Thursday, March 26, 2015

24 Hours of Movies: Dog Gone It

by Patrick Bromley
These 24 hours have gone to the dogs! And now you should have me put to sleep.

Today's marathon theme was suggested by Zach Shildwachter on Twitter (@zachforzombies). Thanks, Zach!

This lineup of was challenging, because unlike "Creature Features" from earlier this week, I don't have a ton of inherent affection for dog movies. I love dogs. Love them! But not necessarily dog movies. That's because a lot of movies that are specifically about dogs either aren't very good or are very much targeted at "families." You might get away with one of those in the span of 24 hours, but any more than that and you're going to fuck up the whole marathon. So I had to take some creative license with what a "dog movie" is. Enjoy!

Also -- had I not already used it up, of COURSE John Wick would have been part of the lineup.

10 a.m. - A Fish Called Wanda (1988, dir. Charles Crichton & John Cleese)
This is such a funny movie. I hadn't seen it for many, many years, and then Erika and I caught a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse while in Austin this past summer. It's got a lot of dogs in it, most of which end up accidentally dead at the hands of Michael Palin's stuttering criminal. It's not exactly my first choice of a way to start the next 24 hours -- it's more of a second or third movie, but neither of the movies that follow would work as a first movie either. Let's put it here and get things off to a offbeat, darkly comic start.

Noon A Boy and His Dog (1975, dir. L.Q. Jones)
I've never seen this, but I love a weird post-apocalyptic movie and I like Don Johnson and I have to know how that dog got so much blood on him. The word I've always heard used to describe this movie was "kinky," which, given the film's title, makes the mind race. Because I'm programming these marathons for myself, they always skew pretty genre heavy. It's important to throw down one of those pretty early on to set the tone that this isn't going to be 24 hours of Marley & Me.

2 p.m. Sleeping Dogs Lie (2006, dir. Bobcat Goldthwait
Don't be fooled by the picture. While this may seem like the most conventional "dog movie" in the lineup, there is nothing conventional about it. Melinda Page Hamilton plays a pretty normal woman who once had sex with her dog in college, and that incident plays a huge part in defining the rest of her life despite her best efforts to the contrary. For a movie in which bestiality is the inciting incident, Sleeping Dogs Lie is pretty tasteful and very thoughtful about relationships. Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait is at his best when using some sort of outrageous event to explore universal truths about humanity, and that's exactly what he does here. It couldn't be programmed any later than third, as its pace and energy (even its look, which is deliberately traditional romantic comedy gloss) would throw everything out of balance. It works perfectly here, and it's a movie that more people should see.

4 p.m. - Man Bites Dog (1992, dirs. Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde)
Here's the first big cheat of the marathon, as there is no real "dog" material in the movie outside of the title. That counts, right? This Belgian mock documentary is blacker than the blackest black comedy. It's also terrific. A serial killer leads a camera crew around and allows them to see how he "works;" the results get weirder and darker as the film goes on and the crew becomes more and more complicit in the bloody goings on. It's unlike anything else we'll be watching during these 24 hours, which might be its best quality.

6 p.m.  - Stand By Me (1986, dir. Rob Reiner)
Here's another instance of bending the rules a little, though at least one of the movie's most memorable scenes does involve a dog. Made during Rob Reiner's unimpeachable hot streak, Stand by Me is one of the all-time great coming of age movies, and while "Chopper, sick balls" ranks right near the "Lard Ass" story on the list of Stand by Me scenes that aren't my favorite, I'll still use Chopper as an excuse to revisit this movie.

8 p.m. - The Thing (1982, dir. John Carpenter)
I was going to program this in the 24-hour Creature Feature marathon because it features what are arguably the best practical creature effects of any movie ever, but then I remembered I wanted to program this "dog movie" marathon and decided to hang onto it. Sometimes programming a marathon -- especially one that fits into a specific predetermined theme -- is about bending the theme to fit the movies you want to watch and not the other way around. Any day is a good day to watch The Thing, and since the fate of the dog and resulting creature is such a memorable part of the film, it seems like an ok fit. This remains one of the best horror movies ever made and one of my absolute favorites.

10 p.m. Cujo (1983, dir. Lewis Teague)
Obviously you can't have a 24-hour marathon built around the theme of dog movies without programming Cujo, a film that often gets lumped in with bad Stephen King adaptations of the '80s but is much better than that. Much of its success can be attributed to the lead performance by Dee Wallace as a mother desperately trying to keep herself and her son alive. Sure, maybe there's too much time devoted to the infidelity stuff, but a lot of that is necessary to set up the emotional and psychological stakes once mom and son are in the car. It's like Lila Marion taking the money in Psycho. There have been a handful of killer dog movies in the history of horror -- everything from Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell to Man's Best Friend. I maintain that Cujo is still the best one.

