White Dog [WS] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1982]

The great maverick filmmaker Samuel Fuller saw his Hollywood career come to a inglorious end in 1982 with the typically offbeat drama White Dog; Paramount Pictures, expecting an exploitation thriller for the drive-in and grindhouse market, were unhappy with the stylish and contemplative film Fuller gave them, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition, responding more to Romain Gary's original novel and what they feared might be in the picture than factual information about the project, branded the movie as racist before it was ever completed or screened for the public. As a result, Paramount got cold feet regarding White Dog, and though it did well during its release in Europe, it went unseen in the United States after a token one-week engagement in Detroit, and never received an authorized video release in the United States until the courageous film fans at the Criterion Collection gave Fuller's film a long-overdue debut on DVD in 2009. White Dog has been transferred to disc in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors. The image looks just a bit soft, reflecting the very 1980s look of Bruce Surtees' original cinematography, but the color balance is spot-on and the source print is immaculate; the result is an attractive and entirely accurate presentation of White Dog, which was supervised and approved by Jon Davidson, the film's producer. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and the fidelity is crisp and full-bodied. The dialogue is in English; option English language subtitles for the hard of hearing are included, but this disc contains no multiple language options. Criterion's DVD also features a short documentary on the making of White Dog and its troubled release history in America, featuring interviews with screenwriter Curtis Hanson, producer Davidson and actress Christa Lang-Fuller (the latter is also the director's widow). Other extras include a text interview with Karl Lewis Miller, who trained the dogs used in the movie, and a gallery of production photos. And as is their custom, Criterion have included an informative and beautifully designed booklet with the package, featuring intelligent and well-written essays from J. Hoberman and Armond White as well as a fascinating "interview" with the film's canine star conducted by Fuller for a film magazine in 1982. White Dog is by no means an ordinary film about race in America, but hardly anything Samuel Fuller did could be called ordinary, and it's both curious and unfair that a movie which so clearly decries racism should have a reputation for encouraging race hatred; hopefully, Criterion's DVD edition of White Dog will help rehabilitate its reputation in America and give this powerful, deeply personal work a chance to be seen in its native land.
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Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the uncut version, supervised and approved by Producer Jon Davison
  • New video interviews with Davison, Co-Writer Curtis Hanson, and Director Sam Fuller's widow, Christa Lang-Fuller
  • An interview with dog trainer Karl Lewis Miller
  • Rare photos from the film's production
  • Plus: A booklet featuring essays by critics J. Hoberman and Armond White, as well as a 1982 piece in which Fuller interviews the canine star of the film

Synopsis

White Dog
A little-seen film, suppressed by Paramount studio executives and never released theatrically in the U.S., this drama is a powerful saga about racism. Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) hits a handsome white dog with her car one night and then nurses it back to health. One day, the theretofore mild-mannered dog saves her life by viciously attacking and killing a rapist who breaks into her home. Lucy discovers that the dog has been trained to attack black skin. She consults an animal trainer, Carruthers (Burl Ives), who urges her to have the dog exterminated. But a maverick black trainer, Keys (Paul Winfield), who has tried before to break the training of such dogs but never succeeded, steps in. Director Sam Fuller had made other controversial films, but this one frightened studio executives, who deep-sixed it. It was hailed by critics when it was released in Europe. ~ Michael Betzold, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Kristy McNichol
    Kristy McNichol - Julie Sawyer
  • Paul Winfield
    Paul Winfield - Keys
  • Burl Ives
    Burl Ives - Carruthers
  • Jameson Parker
    Jameson Parker - Roland Gray
  • Lynne Moody
    Lynne Moody - Molly

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