BD 81 White Dog

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eerik
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BD 81 White Dog

#1 Post by eerik » Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:15 am

White Dog

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One of the most controversial American films of the 1980s, Samuel Fuller's White Dog was originally withheld from release in the USA and has been rarely seen since. This head-on examination of racism remains a riveting and startlingly powerful film experience, with superb performances and a brilliant score by the great Ennio Morricone.

When a young actress (Kristy McNichol) adopts a stray white Alsatian she hit with her car, she soon discovers that the dog has been conditioned to attack any black person on sight. Its only chance is Keys (Paul Winfield), an animal trainer focused on breaking the dog's behaviour and finding a way to eradicate its vicious instincts.

An acclaimed and daring late-career highlight for its director, White Dog amply demonstrates Fuller's clear-eyed intelligence, impassioned humanity and filmmaking dynamism. Unavailable in the UK for decades, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present its premiere in a new Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition.

DUAL FORMAT RELEASE INCLUDING BLU-RAY AND DVD VERSIONS OF THE FILM

• New high-definition 1080p uncut presentation, supervised by producer Jon Davison.
• Optional English SDH
• 48-page booklet - includes writing on the film by Jonathan Rosenbaum; Samuel Fuller's "interview" with the dog; and archival imagery

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JamesF
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:36 pm

Re: BD 81 White Dog

#2 Post by JamesF » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:14 pm

Great news, glad I didn't get the Criterion. Hoping the rare trailers get included; I know of two finished ones, and an unfinished one that was featured on Trailers From Hell but is currently offline.

Very nearly programmed a London screening of this earlier in the year - with Fuller's "killer chickens" TV movie Day Of Reckoning as a supporting feature! Definitely thinking of doing it now there's an HD version on the way.

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CSM126
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#3 Post by CSM126 » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:51 pm

I have the Criterion DVD but will gladly pick this up to have the film in HD. Hoping, though, that MoC can get some more features on there before release. Convincing Kristy McNichol to do an interview might be difficult but it would be a coup and put this beyond the Criterion edition pretty much by default! (I know, I won't hold my breath).

There's also the case of the long-lost audio commentary. That would be a nice pickup, if at all possible.

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Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: BD 81 White Dog

#4 Post by Gregory » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:38 pm

This film seemed like such a complete mess to me. I realize, as Armond pointed out in his essay for the Criterion booklet, that Fuller had an idiosyncratic approach to the social problem film that involved a high degree of sensationalism. But instead of a problem picture that has some pulp and sensationalist flourishes, White Dog seems more like the reverse: a sensationalist exploitation film that has a veneer of social awareness to it but what it has to say about racism is never fleshed out. Nor are most of the main characters, such as McNichol's and Ives's developed well, leaving Winfield's trainer to all but carry what there is of a story. There are many scenes that do nothing to enrich the characters or the narrative, and so the film falls back on some silly horror-film action spectacles to try and keep viewers interested. The dog doesn't simply jump up on the victim as he would in an actual attack; he has to soar through the air at the victim. And the truck driver the dog attacks doesn't just crash into something like a telephone pole; the viewer has to be treated to an extended shot of the truck plowing through store windows and shop floors.

The ending [spoilers ahead], as Hoberman points out, seems irrational, and I can't figure out what it was meant to convey except perhaps that Ives seemingly had it right in the first place: it's impossible to deprogram an insane killer so thoroughly that one can be 100% sure that the homicidal urge will never resurface. And because the dog ultimately attacks a white person even after he seems trained away from what had programmed him to kill in the first place, perhaps the idea is that even if the ingrained distinction between black and white is taken away, some violent impulse still remains, so that the dog simply became more of an equal opportunity attacker. So I'm at a loss to understand Lisa Dombrowski's claim of White Dog as "Fuller's most complete expression of his belief in the power of education to change minds."
An earlier version of the screenplay had an ending that seems even more cynical and ludicrous. Dombrowski's summary: "Keys purposely retrains the dog to attack Caucasians, the dog attacks the protagonist, and then the dog commits suicide in despair"!

Finally, I'm really puzzled by the NAACP's response to the film (though hardly the first time they'd taken misguided positions, in my view). A spokesperson for the Beverly Hills–Hollywood chapter said, "We're against the whole thrust of the film and what it says about racism," but I can't quite understand what the film does say about racism, nor what the NAACP thought that it said. The president of that chapter of the NAACP, Willis Edwards, also said, "When you train a white dog to kill black folks, that gives the KKK and other white supremacist organizations ideas." But there was already a history of training "white dogs" in this country, as Fuller himself had reported on decades earlier. So the NAACP's spokespeople were advocating keeping that hushed up because representing an example of racist violent (namely training dogs to attack black people, from slavery through the era of civil rights protests) could give racists a violent example to follow? Should there have been no representations of lynchings then either?

