Jan 3, 2014

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell




Poor Curtis Harrington. He was one of the first true American cinematic artists and a pioneer of both camp and cult cinema, yet by the 1970s, with the commercial failure of his Oedipus complex oriented serial killer flick The Killing Kind (1973), he had already entered the career-crushing abyss known as the television world. Of course, any great artist is better at polishing a turd than the average for-hire hack, so naturally Harrington made a number of notable made-for-TV cult horror flicks, including How Awful About Allan (1970), The Cat Creature (1973), Killer Bees (1974), and The Dead Don't Die (1975). While Harrington would continue to direct episodes of popular TV shows like Dynasty and The Twilight Zone until the late-1980s when his entire directing career totally expired, his last TV movie would be the so-bad-it's-good work Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978) aka Devil Dog: Hound of Hell—a sub-dimestore work advertised by CBS as “A Halloween Howler” and starring Disney's Witch Mountain series child stars Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards. One of the things I like about Harrington, aside from his films, is that in any interview I have ever read or saw featuring him, the auteur never shied away from expressing his sheer and utter contempt for something, including his own films, with Devil Dog being a film he has shown nil reluctance trashing without mercy. In fact, in his posthumously released autobiography Nice Guys Don't Work in Hollywood: The Adventures of an Aesthete in the Movie Business (2013), Harrington described Devil Dog as simply a “monstrosity” and added, “This whole film built up to a horrendous climax, where the Devil Dog is revealed, but since the producer would not spend any money on effects, the scene fell flat. It was laughable rather than scary. Thank god I had nothing to do with the post-production work. I was off the picture by the time they created that ridiculous scene.” Indeed, the ending of Devil Dog is about as climatic as seeing flies hover over freshly excreted doggy droppings, yet one would be lying if they did not admit that the film still manages to entertain, if not for all the wrong reasons. Belonging to one of the most innately idiotic and totally worthless subgenres of the rarely artistically merited horror genre, Devil Dog is, at best, the misbegotten mutt occult horror equivalent to Sam Fuller’s racially-charged and radically retarded negrophobic killer canine flick White Dog (1982). The ludicrous tale of a murderous German Shepherd in league with Satan that puts to shame the canines that ostensibly ate kosher babies at Auschwitz concentration camp, Devil Dog is a film that makes Cujo (1983) and Pet Sematary Two (1992) seem like cultivated celluloid cuisine by comparison, yet somehow I managed to enjoy it more than the latest Spielberg flick. 



 Rather ridiculously, Devil Dog opens with a couple wealthy Satanists blowing a couple grand on a German Shepherd bitch and using the poor doggy in a Satanic ritual that ultimately produces pernicious puppies in a scenario that steals liberally, if not ludicrously, from both Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976). Meanwhile, the Barry family’s beloved bowwow is killed in a dubious hit-and-run accident involving a mysterious big black station wagon. By some miracle of fate, a seemingly nice fruit peddler, who is really a sinister Satanist incognito, shows up outside the Barry house and offers a precious little Alsatian Wolf Dog to the Barry children. After holding the puppy, preteen Bonnie Barry (Kim Richards) instantly falls in love with the doggy and her older brother Charlie (Ike Eisenmann) has a similar reaction. The family names the dog ‘Lucky’ and everything seems ideally perfect for the Barry family, but their superstitious Mexican Catholic maid feels there is something quite ominous about the dog. After the maid attempts in vain to warn patriarch Mike Barry (Richard Crenna) that the pup is pure evil, she dies in a freak fire. On top of that, one day while cutting the grass, Mike nearly severs his own hand in the lawn motor blade when the demonic doggy exerts control over his mind. Before long, every single member of the Barry family except father Mike becomes demonically possessed by the deadly devil dog. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose in sheltered suburbia when son Charlie frames a rival student by stealing a watch and planting it in said rival student’s locker, thus enabling him to win a student election in a rather underhanded manner worthy of a psychotic Wall Street investment banker. Of course, papa Mike is rather perturbed when he discovers a Satanic altar in his attic and the fact his kids draw pictures of three-eyed Baphomet-like creatures is no less unsettling. With family friends dropping like flies and the nice next-door neighbor’s dog being savagely shredded to pieces, Mike finally decides enough is enough and decides to rid his home of the killer canine. After making a couple attempts to shoot it with a gun and setting it loose in a faraway area outside of town, Mike gets desperate and decides to travel all the way to Ecuador after consulting an occult expert. On his pseudo-spiritual pilgrimage, Mike consults an elderly Indian witchdoctor/shaman, who reveals that the demon dog cannot be destroyed, but that it can at least be imprisoned in hell for another 1,000 years just as it had been previously. In the end, Mike gets involved in an absurdly anticlimactic showdown with the devil dog at a power plant of all places. After merely waving an arcane symbol scrawled on his hand by the witch doctor he met in Ecuador, Mike manages to defeat the dastardly devil dog.  Unfortunately, as Mike's son Charlie reveals to his father at the conclusion of the film, there were apparently nine more pups in the bedeviled brood from which Lucky came, thus hinting at nine potential sequels to Devil Dog that were thankfully never made.



