Sunday, May 27, 2007

DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND FROM HELL


I have friend in England named John. John finds the most amazing things on DVD. Because of him I have a copy of Killdozer, Bad Ronald and now this cinematic wonderment. Television in the 70's was a fantastic thing that may never be redone. DEVIL DOG is a fine example of this brand of film making. Helping the film out is the fantastic directing of the recently departed Curtis Harrington.

Waaay back when I used to stay up late on Saturdays to watch Shock Theater. It was my first exposure to a lot of movies and, if the wind was right and the sun spots didn't interfere, I could get channel 28 and catch Double Creature Feature out of Mishawaka, Indiana. Ah, those were the day. Before all this new fangled technology so you can program your own double features at your leisure and pause it whenever you want. It was better forcing yourself to miss sleep and become friends with coffee at a young age so that things like INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN and a truly creepy flick called NIGHT TIDE. This was before I had an inkling of who Dennis Hopper was and the grainy black and white photography of that little film kept me up for many a late night. I have the late Curtis Harrington to thank for such truly scary thrills. In DEVIL DOG he continued to impress me.

Seems there's this coven of witches that have summoned a beast that must be born of a dog. They pick a German Shepherd named Lady and it isn't long before R.G. Armstrong is out peddling a pack of demon dogs. Is it a coincidence that Richard Crenna and his wife Yvette Mimieux lose their dog Skipper? Seems he was run over by a black station wagon just like the one the devil worshippers had in the beginning of the film. Coincidence? I think not. Of course Richard and Yvette have the two adorable children played by Witch Mountain alumni Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. The new pup doesn't take long before bending the children to his will and then Crenna's wife falls to the dog's charms.

And the list of victims continues to grow; the maid, the neighbor and his dog, the guidance counselor at school. Finally, Richard Crenna gets the drift and decides to take matters into his own hands. He makes an emergency trip to Ecuador (???) to discover the origins of the hound that is taking over his family. And old shaman explains that he is one of the chosen ones who can defeat the dog and return it to the depths of Hell from whence it came.

Now, there are a lot of things wrong with this flick. Richard Crenna taking so long to accept the demonic origins of his kid's dog even though it tried to chop his hand off early on with an upside down lawnmower. Even though that would be impossible because the mower would stall, I would have dropped that damned mutt off at the dog pound before you could say boo. And sure the effects when the dog becomes the Devil Dog, which is only twice because, well because the effect is horrible. They put horns and what appears to be a feather boa on the poor dog and managed to get him to bark once. It's the worst kind of back screen projection to make the dog appear huge and it comes across as super cheesy. And, probably because of the television budget most of the action takes place at the family home. Even the trip to Ecuador was stock footage airplane and what appears to be a waterfall somewhere in California. The rest was just set pieces. But, you know what? With all these things the flick works. It gives another take on the devil and in the 70's the devil was hot. We get it under the innocent guise of the family pet. Another plus is Yvette Mimieux is without a doubt drop dead gorgeous in this movie. Especially in the really tight, high riding 70's pants. Oooff!! Media Blasters did a great job with the transfer from what must be old television film stock. It could have used some better extras, but who am I to complain? Although Kim and Ike doing a commentary would have made this a must have DVD. Ah well, I can dream can't I?

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