Archive for February 1982

White Dog

February 2, 1982

A famous suppressed movie, based on Romain Gary’s book about a dog trained to attack black people. Paramount was set to release it, then backed out when the NAACP (among others) worried that the movie might inspire racists to create their own “white dogs.” It played uncut in Europe (to wide acclaim), then turned up on cable in a severely hacked-up version that made the dog non-racist (he just randomly attacks people who all happen to be black). The uncut version (available on bootleg from many rare-video distributors) finally played in a few American art houses in 1991. By then most viewers wondered what the big deal was. (Eventually, in 2008, it got its own Criterion DVD.)

It’s often technically rough, but the dog is great and frequently very frightening, and the story is pretty troubling. Kristy McNichol is an actress who accidentally hits the dog with her car, then adopts him and discovers his racism. Burl Ives runs a zoo that trains and rents out animals to film productions. Paul Winfield is the obsessed trainer who devotes himself to reprogramming the dog. A simply told story that says more about racism than many NAACP-approved films. It was yet another studio-mishandled film by Samuel Fuller, who only directed two more features before his death in 1997.