WRITER: O'Brian Tomalin
DIRECTOR: Burt Brinckerhoff
STARRING: David McCallum as Harlan Thompson
George Wyner as Michael Fitzgerald
Eric Server as Jimmy Goodman
Linda Gray as Miss Engle
Barry Greenberg as Howard Kaplan
Sterling Swanson as Dr. Morton Koppleman
Sandra McCabe as Caroline Donoghue
QUICK CUT: The grounds of a California college are terrorised when every dog in the area begins to pack together and increase their groupthink like they're a bunch of insects. Only a pair of scientists have any chance of figuring out what's going on.
Harlan - A biology professor who has begun to notice a strange uptick in random violence amongst animals. He may well be one of my favourite characters. He's smart, he's driven, and he hates the status quo, even though he works in education. He encourages free thinking, would rather drink a beer than teach, and he is SO SO very 70s.
Michael - A new teacher at the school, and becomes instant friends with Harlan, despite being about as opposite as you can get. Where Harlan is all jean jackets and beer and a bit of an anarchist, Michael is button up shirts and sweaters, nerdy glasses, and following the company line. But they end up as friends and struggle to discover the secret of the dogs together.
Howard - The only real student we spend any time with, and he's your big guy, with a love of food, and it gets him into a bit of trouble. I mainly give him a shout out because he was surprisingly, if briefly, enjoyable, and he represents the students.
Morton Koppleman - The president of the school, Harlan and Michael's boss, and acts as the figure of authority that won't listen to anything the scientists have to say. We know the type by now.
Jimmy - The local campus cop, and I will proceed to call him the sheriff. Because I'm dumb, and the movie didn't make his position clear. Just so ya know. But he's another friend of Harlan's, and he was the first person to notice the mysterious attacks, and brought in his friend to figure this mess out.
Caroline - Harlan's girlfriend who isn't really in much of the movie 'til the final act, to be there as a damsel in need of saving. And she has a dog, so that's gonna go badly.
THE GUTS: Well, this is it. Trisk has finally gone to the dogs. Or more accurately, gone to watch Dogs, the movie. About killer dogs. Who kill things.
The flick jumps right into things with a dog POV shot running around a party, and I swear if this ends in sniffing someone's butt, I am done.
Fortunately, we don't get that far, and instead the dog is set free to run off into the credits, and the sunset, and with his new pack of friendly neighbourhood dogs.
We get back to the party pretty quickly and meet most of the people we care about, starting with the Man from PUPPY, Harlan Thompson, and a bunch of others who work at the nearby university. We'll get more into them as they die, I'm sure.
The power goes out, and they blame it on a nearby linear accelerator being used by the school's physics department. I suspect this will be our macguffin to explain everything for the movie. Because science!
One of the other teachers tells a story about how he was attacked in the middle of a lecture by a dog that ran in and growled at him. The story gets everyone laughing at his expense, of course. Yeah, you laugh now, but I know how this plot goes.
Ducky manages to escape the party when an associate shows up to drag him off to check out some animal attacks related to his research. The cow's not in good shape, but he does notice that it looks like a group of animals did the deed, not just one.
The good doctor heads in to the university the next day, driving the newbie into work with him. It's a good bit of character work as they walk and talk, setting up the accelerator a bit more, but largely establishing that Harlan is a pain in the ass, a bit of an anarchist, and trying to buck the system from the inside.
Michael heads to teach his class on pheromones, and we meet some of the students that will be dying later. And I can't quite decide if they're just a little dopey or out of it, or if they're using typical time wasting tactics that all kids use on their teachers, like making them repeat stuff endlessly. Either way, it's perfect college student behaviour.
But more importantly, they lay the groundwork for a lot of this film's belief system and message, as Michael tells the class about how a group of animals can come together as something greater than the sum of its parts, and start to show something akin to intelligence.
Meanwhile, the rancher is getting pissed about all his cows getting mauled, and decides to take things into his own guns...er, hands. Unfortunately for him, his rifle is no match for the pack of dogs that come along and maul him to bits.
And then there's what may be my favourite moment in all of Triskdom. Students and teachers are hanging out at a bar, some of the kids are talking about a cheesy horror flick (!) about giant ants and lizards fighting each other, and Harlan completely shoots down the science of giant insects being utterly impossible and, "the product of an ignorant screenwriter who never took biology."
"Yeah, but they look great!!" I love you, movie. For BOTH of those views. LOVE taking down bad science, AND not caring. This is why I'm here.
Before he can attack the science of prehistoric orgasms, Harlan gets called to the morgue to check out the dead farmer's body.
As Harlan and his girl leave the morgue, a guy on a bike nearly runs into a group of dogs, and it turns out maybe he should. Because they smell his weakness and pounce.
He was nice enough to ditch his bike and not hit them, and this is the thanks he gets. Ungrateful mutts!
Nearby, an old woman comes outside to investigate all the noise, and once the dogs are all done chewing on one toy, they move on to something a little older and drag her off so she won't be found out by the plot yet.
