Michael (George Wyner) arrives to teach biology at a University in a small Californian town. Fellow biology tutor, the hard-drinking Englishman Harlan (David McCallum) is aware of his new colleague's work and doesn't exactly relish sharing the limelight with him. It doesn't help that Michael clearly has an eye for Harlan's on-off girlfriend Caroline (Sandra McCabe).
Such politics can soon step aside, however, as there's something more troubling afoot. Who, or more accurately what, is killing local rancher Larry's cattle on a night? Well, that's something the town's sheriff wants to know too - and he enlists the help of Harlan in the hope that he'll recognise the source of the curious bite marks found in the latest dead cow carcass.
But Harlan is initially baffled. I mean, coyotes have a pack mentality which would align with the fact that the cow appears to have been assaulted by several beasts. But the teeth marks in the corpse are too small to be those of coyotes ...
Meanwhile, Larry decides to load up his rifle and sit in wait one night, hopeful of catching the culprit behind his cattle murders. Sure enough, the culprits arrive in the dead of night ... and proceed to tear the hapless rancher apart.
He's not the only one. A local motorcyclist and an elderly lady get attacked a short while later. Harlan remains perplexed for a short while, before his drunken haze finally wears off and he confides in Michael: he suspects dogs are behind the attacks.
The townsfolk are surprisingly reluctant to believe the biology teachers' claims. Even after an afternoon dog training competition goes tits up in front of several of them. Consequently, of course, several more people are injured or even killed by rampaging canines.
Can Harlan and Michael save the day, while the former rekindles his romance with Caroline and protects her from man's best friend?
DOGS hails from 1976, making it an extremely quick cash-in on the success of JAWS. One of the many "nature runs amuck" movies of the late 70s, it's a B-movie through and through.
First off, there's the laughable script - which is delivered in surprisingly deadpan fashion. Characters are quick to explain who they are and what they do for a living, while in the throes of everyday conversation with folk they're familiar with. And there are some priceless moments of clumsily squeezed-in explanation of scientific terms, such as when Michael offers a detailed definition of "pheromone" to his class.
Then we have McCallum's performance, which is priceless. In his denim get-up, sporting hippyish hair and a light beard, he could pass as the cousin of Ray Lovelock's character in THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE. His depiction of someone with a drinking problem consists of him occasionally saying things along the lines of "can't we deal with the crisis in the morning? Right now I fancy a drink". He's great for all the wrong reasons. McCabe is an amiable love interest, even if her screaming in later scenes is righteously annoying.
The dog attacks are fairly well choreographed - and rather frequent - if somewhat unconvincing in their final executions. Filmmakers have always preyed upon moral panic and DOGS is no different: key to almost every attack scene is the presence of a Doberman - a breed that was demonised as being unpredictable and violent at the time. There's a healthy amount of gore on offer, but it's mostly of the "aftermath" variety: the kill scenes themselves are rather sedate (as is a curiously coy shower scene).
Look out for a roving camera tracking shot around a pool during the film's opening, which predates similar scenes from both MOTHER'S DAY and BOOGIE NIGHTS. We also get a neat, rather amusing twist which creeps in literally during the last few seconds of the film.
DOGS is daft but alluringly so. It has a shitload charm to its credit, it's never dull and lovers of trashy cinema should lap it up.
The film is presented uncut and in an accurate-looking 1.78:1 ratio. The 1080p HD transfer has been newly mastered from the original negative and the benefits are apparent in this MPEG4-AVC file. Colours are strong, flesh tones remain natural throughout, grain is fine and true: the depth and texture on offer complement the clean print perfectly, making this a solid HD presentation of DOGS.
English mono audio comes in a solid, finely balanced and satisfyingly clean uncompressed mix. Optional English subtitles are problem-free in both grammar and presentation.
A static main menu page opens the disc. There is no scene selection menu in evidence but the film does have 8 chapter stops.
Bonus features commence with a slickly edited 19-minute Making Of featurette. This contains contributions from the likes of director Burt Brinckherhoff, head of advertising Sandra Shaw and American Cinema Group's head of distribution David Miller. We learn that 38 dogs were utilised during the shoot, while the director offers a couple of anecdotes highlighting the difficulties that come with filming dog attacks. Elsewhere, there's an amusing recounting of how TV viewers claimed that an American TV spot was provoking their own canine pets to turn violent. This documentary also appeared on Scorpion Releasing's US blu-ray.
The offending 30-second TV spot is also presented here in 4:3, to drive your own pooch batty.
"How American Cinema Changed Hollywood Forever" is a 30-minute look back at how the aforementioned independent distribution company "changed motion picture history". The earnest male narrator leads us through the outfit's timeline, interspersed with welcome poster art from a selection of key titles - GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK, A DIFFERENT STORY, THE OCTAGON, A FORCE OF ONE, DIRT . The talking heads from the Making Of featurette return, and are joined by the likes of American Cinema Group's president of the time Alan Belkin and production head Jean Higgins. It's a fascinating, fluid story.
We also get the film's original theatrical trailer which clocks in at an enjoyably trashy 2-and-a-half minutes in length.
This release also comes with double-sided cover artwork and the first pressing has the added bonus of an attractive slipcase.
DOGS is preposterous fun and a must-have addition to the collection of anyone with even a passing interest in "nature runs amuck" horror films. It looks and sounds good here on 88 Films' blu-ray, and is backed up by some nice extras.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|