Midnight Dog Soldiers (2002, dir. Neil Marshall)
Another minor cheat, because even though it has "dog" in the title it's actually a werewolf movie. Neil Marshall's directorial debut about a team of Scottish soldiers on a training exercise that gets interrupted by lycanthropes is a lot of fun, with terrific practical monsters and brutal violence -- just the right kind of movie for the midnight spot. Unfortunately it has been mistreated on home video; the U.S. Blu-ray release was pretty terrible, but a new one is due out soon from Scream Factory.

2 a.m. - The Beyond (1981, dir. Lucio Fulci)
Yes! Even with the dog movie theme, we still get to program Fulci into his regular 2 a.m. spot. What most fans would argue is Fulci's best movie includes a very memorable, very graphic scene involving a dog -- just one of the MANY fucking crazy things on display in The Beyond. I'm glad this is the last Fulci horror I'll be programming in this marathon series, as though all of the others have been building to this. Grindhouse Releasing has JUST put this movie out on Blu-ray, which everyone should get.

4 a.m. - White Dog (1982, dir. Sam Fuller)
While one of Sam Fuller's last movies seems on its face to be too "normal" for the overnight stretch of our marathon, this movie is anything but normal. Kristy McNichol plays an actress who finds a stray dog, only to discover it has been trained to attack black people. She brings it to Paul Winfield (who is black) to re-train it. Burl Ives shows up as an asshole. Burl Ives! Though it sounds like a ridiculous premise, Fuller finds a fascinating way to explore race and subverts certain Hollywood formulas in a manner that's positively Verhovian.

6 a.m. - Best in Show (2000, dir. Christopher Guest)
Here's another movie that just can't be left out of an all dog movie marathon. I can think of few ways better to regain our senses and clear our heads than with Christopher Guest's documentary, which follows an eclectic group of dog lovers as they prepare to compete in the annual dog show. After Waiting for Guffman, this is my favorite of the Guest-directed mockumentaries; his repertory company does incredible work (Jane Lynch is SO FUNNY well before she became "Jane Lynch" in everything) and the movie manages to be sweet at the same time it mocks these people mercilessly.

8 a.m. - Reservoir Dogs (1992, dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Aaaaand the final cheat of the day is also the last movie of the marathon. I've spoken before about my special relationship with this movie, which I credit with changing the way I look at movies and turning me on to an entire universe of film of which I had previously been unaware. It's not my favorite Tarantino movie, but I love it a lot and am reminded of just how great it is every time I go back to it. There are no actual dogs in the movie, but how can I not put it in the lineup?

And with the opening notes of Harry Nilsson's "Coconut," it's time to wrap up these 24 hours. I'm dog tired. Is that an expression? Dog tired?


  1. I have seen A Boy And His Dog and it's a great choice for this for several reasons. (Including Jason Robards in whiteface.)

  2. I trust you mean Marion, not Lila.

  3. What, no "Hachi: A Dog's Tale" in a dog movie marathon? FAIL! ;-)

  4. Check out Red Dog (2011). A gem of a movie from Australia.

  5. It's been quite a while, but, I remember Fred Willard being one of my favorite parts of Best in Show. I agree, a dog movie marathon wouldn't be complete without that movie.

  6. A 24 hour dog movie marathon...and not a single Benji movie. Not even Oh Heavenly Dog...consider my gast flabbered, sir.

    You are, of course, forgiven because 1) you don't need me to do that, who cares what I think but 2) you put The Thing in there.

    You could have KILLED a dog in this column, I'd have forgiven you after putting The Thing in the marathon.

    I suppose it's safe to say that, know what you're doing.

    1. Oh! Heavenly Dog is a sort of reverse rip-off of a 1951 movie called You Never Can Tell, in which a pooch is murdered after being bequeathed a fortune by its late owner and is allowed to return to Earth as a human (Dick Powell) to solve this crime. It's ages since I've seen it, but I seem to recall there's also a woman who used to be a horse (I swear I'm not making this up) who assists Powell in his efforts and keeps getting distracted by the sort of things that would distract a horse. It's pretty goofy, but entertaining and better in my opinion than Heavenly Dog, even though it doesn't have Benji.

      Speaking of Powells, The Thin Man (who hasn't spent a Christmas Day getting snockered and shooting at the baubles on the tree?) features a dog called Asta, the pet of Nick and Nora Charles, played by 'Skippy'. Asta was so popular in the film that he appeared in all the Thin Man sequels and the spin-off TV show, although not always played by Skippy.

      If Beethoven had been bitten by a rabid bat in the first forty-five minutes of that first movie, we would have been spared not only the rest of the film but also the myriad sequels. Makes you think.

    2. Hey, this thread is two years old. I thought it was from about a week ago.

      Most of the people who commented on it are probably dead by now.


  7. That 2:00 AM slot is PERFECT!!!

  8. Great line up! And you're off the hook with Reservoir Dogs...Tim Roth's character has his phony story involving a trip to the men's room, 4 cops and a german shepherd.

  9. A Boy and His Dog is awesome. Awesome line up.

  10. Anyone seen the French Canadian film "The Dog That Stopped the War"? It's been on my watchlist for a while and I'm wondering if it's worth the anticipation I have had for it.