Judge David Johnson thinks Drake's Cakes missed the opportunity for a prime promotional tie-in with this movie.
Sit. Stay. Roll over. Unleash demonic torment from the depths of hell. Good boy.
What happens when a dog is infused with the powers of Satan and let loose upon an unsuspecting family? Mysterious deaths? The wife turning into a whore? Excessive drooling? Yes!
Facts of the Case
The poor Barry family; they have no idea what they've gotten into. When their old dog is tragically killed in a car accident, the family adopts a new mutt, a German Shepherd pup with a mysterious bloodline. Everyone is overjoyed at first, but it's not long before strange happenings infest the household.
The family's housekeeper suspects that there is something sinister about the new pet and tries to warn Mike Barry, the father (Richard Crenna). But her pleas go unheeded. Unfortunately, the devil dog has noticed the housekeeper's curiosity and implements top secret Hell plan, Code Name: Set the Housekeeper on Fire.
With one meddler out of the way, the devil dog turns its attention to the rest of the family. Mike is apparently resistant to the devil dog's machinations, but the rest of the brood are susceptible, and thanks to its hellish powers of persuasion, mom and the two kids soon turn into royal douche bags.
Brother and sister become angry and defensive if Mike accuses the devil dog of malfeasance, and Mike's wife, Betty (Yvette Mimieux, The Black Hole) transforms into a vindictive slut. With nowhere to turn, and the body count rising, Mike seeks guidance from occult experts and theologians, which will eventually bring him face-to-face with the devil dog's true form—and a battle to the death, with his family at stake.
Devil Dog: Hound of Hell was made-for-television movie, aired in 1978. Why the folks at Media Blasters felt compelled to resuscitate this mediocre flick, and give it a two-disc special edition, is beyond me. But we've got it.
Devil Dog is, at its heart, a case study on the dissolution of a family when Satanic influences are manifested in a German Shepherd. As such it is a worthy entry into that "homewrecking pet" genre.
Truth be told, there's not a whole lot of interesting stuff a play here, and most of the horror elements are laughable. I mean the very premise of a demon-possessed dog toes the line of self-parody. And wait until you see the goofy special effects splayed out on the screen when we see the true demon form of the dog.
What fun there is comes courtesy of the Barry family and their descent into madness. While the two kids are mainly just overreacting punks, it's Mimiuex's Betty who steals the scenes with her portrayal of a middle-aged suburban she-bitch of seduction. She really is a cold-hearted wench, and it's a kick to see her torment her poor, oblivious husband.
Speaking of which, is there a guy in the history of pet ownership who's been slower on the uptake?!? One scene has Mike repairing a lawnmower and, after the devil dog gives him one of those evil looks (as exhibited by a tight close-up on the dog's face and some cheapo visual effects in his eyeballs), dad suddenly has the uncontrollable urge to stuff his hand into the blades. That, combined with the flaming housekeeper, would have been enough for me to place call to the humane society, but it's his family.
My biggest gripe is that this movie takes itself way too seriously. Sure I said how much of what's going on is laughable, but unintentionally so. With a title like Devil Dog: Hound of Hell you'd think the flick would have more of a playful tone about itself, but, alas, it plays it straight—which, ironically enough, makes it funny.
I'll hand it to this studio, though: they show commitment even to the most blah films. Was there much clamoring for a special edition two-disc treatment of Devil Dog? Disc one contains the film, presented in its original full screen aspect ratio. The video quality is sound, but the mono audio is, of course, wanting. But a decent technical effort overall.
The second disc sports an audio interview with director Curtis Harrington (in essence a recording of a telephone conversation overlaid on a Devil Dog graphic), "To the Devil, a Dog," retrospective feature, and some promotional materials. That documentary is a serious bonus, clocking in at 75 minutes and featuring interviews with producer Jerry Zeitman and stars Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann. That's only 15 minutes short of the actual feature film!
For a movie about a dog sent as Satan's envoy to sew ruin and destruction on earth, Devil Dog is not as cool as it should be.
Give it an evil dog bone and send it on its way.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• "To the Devil, a Dog" Documentary
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