Scorpion Releasing // 1975 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // July 20th, 2011
The doggonedest song and dance you ever saw!
I'm trying to remember the name of a movie. I remember the basic plot outline. Chime in any time if this sounds familiar.
Person A: Things sure are great!
Person B: Yep!
Person A: Oh no! Something bad just happened.
Person B: Oh, dear. We don't have enough money to correct this bad situation.
Person A: What do we do?
Person B: I know! Let's put on a show, make some money, resolve the bad situation and live happily ever after!
This, of course, is the basic idea behind oh-so-many films (particularly those geared at younger viewers, but the "let's put on a show" plot has been used in flicks of all sorts). Jeffrey Bloom's 1975 flick Dogpound Shuffle is yet another variation on that idea, and it's a perfectly pleasant way to kill 88 minutes.
Our tale concerns an aging entertainer named Steps (Ron Moody, Oliver!), who in recent years has been reduced to begging for pennies on the streets. A loyal mutt follows him around everywhere, and even waits nearby every time Steps gets thrown into the slammer for a few days. Alas, the dog was snatched up and taken to the pound during Steps' most recent stay in the county jail. When Steps goes to the pound to retrieve his dog, he's informed that a sizable fee is required. Steps is desperate to free his furry friend, but making the dough is going to be a challenge. With the aid of a young ex-boxer named Pritt (David Soul, Starsky and Hutch), Steps engages in a series of dances in the hopes of raising the money he needs.
While much of Dogpound Shuffle is terribly predictable, it contains some small pleasures which allow it some measure of distinctiveness. The unlikely pairing of Moody and Soul proves a success, as the two generate some intriguing chemistry. Additionally, when it comes to putting on shows, some elaborate tap-dancing with bluesy harmonica accompaniment manages to stand out a little bit. The finest sequence in the film comes midway through, as Steps is given the opportunity to dance in front of a sizeable crowd in a lavish mansion. It's an immensely pleasurable moment that more or less justifies the occasional tedium provided by the scenes required to set it up.
Things take a turn for the maudlin in Dogpound Shuffle's final third, as Step receives some terrible news and his relationship with Pritt temporarily dissolves. This portion of the flick alternates between touching and overblown, as moving scenarios are occasionally undermined by the hammy screenplay (an extended monologue from the lady who works at the pound seems like a needless attempt at enhancing the drama of the scene). Yes, the information I've just given you may sound like a spoiler, but it really isn't. Moody does some strong work throughout, transforming a somewhat cliched character into a three-dimensional human being.
I don't know whether Dogpound Shuffle was initially shot in 1.33:1, but the cinematography certainly looks unnaturally cramped in this full-frame transfer. I'm guessing this is a pan-and-scan job, but my apologies to the folks at Scorpion if that's not the case (though if the film was shot in full-frame, I have to wonder why the cinematographer didn't pull back a bit more). Otherwise, the level of detail is actually decent, but darker scenes tend to be murky and there are quite a few scratches and flecks presents (plus some very prominent hairs in a few shots). The audio is presented in plain old mono, but it's mostly clean and clear (a few lines of dialogue are a little muffled). The only extra is an audio commentary with Jeffrey Bloom.
While I doubt I'm going to feel a pressing need to revisit Dogpound Shuffle at any point in the future, it's a nice little movie that does what it does well enough.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Rated PG