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White Dog (The Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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Samuel Fuller's throat-grabbing exposé on American racism was misunderstood and withheld from release when it was made in the early eighties; today, the notorious film is lauded for its daring metaphor and gripping pulp filmmaking. Kristy McNichol stars as a young actress who adopts a lost German Shepherd, only to discover through a series of horrifying incidents that the dog has been trained to attack black people, and Paul Winfield plays the animal trainer who tries to cure him. A snarling, uncompromising vision, White Dog is a tragic portrait of the evil done by that most corruptible of animals: the human being.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:
New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the uncut version, approved by producer Jon Davison
New video interviews with producer Davison, co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Sam Fuller s widow, Christa Lang-Fuller
An interview with dog trainer Karl Lewis-Miller
Rare photos from the film s production
PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by critics J. Hoberman and Armond White, plus a rare 1982 interview in which Fuller interviews the canine star of the film
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Now, Sam, am I being sold on the idea that the only cure for racist white dogs is a bullet? My grandfather was an admitted racist. I was fortunate to be raised by a Mom and a Dad who did not see a color bar. Your movie has made me think about all of these variables from my own childhood --and I am still decompressing. This is the element makes White Dog such a great movie.
I have read a lot about this movie. Heard it was even based on a true story. The truth is, you will be watching a fictionalized account by the writer (Roman Gary) and his own wife's experience with a stray Alabama police dog trained to attack black people on site. Welcome to the 1960's.
Having seen this for myself, I now believe the opinions came from people that have never actually enjoyed the whole movie from their own comfortable perspective.
I Loved it. Please, Don't Shoot Me!
That said, White Dog, based on a true story, is one film in a long line of Fuller's work throughout his career that have dealt with the issues of racism. The title dog is a white German Shepherd that is accidentally struck while on a dark road by a car driven by a young actress played by Krtisty McNichol (Eight is Enough). She takes the dog to a local vet then brings it home to heal while she posts signs in the neighborhood looking for its owner. The next night, an intruder, a white man, breaks into McNichol’s home and the dog rushes to her rescue, dramatically breaking through a glass window in slow motion - when it actually meant something back then - to subdue the perp, holding him until the police arrive. After the incident, the dog and McNichol lovingly bond and she brings the dog to the studio for an acting gig she has. While the dog rests peacefully on the studio floor, McNichol's acting partner, a young black woman, begins to speak her lines which wakes the dog from its slumber. The dog jumps up and viciously attacks the black actress. McNichol soon discovers that this dog is a white dog, a dog purposely trained to attack black people. Enter Paul Winfield, a black man who is an animal trainer for films. McNichol brings the dog to him in the hopes he can reprogram it - himself determined by the challenge to the break the dog of it’s racial attacks. In the meantime the dog escapes its steel kennel and kills an elderly black man in a church. But still Winfield wants to wipe the programmed hate out of the dog this time by making himself the bait. While he succeeds in one aspect the dog’s rage is refocused but it turns on another character forcing Winfield to shoot the dog dead.
Fuller’s subject matter has always been somewhat controversial; and so much so for White Dog, which came out in 1982, that the NAACP at the time thought this film incited racism, which is exactly the opposite of what Fuller was aiming for. According to wikipedia, “Fuller was a staunch integrationist for his hiring of black actors for non-stereotypical roles.” After a limited release the film was shelved by Paramount until 2008 when the Criterion Collection released it on DVD. While somewhat dated in its look, the script by Fuller and Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential), raises legitimate questions on the subject of racism in our county. There is no doubt that race relations have come a long way but have the seeds of racial equality been planted deep enough to grow through a foundation of renewed hate of people of color in our society today? In light of the recent and unprecedented amount of white police officers shooting black people I would say not. And for these police officers, like the dog in the film, the question remains, is racism a curable learned behavior or mental illness that is treatable, or are we hardwired to be racist and maybe there is no cure?
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