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The horrors of racism. Hollywood has for the past 40 years done a bang up job reminding us that African-Americans have had a hard row to hoe in the good ol' land of the free. We've seen Atticus Finch, The Black Klansman and Chicken George all try to show us the error of our ways. This NOT just in…Racism is bad. But white folks spewing "Nigger!" sure makes for a great plotline, just ask Oprah, Singleton, Whoopie and Samuel Fuller. Sam who? You say. Well Mr. Fuller loads up his camera and sets out to show us that, hey, not only are white people hate-mongering assholes, their dogs are too. With heavy hitters like Kristy McNichol, Burl Ives and Paul Winfield, WHITE DOG has the smooth façade of made-for-TV pablum, but under this veneer, pass me a Newport , this fucker is all about the blacks man's troubles, the problem with "new" films and Kristy McNichol's unruly couiff. Fuller is nothing if not direct in his lambasting of racists, George Lucas and the lack of animals in films. With a smart bit of writing from Fuller and his co-hort Curtis Hanson (yep, that Curtis Hanson, who wrote and directed L.A. Confidential and The Arousers) WHITE DOG feels bigger than it actually ever was commerically or critically. But you know, size doesn't matter, right ladies…ladies?

McNichol's character, Julie, is a young, starving actress with a tortured haricut on her way home when she hits a dog in her tasty '64 Mustang convertible. She stops, gathers up the bloodied animal and heads to the Vets office. Julie finds out the dog will be fine but she won't, because she is responsible for the dog's medical bills. Classic Sam Fuller unfolds for the first time in this scene, as the Vet stands firm on the fact that he needs to be paid for his services and his unsympathetic nurse is no better. Veterinarians, for the most part, are treated in movies as angelic Shamen who either fix animals or begrudgingly send them to Heaven via euthanasia, rarely have we seen a money grubbing representative of the Vet Squad portrayed on the screen. Fuller gives us an early glimpse that humans who care for animals aren't necessarily good humans. This Vet only uses animals as a way to make a living. Fuller, as I said earlier is that sort of director, within the Hollywood studio system he pumped out 24 films from 1940 to 1960. In 1963, he made the film that most genre fans identify him with, SHOCK CORRIDOR. Fuller always chose to scream his beliefs at you, rarely hidden within layers of sensitivity and film device. His war films previous to and after SHOCK CORRIDOR always showed the more human side of war, but not in the sappy, patriotism for patriotism sake-way, more times than not you were left with the numbing sensation that war is useless, but not until Fuller fetishized while chastising everything from Nazi Germany to the Klu Klux Klan.

Julie takes the dog home with her to nurse him back to health and change her hair to the wet and curly look. The dog is a beautiful, white German Shepherd. Julie never calls him by any name, but the 2 of them bond, hanging out at her pad, eating snacks, doing Julie's hair and watching old war movies, undoubtably, the films of Sam Fuller. When an aging rapist breaks in and attacks Julie one night as the dog nods off during when of these war epics, it only takes "White Dog" hearing the horny asshole's voice to set him in motion. He tears the guy (white guy) off of Julie and when the old perv runs out of the house, the dog jumps through the 2nd story window to apprehend him in the yard while Julie phones 911. The dog holds the would-be rapist until the cops arrive. At this point ol' "White Dog" seems like the best damn dog since RinTinTin. But remember, we're just 15 minutes in. It's time for the introduction of a little subplot which involves Julie's wannabe director love interest in the form of TV's A.J. Simon, better known to you as one of the Simons in "Simon and Simon," Jameson Parker. Parker's character allows Fuller to gum on about the "system" of making movies and shit. He has some great lines including one of my favorites "What's in the middle of a bagel?" "Nothing." "Then why are we talking about nothing." Indeed. Mr. Parker. Indeed. But if you like this character, I hope you don't get too attached because he doesn't show up in the second reel at all, and there's no explanation as to why. But he senses that "White Dog" is quite a bit protective of Julie and gets a little antsy about the thought of Julie using him as a chew toy while "White Dog" looks on.

