By: Oberst von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Samuel Fuller’s career is full of films which were dismissed by both critics and audiences upon the initial release. Many of those same films have since found an audience, and 1982’s White Dog might be his most controversial release.
Kept out of American theatres for fear of stirring up racial hatred, the film begins as young actress Julie Sawyer accidentally hits a stray dog while driving. She takes it upon herself to care for the dog, and to find its owner. The dog even saves her life from a home invader. However several incidents of unexplained violence occur and it becomes clear to her that the dog is prone to violently attacking anyone with dark skin.
She entrusts the dog to wild animal trainers Keys and Carruthers (played to perfection by Paul Winfield and folksinger extraordinaire Burl Ives) who tell her the dog was trained to hate by its previous owners. Keys takes interest immediately, having made it his personal mission in life to undo the racist training in a dog, having failed several times before.
“Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand…”
Fuller, a director known best for his emotionally driven war, western, and noir genre pictures, crafts the potentially divisive premise into a surprisingly sensitive statement against the teaching of hate. He was no stranger to the effects of prejudice, being one of the first American soldiers to liberate a concentration camp during WWII (capturing it with a 16mm camera). And while some might find a second beer in the film somewhere, I must confess my bias for his yellow journalistic approach to filmmaking.
Captain Terrell + Sam the Snowman = Win
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when the camera switches to the dog’s point of view
Take a Drink: anytime someone says “White Dog”
Take a Drink: whenever the dog mauls someone (double shot if they die)