Dogs (1976) – Review

81DjBigegHL._AA1500_I’m not sure if director Burt Brinckerhoff was trying to rip-off Hitchcock’s The Birds or Speilberg’s Jaws, the only thing to be sure of is that he failed to deliver one single cohesive moment in his entire film…so in that way it is kind of a frightening movie. I’ll give him a little credit for bravery as it certainly can’t be easy to make a scary film about domestic dogs turning on their masters, as Maramduke and Benji just aren’t all that intimidating. Most of the attacks are performed by Doberman Pinchers or German Sheppards, but the minute we see that the pack contains a shaggy eyed sheep dog, and a little terrier…well you kind of lose your fear factor.The movie starts at a university faculty party where we are introduced to our two leads; the first is a beer-drinking professor of biology Dr. Harlan Thompson (David MacCullum), and his newly arrived rival Dr. Michael Fitzgerald (George Wyner). Fitzgerald immediately starts putting the moves on Caroline Donoghue (Sandra McCabe), the universities English professor, and current semi-girlfriend of Harlan. While the two men get into an intellectual version an alpha male pissing contest the party is brought to a halt by a black out. It seems the local community is plagued with power outages due to the experiments at a top-secret government facility that houses a linear particle accelerator. While the party breaks up we are told of an ominous dog attack, one of the professors while giving a lecture the other day was attacked by a Seeing Eye dog. This is brushed of as just a freak occurrence but on the way out of the party Harlan is intercepted by Jimmy Goodman (he maybe some kind of law enforcement but it’s never made clear), and is told that one of the local cattle ranchers has had more of his cows attacked in killed, so something more sinister maybe going on. The two drive out to the range and find a cow that has been viciously torn apart, but apparently not eaten, and the bite marks are not consistent making Harlan realize that they are dealing with a pack.
The next day we are treated to a lecture given by Fitzgerald, who tries futilely to teach a group of students (not one looking hardly under thirty) about pheromones, but has little success, as they seem all to be about as dumb as posts. He vainly tries to explain that some creatures give off an odor that when they form a larger collective it increases their intelligence, and radically changes their behavior.
Meanwhile Harlan is being informed that more cattle have been attacked and killed, and that the rancher has vowed to kill the beasts himself. Of course that night the rancher meets his fate at the jaws of a pack of dogs. Harlan hears of this and drags his date to the morgue to check out the body (he really knows what a lady likes), and confirms that a pack of dogs are roaming the hills. Then the morgue is plunged into darkness, as once again the linear particle accelerator drains the town’s power, and totally freaks out his date.
A group of dogs way lay a student on his motorcycle, and when a good Samaritan runs out with her dog to see what the commotion is about, is startled to see a group of domestic dogs tearing into the poor motorcyclist, but she is shocked even more when her own little pooch turns on her.
With the deaths mounting Harlan and Fitzgerald run to the dean of the university (this community seems to almost consist solely of people employed by the university or students so the dean seems to be the de-facto mayor). They try to get the dean to warn the populace about the dangers, and to have them lock their pets up at night. He of course refuses because he doesn’t want to start a panic, but during the meeting he receives a call and is informed that a kindergarten dog show went horrible wrong as the dogs suddenly turned on the crowd. The dean is still reluctant to do anything, but is eventually forced to notify the Governor, and after more cajoling by his wife, he informs (while assuring the Governor that the base with the linear particle accelerator is fine), that they may have a little dog problem.
After the attack on the kindergarten class a group of hunters, lead by Jimmy Goodman, form a posse (yes they call themselves a posse), and charge off into the night to find the dogs. They don’t have any luck, but just as they decide to make camp they hear howling all around them. Scratch one posse.
Meanwhile Harlan and Fitzgerald return to the university to perform an experiment on a dog (the dean lent them his), to see if in fact pheromones are the problem. If it is pheromones they plan on hosing down all the dogs with a stronger odor, thus canceling out the bad one. Their experiment (which involves locking the dog in a small cage covered in plastic while oxygen is pumped in, and don’t ask me what this is suppose to achieve as we are never told) is interrupted by unearthly howls, which causes the dog to go berserk, break out of the cage, and run off into the night.
Our two heroes decided maybe they should get some help and run over to the police room (and I do mean police room, and not police station as it consists soley of one tine room with a desk, a radio and a gun rack). The room is empty and only when Harlan opens a closet do they find the torn up body of the on duty officer (this could be Jimmy Goodman who survived the attack on the posse, and we last saw bleeding and crawling his way into his car, but we never get a look at his face). They grab the keys to the gun rack and outfit themselves with a couple of rifles. They then come across one of the teachers fighting for his life against a large dog; Fitzgerald shoots at the dog but ends up hitting and killing the teacher instead. Harlan puts a round into the dog, and wisely decides maybe they should split up (to quote Peter Venkman, “Yeah… we can do more damage that way.”) Fitzgerald runs to the campus residence and tries to get the students to all gather together at the library. This involves going outside, and running from building to building, completely in the open (not the best plan in my opinion), and this results in a major dog attack. Even those that make it to the library don’t fair too well as it’s front is glass, and is shattered when a dog pushes one of his victims through it. Mass carnage ensues, ending with most everyone dead except Fitzgerald who just sits in a catatonic state, next to a female victim.
Harlan had raced over to his girlfriend’s house with the brilliant plan of getting out of town (well after pouring himself a drink first), but the two quickly find themselves chased out of the house, and into the adjoining garage. Unfortunately Caroline left her purse with the keys to the car in the kitchen, so the pair seemed trapped. Harlan tries to hotwire the car saying, “I haven’t tried this since I was ten years old”, which is an odd age to be hotwiring cars, but either he was no good back then or has lost his touch, as he is unsuccessful. The dogs start chewing through the drywall, and coming through the vents (Harlan tells Caroline that aside from the assumed hive mind the pheromones have caused it must have also given the increased strength as well), so they then lock themselves inside the car.
Morning comes and all is quiet, so Harlan sends Caroline into the house to get the keys (without even taking a peak in himself to see if the coast is clear, the bastard!), and she opens the door to the kitchen to be confronted by a pack of angry dogs. She screams and then joins Harlan in a mad dash across the street to his car, they hop in and drive away. On route out of town they come across a police car that has run off the road, and next to it is the bloody remains of Fitzgerald (I’m hoping somewhere there is a scene explaining how catatonic Fitzgerald commandeered a police car, and then met his fate on the outskirts of town). They turn on the radio and are informed that there has been like incidents all over California, but as yet the death toll is unknown, and does seem to be limited to just dog attacks. The car drives off into the distance as the camera zooms in on a tawny cat, it meows, and the camera freeze-frames on it. The End.

Ignoring the leaps in logic our main characters make, or even forgiving them the complete and utter stupidity of their actions, my biggest problem was with mysterious government facility with the linear particle accelerator. For the first hour some idiot or another mentions it about every ten minutes, and yet we never go there, and no connection is made between the facility and the dog attacks. None! Instead the movie ends with the word of dog attacks all over the state. I can only assume there were maybe earlier drafts of the screenplay that involved the facility, and were cut for budgetary reasons, and we were just left with the remnants of them that they didn’t bother to excise. This was Burt Brinckerhoff only foray to the big screen, as he is mostly known for TV shows, and after this outing I’m surprised that let him go on to work on such classic shows as Alf. So be warned that if you are flipping through the channels late one night and you come across this “dog” keep on flipping, it’s not worth your time.

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