One morning "White Dog" shows up missing much to Julie's dismay and she begins the typical stroll through her neighborhood whistling and asking residents if they have seen a gigantic white German Shepherd. No one has of course, but when nighttime comes and the Streetsweeper (what ever happened to Godflesh BTW?) begins his cleaning duties, "White Dog" watches from the sidewalk as he lights his cigar. The Streetsweeper is actually driving one of those big Streetsweepers not just out on the curb with a broom. This guy looks like some sort of pimp character who just happens to be cleaning the city's dirty asphalt. Big glasses, big cigar and of course, big and black. Well, as the scrubbing Zamboni approaches the curb near "White Dog" he begins to snarl and bark and ultimately jumps through the open window of the slow-moving machine to rip "Streetsucker Slim" to bits. Unprovoked, I add. Of course after his attack "White Dog" shows back up a Julie's for a "bad dog, you had me worried to death" speech, all the while covered in African-American ,Streets and Roads, Civil Servant blood. But Julie has no idea about the attack and her hair needs rinsing so no big deal.

I should add that the "White Dog" performance is pretty good. I believe 4 or 5 different "White Dogs" were used to bring the character into being. You have "White Dog" whose expertise is no doubt "wookin' cute, yeah, wookin' cute, like a big boy." You have "White Dog" who can jump through glass. "White Dog" who hates sex. And of course, no Affirmative Action "White Dog." Well the latter "White Dog" comes into play again during a shoot that Julie is on. She takes the dog to the set of something that involves a Gondola, Paul Bartel, Sam Fuller and a black female friend. Well, once Julie and her friend Molly begin to "act" the dog sees Molly (the very tasty Lynne Moody) and realizes she's black and attacks her in the Gondola while Paul Bartel (seriously, he has a cameo as a cameraman) and Sam Fuller (he's the director or producer or something) watch in horror. Thank God, the Gondolier (stunt superstar George Fisher) is there to pull "White Dog" off or Molly would be cocoa-colored Kibbles and Bits.

Well, it is quite apparent to everyone "White Dog" is a loose cannon and the one Simon tells Julie that he needs to be put to sleep while she ponders "helping" the dog overcome his attacking problem. Compassion I think is her emotion. Part of the problem with these scenes is McNichol, she does very little to convince me of her love of "White Dog" McNichol never tells the dog she loves him, or hugs or pets him really which I think must have been overlooked by Fuller. A small point but ultimately you must create your own sympathies here. Julie dressed as Mike Reno from Loverboy, sets out to visit a animal training facility. It is a place that looks as if it is sitting in the middle of a crater, with a giant "Thunderdome" cage. There are animals of all types here, big exotic cats like Tigers, Camels, Llamas, Chimps and the like. The proprietor is the fat, folksy Burl Ives. That's right, best remembered as an animated Snowman in RUDOLPH, THE RED NOSED REINDEER, Ives actually worked on pictures for over 40 years and had an Oscar to his credit for Best Supporting Actor in 1958's THE BIG COUNTRY. Ives plays the crusty Carruthers, who loves animals, trains animals and has a history of providing big time Hollywood movies with their supply of these animals. To say Carruthers is bitter about this new form of movie making that includes special effects and tin can robots is quite an understatement. He rails on about the fucking Duke and how his hands were the hands that braved the rattlers in TRUE GRIT. How he helped John Wayne get the Oscar. He bitches about STAR WARS and goes as far as throwing darts into a cardboard stand-up of R2D2. Ives character is no-doubt a mouthpiece for Samuel Fuller. Between the years of 1974 and 1982 when "WHITE DOG" was released Fuller only had one credit, a big credit with THE BIG RED ONE but for a man who pumped out at least a picture a year, mostly character driven stories that were visual mainly in the sense that interesting cinematography was used, but the budgets were relatively meger. Fuller must have felt some bitterness towards the "new" business of movie-making which denied entry to old school folks who were being left behind by this new way of doing things. Who needs animal handlers when you can use a metal wastebasket with blinking lights as man's best friend?

