Dogs (1976)

dogs

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Dogs go crazy.

In a small California town the dogs begin to act strangely as these lovable pets are now turning on their owners and going on the attack while acquiring a pack mentality that puts fear into everyone. Harlan (David McCallum) is a professor at a nearby college who along with Michael (George Wyner) who is an expert in animal behavior search for answers while also fighting for their own lives from the onslaught of the attacks.

The film has some potential as actor-turned-director Burt Brinkerhoff adds shades of playfulness to the proceedings. I liked the segment where children bring their pet dogs to a formal showing only to be chased away by the suddenly evil mutts. The mob scenes are somewhat impressive as Brinkerhoff holds a handheld camera right in the middle of the group, which helps accentuate the chaos and fear. The extras who can usually be pretty poor actors in most movies actually seem scared here and give off genuine screams of terror. The scene where the college students become trapped in a library with the vicious dogs staring at them through a glass wall is kind of creepy as is the sound of their howling.

The special effects aren’t quite as successful. The shots of all the human carnage looks very much like people lying perfectly still with spots of food coloring thrown on their clothes.  The shot of a mutilated steer’s head is equally fake looking and it stays on it for too long although the dog attacks themselves are okay. My favorite is when a sweet old lady, which is played by Elizabeth Kerr who later went on to co-star in the ‘Mork and Mindy’ TV-series gets ambushed and eaten by a group of dogs, which includes her own cute little pooch and then dragged away.

McCallum, who is best known for starring in the 60’s spy show ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ as well as ‘NCIS’, is weak in the lead role and whose presence almost seems transparent. He’s made to look like he is a part of the counter-culture with a beard and long hair, but instead comes off looking like some homeless guy that was dragged in off the streets. Sandra McCabe as his female counterpart is pretty pathetic and seems good for having a perpetually frightened look etched on her face, but not much else. Linda Gray who makes her official film debut and is cast in a smaller role should have been given the lead over McCabe as she shows much more flair.

The film’s biggest transgression though it that it never bothers to explain the reason for the dog’s strange behavior there is a brief conversation about some ‘secret experiments’ going on, but nothing that ever gets detailed or exposed. The lack of any true resolution or explanation is not only frustrating, but also makes watching this a rather pointless experience. The film also runs only 82 minutes despite the DVD cover stating that it is 91.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 29, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated R

Director: Burt Brinkerhoff

Studio: American Cinema Releasing

Available: DVD

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