann
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Dick Crenna gives an award worthy performance as the man of the house and young Kim Richards is great as well in the role of young Bonnie. There's a scene wherein the titular Devil Dog hypnotizes Crenna's character into an attempt to put his hand into the blades of a running lawn mower. This is one of Crenna's signature scenes in his long career, very powerful.
In all honesty, this DVD really wasn't an appropriate movie to give to my neighbors young children. The violence and satanic themes are really disgusting. However, as an entertainment device, its good fun in a "popcorn flick" sorta way. As a horror film, its pretty creepy. Right up there with the classics like Evil Speak, The Omen, and Freddy vs Jason
on a final note, the scene where the Devil Dog finally spouts horns and has a final showdown with Crenna at the abandoned power plant / factory place is pure terror. I would not recommend viewing this particular part alone at night, unless you want nightmares.
As the film begins we see a slightly nefarious looking trio (including Martine Beswick) visiting a kennel to purchase dog, one which they later use in a chintzy black mass ceremony involving something called a `barghest, which is `a mythical monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws', according to Wikipedia. Afterwards we meet the Barry family, including Mike (Crenna), the father, Betty (Mimieux), the mother, and their two children Charlie (Eisenmann) and Bonnie (Richards). Seems it's Bonnie's birthday, but the celebration is cut short as the family dog Skipper is found squished in the road outside the house (talk about a bummer). Oddly enough, that same day, a man (Armstrong) comes around selling fruit and giving away German Shepherd puppies, who happened to have been spawned from the dog we saw at the kennel. Bonnie takes one, names it Lucky, and her grief over the loss of Skipper diminishes significantly (apparently the family wasn't as attached to their previous dog as was initially indicated). Anyway, turns out Lucky is anything but, especially for Maria, the family's live-in housekeeper, who has serious concerns about Lucky from the get go, and gets hers soon enough (you see, because she was Catholic, with her rosary beads and funky candles, she had an extra sensitivity to all things evil and tried to warn Mike about the dog). Time passes and Lucky eventually putting the whammy on Betty, Charlie and Bonnie, resulting in them acting aloof and distant, much to Mike's concern. After a few more deaths, all involving people perceived as threats to Lucky's well being, Mike begins to believe there's some sort of evil conspiracy afoot, one that started about the same time he and his family took in Lucky. Finding little in the way of help from conventional sources, Mike travels to Ecuador to visit a shaman (Jory). Returning home, Mike must now confront the demon hound that has since taken hold of his family...
A movie with both Martine Beswick and Yvette Mimieux? I'm so down with that...okay, Ms. Beswick's screen time is all of about five minutes, but we do get plenty of Ms. Mimieux...homina homina...actually I think all the performers did pretty well (Crenna came off the best), especially considering the extremely hokum plot. I did learn a number of things, including the following...
1. A `barghest', which is `a mythical monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws', isn't as scary as it may sound, especially when it's presented as a really cheap effect in a low budget television film.
2. Beware canines with glowing peepers, as they're probably infused with a demonic presence.
3. Never threaten to harm or kill a demon dog as it will end badly (for you, that is).
4. Yvette Mimieux is incredibly hot when she's being naughty.
5. If your children begin retreating to the attic to paint satanic images in blood and perform black mass ceremonies you might have a problem.
6. Richard Crenna is about the worst shot I've ever seen.
7. Demon dogs cast ginormous shadows.
8. One-eyed devils are none to bright but the three-eyed devils are the ones you have to watch out for because they're all seeing (you know, because of the three eyes and all).
9. Mirrors are especially useful in determining the state of someone's soul while they're sleeping (hold a mirror up to the face of a sleeping individual to see their true form, but beware, if they're possessed their visage will be kinda icky).
10. A demon dog, running in slow motion, actually runs faster than a car driving at normal speeds.
While the story material may have been goofy, the film succeeded for me mainly because it was presented in such a way that kept me engaged, and the cast was solid. Some of the effects were certainly bargain basement, but if you can get into the spirit of things, that won't really matter too much. Given this was a made for TV film there's no blood or real violence, but there are a few tense sequences, the one standing out in my mind including a whammified Crenna, his hand, and an overturned lawnmower. The film is more creepy than scary (the `demon' dog mainly lopes around, obviously performing as instructed by an off screen trainer), but, as I've mentioned, the performances are decent enough, along with the pacing, to keep one interested throughout.
This DVD release from Media Blaster/Shriek Show is actually a two disc set, the first disc containing the film, which is presented in fullscreen format. The picture quality is very clean and clear (and probably looks better than when you saw it in the 1970s), and the Dolby Digital mono audio available in both English and Italian, comes across very well. While most of the extras are on the second disc, the first one does include a handful of previews including Just Before Dawn (1981), Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (1968), The Being (1983), and Syndicate Sadists (1975). As far as the second disc, there's a new featurette titled `To the Devil a Dog', a new promotional trailer, a Martine Beswick photo gallery, a text interview with Ms. Beswick, a Curtis Harrington filmography, and an audio interview with Curtis Harrington himself, who, by the way, didn't seem to care much for the film mostly due to the fact he thought the plot ridiculous and the film under funded (the interview is worth listening to as Harrington tends to tell it `like it was', instead of sugarcoating things). All in all a superior release of a funky, yet fun, made for TV movie. I only wish more companies put this amount of effort into DVD releases as Media Blasters/Shriek Show did here.
Media Blasters/Shriek Show did an outstanding job at cleaning up this flick. Video quality is pristine with vibrant colors throughout. Sound was clear with no noticeable flaws.
However, I will say that there were two scenes which came off as soft and not as crisp as the rest of the movie. I assume that has to do with either a change in film during the shooting of the movie or Media Blasters found additional footage that wasn't up to snuff but was needed to give their consumers an "uncut" flick. Even though they don't state it is uncut. Nevertheless, great job on their part.
Warning: When you open the case, there are supposed to be two discs inside. I didn't see the disc with the movie on it when I opened it. It was hiding under their catalog.
If your remember seeing this as a kid on T.V. and enjoyed it, then don't hesitate to pick it up. It's just as good as it was back then. A bit corny but still enjoyable.