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Samuel Fuller’s throat-grabbing exposť 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.
From the opening shot of a white flashlight piercing a black screen, Fuller's film is a model of intelligent simplicity. McNichol runs over a beautiful white Alsatian, takes it home to care for it, and discovers that the beast has been conditioned as a 'white dog' which attacks any black that it encounters. Rather than destroy it, she takes it to a black animal trainer (Winfield) to try to de-condition it... Just one of the many remarkable things about Fuller's impeccable treatment of racism is that it investigates that vile trait without showing a racist character; the dog is a perfect symbol for the confused and vicious conditioning that runs riot throughout the human world. Fuller has never heeded the false optimism of liberal creeds, and is well aware that there are no easy solutions to the problem; as the film's ending possibly suggests, you might just eradicate racism, but you'll never be rid of hatred. With Bruce Surtees' uncluttered camerawork, a superb score from Ennio Morricone, and fine acting throughout, this is one film of Fuller's which is most complex in its emotional sway: compassionate towards both animal and humans in the error of their ways, but fuelled by a seething anger. There is certainly no finer film on its subject.
Theatrical Release: July 7th, 1982
DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Criterion Collection - Spine # 455 - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 6.98 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital 1.0)|
video interviews with producer Davison, co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Sam
Fuller’s widow, Christa Lang-Fuller (44:36)
Sometime in 2007 a bootleg of this fascinating film (in 1.33 ratio from a VHS source) became available HERE. It has since been discontinued. This Criterion is advertised as 'New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the uncut version, approved by producer Jon Davison '.
It looks solid with decent detail, true colors and strong contrast. It is blemish-free and I have no complaints. There are minor artifacts but nothing that really bothered me. As it stands, overall the Criterion looks very acceptable and the best we will likely see this film on digital barring a Blu-ray release (of which I've heard no mention.)
Criterion offers original mono and has optional English subtitles.
Extras don't include a commentary but there is a new featurette with extensive interviews with co-writer Curtis Hanson, and Sam Fuller’s widow, Christa Lang-Fuller lasting almost 45 minutes. The interview with dog trainer Karl Lewis-Miller is in text screen with sporadic photos and there is also a click-thru gallery of 25 rare photos from the film’s production. Criterion have included a 30-page liner notes 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.
Perhaps unusually lighter on the extras but the film has been in high demand for cinephiles for years. This is a film you just have to experience - and I now consider it essential to my collection.