White Dog (1982, Samuel Fuller)

Great movie, not badly dated except for Kristy’s 1980’s headband and boyfriend (Jameson Parker of Prince of Darkness). Written by Romain Gary, based on a true story (his wife Jean Seberg found and took home a “white dog”). After Kristy McNichol finds the “insane” dog and bonds with it, she realizes she’s got a racist killing machine on her hands and gets an obsessive Keys (Paul Winfield, couple years before The Terminator) to deprogram the dog. Things go wrong: a man is killed at church, finally the dog injures Keys’s partner Carruthers (Burl Ives) and has to be shot. Best scene is when Kristy confronts the original owner, a pleasant old man with two sweet daughters, the deceptively gentle-looking face of racism.

Cameos by Sam (though there are also Sam-surrogates, cigar-chomping old men), Christa (as a capitalist veterinary nurse) and Dick Miller (as a trainer working for Carruthers and Keys). Nice, long interview on the DVD with cowriter Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), producer Jon Davison (a Joe Dante and Paul Verhoeven associate) and Christa.

J. Rosenbaum:

As in the fables of Aesop and La Fontaine, the hero of Fuller’s parable may be a dog, but the subject is the human race. .. The dog is a tragic scapegoat, neither racist nor antiracist in any human sense. .. Close-ups and subjective camera movements repeatedly place us in intimate proximity with the physical world as the dog perceives it, so that he’s not merely “a four-legged time bomb” (as Julie’s boyfriend puts it, in characteristic Fuller-ese) but also an animal whose perceptions we’re invited to share. .. Like the children in Fuller’s war films, he’s the ultimate metaphor for the world we engender and nourish and ruin and try to redeem, a cause for some hope as well as despair.