 Comparable to Wes Craven’s suburban horror abortion Invitation to Hell (1984) in its unintentionally satirical pseudo-scares, hokey horror clichés, and shockingly banal The Brady Bunch ‘wholesomeness,’ Devil Dog is undoubtedly auteur Curtis Harrington’s worst film and quite symbolic of what America thinks of its few great cinematic artists. Of course, Harrington did the film merely for the paycheck and so that he would not starve to death. In his autobiography, Harrington summed up the entire experience of making Devil Dog as follows: “The script was lousy and the producer, Jerome M. Zeitman, was determined to make the film within the budget he was given by the network. His only concern was to make the film for the cost of the licensing fee. You see, in the heyday of TV movies there was something called “deficit financing.” A big company might pay a little more to make a movie with the idea that they would get it back in reruns and syndication. Zeitman was an independent producer and had given me an exceptionally tiny budget, even for television.” Rather hilariously, in a featurette entitled “To The Devil a Dog” included on the 2-disc dvd set of Devil Dog released by Shriek Show, there are some somewhat recent interviews with producer Zeitman, who treats the film as a timeless masterpiece that is destined to spawn countless sequels and a remake. Undoubtedly, Zeitman (who describes Harrington as “giving a terrific job”) seems like a carny-like swindler of the most pathetic and puffery-vomiting sort. In terms of the few positive aspects of working on Devil Dog, Harrington stated the following in his memoir: “I enjoyed directing Yvette Mimieux, who was one of the most beautiful actress I had ever worked with, and Richard Crenna, who was a total pro. But the film was an embarrassing disaster. And the slippery slope [of Harrington’s declining career] only steepened.”  Personally, as a loyal friend of man's best friend, the whole evil dog gimmick has always felt like one of the most impotent and laughable sub genres of the horror genre and you probably will not find a better example of this than Devil Dog. A film that I can only really recommend to trash cinephiles, lard ass Anton LaVey groupies, and Curtis Harrington fans, Devil Dog is ultimately a piece of hellishly hackneyed hound horror dung that reminds the viewer that you cannot teach an older auteur new tricks, especially when working under the petty and artless art-loathing world of television.


-Ty E

12 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Yvette Mimieux (as the bird was in 1960 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Such a shame this movie was directed by a fairy.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I cant believe Kim Richards (another truly stunning Heather O`Rourke look-a-like back in the 70`s) is gonna` be 50 years old in September, it seems like only yesterday that she was America's sweetheart in "Escape to Witch Mountain" (1975).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Lots of fans of the movie say that when you watch the afore-girl-tioned "Escape to Witch Mountain" you literally only notice Kim, everyone and everything else in the movie is invisible, Kim had a mesmerizing and hypnotic effect on audiences all across America, thats why they couldn`t take it when that faggot Frank Doubleday from "Escape from New York" killed her in "Assault on Precinct 13" ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Zoltan: Hound of Dracula" was released the same year, thats another hilarious 'so-bad-its-good' pile of horse-shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ike Eisen-girl is a pile of shit.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"A carny-like swindler of the most pathetic and puffery-vomiting sort", is that an in-twat-ator that the producer Zeit-girl was also a faggot ! ?, dirty queer bastards, there doesn`t seem to be any way of avoiding that filth in Hollywood, they seem to own the place, bloody loathsome woofters, KILL EM` ALL ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I like a lot of the TV horror movies from the 60`s, 70`s, and 80`s (like this one) because they were inhibited by such ludicrous censorship about what they could and couldn`t show, now i know that sounds like a negative but with regards to these kinds of TV movies it turned out to be a positive in a lot of cases, simply because it forced the film-makers to be incredibly imaginative about how to scare the audience (a-la James Wan and his forced relatively inhibited PG-13 nonsense, which is still surprisingly quite good and entertaining). Specifically because they weren`t allowed to show 'blood and guts' they girl-aged to come up with some genuinely scary and chilling scenarios (especially for all those people watching on a nice cosy Sunday evening with a cup of cocoa and a box of Lindt chocolates to accompany the movie), thats why it would be good if you could reveiw a lot more of these kinds of TV horror movies from yesteryear, you`d be surprised how good and genuinely scary a lot of them actually are.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, do you know how magical it is to arrive here and see something like "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell" or "Woyzeck" or "The Dunwich Horror" at the top of the page ! ?, its SO much better than arriving here and seeing "More odious and loathsome pansy queer faggot horse-shit from Fred Halsted and Kenneth Anger" ! ! !. This site is at its brilliant best when it stays far away from fairys and British bull-shit ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Re-twat-ering that this was supposedly micro-budgeted TV movie, did you notice how superb and professional the devil worship scenes still looked, infinitely better than the garbage that Hammer had been producing 10 or 15 years earlier, even low-budget American TV movies are still infinitely better than anything the British film industry has ever produced ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"I enjoyed directing Yvette Mimieux", if only he hadn`t been a faggot he could`ve enjoyed poking his knob up her gorgeous bum as well ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Pippi in the South Seas" (1970) was absolutely appalling but it was still 1000 times better than anything the British film industry has ever produced ! ! !.