Legend Films // 1976 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // June 20th, 2008
Introducing the dog that launched 1,000 stars.
A limp Rin Tin Tin parody, Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood is set in 1924 Hollywood. Tour bus driver Grayson Potchuck (Bruce Dern, The Cowboys) wants to break into show biz but can't interest studio chief J.J. Fromberg (Art Carney, The Honeymooners) in his script about a coastal New England town menaced by a man-eating shark (get it?). When Fromberg expresses interest in casting a German Shepherd named Won Ton Ton in an upcoming film, Potchuck rescues the pooch from the local pound and lands himself a gig as a screenwriter/dog trainer. But Won Ton Ton is more loyal to aspiring actress Estie Del Ruth (Madeline Kahn, Young Frankenstein) than either Potchuck or Fromberg. Both men find themselves at Estie's mercy when the dog becomes the biggest star in Hollywood and the only thing standing between the studio and financial ruin.
Though it's become a minor cult classic of sorts, Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood is just plain bad. It's like the bastard child of a low-end Mel Brooks flick and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World writ puny. Director Michael Winner (Death Wish) squanders the talents of his stellar lead cast by trying to substitute well-executed slapstick, the precise timing of punch lines, and a plot that makes any kind of sense with a bevy of high-profile supporting players in cameos, including Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Morey Amsterdam, Cyd Charisse, Jackie Coogan, Broderick Crawford, Billy Barty, William Demarest, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Stepin Fetchit, Andy Devine, Gloria DeHaven, Yvonne De Carlo, and Winnie the Pooh himself, Sterling Holloway. An epic paean to old school comedies, made at a time (1976) when so many actors from Hollywood's Golden Age were beginning to die off, is a wonderful idea on paper but it's clear from Won Ton Ton's opening moments that Winner and crew aren't up to the task -- that nearly everyone involved is going through the motions with a minimum of passion. Too bad.
Legend Films' barebones DVD release of Won Ton Ton is solid if unremarkable. The transfer is stable and handsome. Blacks are deep and colors accurate. An attractive amount of fine grain gives the image a film-like appearance. The overall quality of the transfer's detail and color reproduction lead me to believe that Legend performed some restoration work on the movie, though isolated instances of specks and other minor flaws remain. The Dolby stereo audio track is a clean reproduction of the movie's original analog track.
The disc's static main menu offers options to play the movie or select a scene. There are no supplements, subtitles, alternate audio tracks, or any other frills.
Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood offers a modicum of entertainment value as a game of Name That Old Time Movie Star. Once upon a time it was a passable kiddy flick, and might still be except that the current generation of rugrats has no clue who Rin Tin Tin is. Most of all, the movie is a forgettable low-point in the careers of both Dern and Kahn.
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2008 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated PG