Julie tells her tale of "White Dog" and Carruthers believes there is no helping a attack dog gone bad and truthfully tells her to have the dog put down. Not insulted, but you know, killed. It is not until Julie begins to head back to her car and one of Carruther's men is attacked that he realizes that "White Dog" is something called a "White Dog," a dog that has specifically been trained to attack black people! He has been trained to hate black skin! How? Well according to Carruthers, white folks go out and hire black junkies and winos to beat their pups. This makes the dogs fear black folks. This theory has some holes to me though. I mean these black junkies and winos just aren't that dependable. I've tried countless times to hire them to mow my yard, paint my shed, etc. and they show up once and you never see them again. Carruthers, really thinks "White Dog" should be put down. Not insulted, you know, killed. That is until Keys shows up. Keys is Carruther's big animal trainer, the big cats, bears, etc. He's a had a run in or two with "White Dogs." Keys is black naturally, Paul Winfield, more specifically. Winfield whose fish-like face has graced the big screen in everything from important roles like SOUNDER to total shit like DENNIS THE MENACE is in decent shape and fairly believable as an animal psychologist turned trainer. Keys sees this "White Dog" as a challenge, the ultimate high, to get inside this racist dog's head. Of course, Keys knows the dog isn't naturally racist and tells Julie to hate the people who did it to "White Dog" not "White Dog." Carruthers hates the idea and reminds Keys how he has failed before. Keys agrees to take a five week vacation to untrain "White Dog" if it doesn't work, hey, no biggie, he'll just shoot him.

And so that is our conflict, Keys vs. White Dog. Carruthers vs. Keys, Julie vs….oh Julie is really battling anything except the fact that white folks apparently don't like black folks, she has just learned.

WHITE DOG not surprisingly, did not gain mass popularity upon release and has long been buried by those who find the content less than, politically correct. WHITE DOG did get a cable run in the heyday of HBO scaring kids to death on Saturday afternoons. WHITE DOG is effective, the viewer is asked to look a racism as a learned experience, definitely factual. In what I believe is the strongest moment in the film, when Julie is confronted by the former owner of the dog, who shows up with his 2 beautiful grandchildren to reclaim his lost pet, we are forced to look at a racist who defies stereotypes. He is a loving old grandfather in a trout fishing hat who just wants to find his lost dog. Julie's voice cracks as she screams at him and at the children to "never listen to a God damned thing he says." When he threatens to call the police, she dares him to, threatens to reveal him as the hate-filled fuckhead that he is. She provides the ultimate slap when he rejoices in the fact that the dog is "the best White Dog of the all" by screaming from her moving car that he is being untrained by "A Black Man!"

I recommend WHITE DOG both as a testament to Samuel Fuller's artistry as a outsider filmmaker and heavy handed politico. I can't deny the hilarity of the premise of racist animals either, if only from the very personal standpoint of being raised with 2 black guys as my best friends as a child. They were completely frightened of dogs but it didn't stop there, they thought our cat was out to get them too. I guess there are fears us Crackers will never be able to identify with. Of course they never could get why I was scared to death of chitterlings and Gherri Curl Activator either. Go figure.

A tight-assed Veteranarian.

White Dog goes for the...ankle!

I don't know this is just cute!

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Dream on White Dog...

Kristy McNichol...Julie.

Julie and one of the Simons discuss how cute White Dog is.

See what I mean?

Even when he's covered with African American blood.

This pimp is driving a Streetsweeper.

White Dog does not like this Streetsweeper.

Carruthers hates fucking R2D2.

He's a White Dog!

For some damn reason Mike Reno from Loverboy shows up but never sings a line!

White Dog, Kristy and a beret'!

A White Dog! A Paul Winfield!

Paul Bartel, chats with Samuel Fuller.

The great Samuel Fuller makes a cameo!

Face Off!

Amaingly he doesn't like White Dog!

Wicked White Dog, Wicked!


A grandfatherly racist!

Smile White Dog....
Brains On Film 2003