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colinr0380
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:59 pm

Gregory wrote:The ending [spoilers ahead], as Hoberman points out, seems irrational, and I can't figure out what it was meant to convey except perhaps that Ives seemingly had it right in the first place: it's impossible to deprogram an insane killer so thoroughly that one can be 100% sure that the homicidal urge will never resurface. And because the dog ultimately attacks a white person even after he seems trained away from what had programmed him to kill in the first place, perhaps the idea is that even if the ingrained distinction between black and white is taken away, some violent impulse still remains, so that the dog simply became more of an equal opportunity attacker. So I'm at a loss to understand Lisa Dombrowski's claim of White Dog as "Fuller's most complete expression of his belief in the power of education to change minds."
An earlier version of the screenplay had an ending that seems even more cynical and ludicrous. Dombrowski's summary: "Keys purposely retrains the dog to attack Caucasians, the dog attacks the protagonist, and then the dog commits suicide in despair"!
It is a pulp exploitation treatment of its subject but then I thought that 'tabloid treatment' worked for its subject. I kind of think White Dog is a film about innocence being brutalised and you can almost hear Fuller enraged at the wave of anthropomorphised kid-friendly Incredible Journey-style films and snarling "You don't care about humans killing each other do ya? Only about cute lovable animals? Well guess what, humans can screw them up too!"

On the ending I think the line from Keys about having messed with the dog's mind is the key one and the ending is less about the dog turning against white people in a reversal of fortune (though it is quite heavily playing on that fear in the scenes with the naïve McNicol cuddling it during the climax) and has the dog turn on Burl Ives as a white haired old man similar to the one that turned up to claim the dog with his angelic daughters and gets berated as a monster by McNichol a few scenes earlier, taking out a kind of retribution for what it was turned into on what looks like its owner.

In the end I keep thinking Family Guy unknowingly came up with the best critique of the film: "I saw a film [about dropping out of college] that didn't work out too well for Kristy McNichol. But, then again, nothing did"!

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HerrSchreck
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#6 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:18 pm

Gregory wrote:This film seemed like such a complete mess to me.
Your feelings on this film are far more thought out and sophisticated than mine-- I find to to be a completely embarassing failure and utter flop. To me its a completely failed picture and teeters on comedy via its badness, and thus I can't even take it seriously enough to discuss it in terms of the hard social comment it's trying to make. I'm just dead to the poetic and emotional machinations that Fuller's employed here, that affect other's so deeply and profoundly. One of those films I want to like... but it just ain't happenin'.

And I love Fuller. Utterly.

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Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: BD 81 White Dog

#7 Post by Gregory » Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:34 pm

Same here. I love Fuller's great '50s films (and The Naked Kiss) so much that I was really disappointed that I didn't like this one.

Colin, I don't think I'd considered Ives's resemblance to the "kindly" racist. Again, I think the screenwriters needed to develop Ives's character far better than wasting his screen time with anti-robot rants (and I say that as a fellow detractor of R2-D2).

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JamesF
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#8 Post by JamesF » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:25 am

Any confirmation on specs for this one yet? Getting very close to the release date...

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#9 Post by MichaelB » Thu Mar 13, 2014 9:42 am

My review disc is completely barebones, aside from optional SDH subtitles - but a quick spin suggests that the transfer is very nice indeed (the fine detail is particularly obvious whenever there's a close-up of the dog).

And of course the booklet is the usual solid effort, with contributions from Jonathan Rosenbaum and Sam Fuller (the latter featuring him "interviewing" the dog), plus a 'White Dog Scrapbook', which compiles extracts from archival pieces into an oral history of the film.

shaky
Joined: Mon Jul 29, 2013 2:52 pm

Re: BD 81 White Dog

#10 Post by shaky » Thu Mar 13, 2014 9:54 am

Would you mind specifying the aspect ratio, MichaelB? I know Criterion made theirs 1.78:1(perhaps that was the OAR?), but I'm just curious as to whether MoC have done the same or if they instead went with 1.85:1.

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#11 Post by MichaelB » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:07 am

It's also 1.78:1. In fact, the booklet explicitly acknowledges that the film "was shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is presented in the slightly more 'open' ratio of 1.78:1".

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Drucker
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#12 Post by Drucker » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:20 am

MichaelB wrote:It's also 1.78:1. In fact, the booklet explicitly acknowledges that the film "was shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is presented in the slightly more 'open' ratio of 1.78:1".
It says the same thing in the Serpico booklet.

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manicsounds
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#13 Post by manicsounds » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:00 pm

It's a shame they couldn't get any of the Criterion extras, or even include the trailer (the Criterion didn't).
But at least someone finally put the film out in HD.

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MichaelB
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#14 Post by MichaelB » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:48 am


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Aunt Peg
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#15 Post by Aunt Peg » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:55 pm

manicsounds wrote:It's a shame they couldn't get any of the Criterion extras, or even include the trailer (the Criterion didn't).
But at least someone finally put the film out in HD.
Personally I doubt Paramount ever made a trailer for the film. Has anyone ever seen one?

I know in my part of the world White Dog was given a single cinema release in 1983 or 1984 via an independent distributor that acquired the rights from Paramount. I saw the film but never a trailer advertising it.

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Forrest Taft
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Re: BD 81 White Dog

#16 Post by Forrest Taft » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:09 am

The trailer was never finished. Here's an unfinished version, from just before Paramount shelved the entire trailer, with an optional commentary from producer Jon Davison.

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JamesF
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:36 pm

Re: BD 81 White Dog

#17 Post by JamesF » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:51 am

There was, at the very least, a finished TV spot (geoblocked YouTube link here), and a full trailer classified by the BBFC in 1987.

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