Michael and Harlan, action scientists!, join forces to try and figure things out, when H gets the call from the hospital about the latest death. Harlan shares his theory that really comes out of the blue that he thinks it's domestic dogs starting to pack and attack people.
As usual, yes, he's *right* but I hate and will always point out how randomly they just go for these conclusions because the plot demands it. At least this time there's SOME evidence to build a theory off of, but nothing that clearly says "housebroken dogs". Wolves I could buy, or random wild dogs taking a guy down, but there's no reason to think, "It's gotta be Mr. Winky!"
They head to the president of the college and try and convince him of their theory, and to do something about it. Fortunately, he's about as sceptical as I am based on their evidence.
While he shoots down any request to warn people, we jump to the school's sports field, and a dog show being held with some local kids and their pets. Well, what could POSSIBLY go wrong here?
How about everything? It's not long before the commands being given to the dogs begin going ignored, and things turn bad. At least they get everyone to run away and it looks like everyone gets to safety.
Fortunately for them, unfortunately for me, no one got seriously hurt, which is a bummer. The authorities show up and try and sort things out, and as usual, people try and blame the kids for riling up the dogs.
The townsfolk start to organise a posse to go after the animals, and Harlan warns against it. I wonder if anyone will listen?
A clue: No. They pretty much wait for him to get just off camera before shouting, "Let's go!" and drag the town sheriff into it.
The president hands off his dog to our science bros, and he calls the governor to appraise him of the situation. More accurately, he BSes about meditation and their own pets for awhile, before getting to the point. It's maybe too long of a scene, but it's defiinitely designed that way, and I can't help but laugh at the increasing frustration of the school president's wife.
We actually spend a lot of time with Harlan and Michael trying to isolate the cause of the pack behaviour. It's been awhile since I've seen this level of dilligence in a scifi plot. We usually skip straight past the actual *work* and go straight for the results as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the posse is turning into more of a party, as things drift ever more towards going horribly wrong. Once they break out the booze, you just know this can't end well. Even the sheriff knows this and tries to keep things under control, but what fun would that be?
They start to hear strange noises and sober up real fast and nervously flail their guns and flashlights around trying to figure out what's going on and where it's coming from.
Back at the experiment, the guys hear the same noise, and the dog in their experimental box goes apeshit and busts out. Granted, they just wrapped it in thin plastic, so it's not like some great escape was accomplished here.
The hunting party is still flailing about trying not to crap their jeans, and it is amazing that no one has gotten shot accidentally. Yet.
And that's when the dogs show up to move things along again, because there's only so much "Oh god oh no oh shit!" you can take before things get draggy.
The sheriff watches as the hunting party gets mauled to death, and fires off a shot or two. However, he then proceeds to stand there and then decide to ride the nope train back to town. I'm not voting for HIM in the next town election.
As he tries to run, the dogs still smell the yellow on him and chase the coward through the fields. He almost goes down with the rest of the posse, but actually blows away the dog that finds him.
He manages to make it back to someone's truck and is about to radio for help, but dies. So much for trying to run away.
The movie remembers there's other people in this thing and drags back into it some people from earlier to terrorise, including another professor from the school trying to pull some alpha male bull on a woman, before she shuts him down.
She then proceeds to get ready for a shower while the cameraman stalks her from outside. It's not long before a German Shephard goes all Norman Bates on her in the shower, and chows down.
The science bros hit up the police station and find no one there that's alive and able to help them, and Sheriff Jimmy is busy bleeding on the front seat of his truck. But they do steal some guns!
It's not long before they find their escaped dog, which went bite the hand that fed it, and to eat its master. Michael tries to shoot the dog, but kills the president of the school instead. Well, HE won't be getting tenure anytime soon...
Fortunately, Harlan is a better shot and takes out the dog before it can do any further damage. But not before they find the president's dead wife already dead in the pool.
Harlan races off to get his girlfriend, and Michael is sent off to try and warn the students, to try and get as many people to safety as possible.
Which you can just imagine doesn't go well. Can you picture trying to explain this to a packed hall of college students? Who are likely drunk and/or stoned? They barely take it seriously.
Michael hears one of the students is missing, and leaves another student in charge of organising the rest of them, and making sure no one leaves. Oh, THAT can't go wrong at all.
Howard is busy raiding the school's kitchens, because he can, and utterly oblivious to what's going on. Michael races to grab him, but you just know this isn't gonna go well.
The dogs arrive, followed by Michael, and he orders the kid to throw some of his food in the corner, and he has this look of, "But...but FOOD!" But because he likes breathing, Howard does so and he can live to eat another day.
One of them doesn't fall for it though, and we find out Michael didn't reload his rifle. Great. BUT! He does do something refreshing that I wish they did in more movies! Rather than ditch the weapon, he uses it as a club. See? Empty guns are *still effective weapons*.
I do appreciate them not really making any fat jokes, beyond Howard being hungry. They even say he can't run fast NOT because of weight, but because he has asthma.
Meanwhile, the students back at the dorm figure they've been forgotten and head to the library as planned. Well, I guess since they're going where they're supposed to is a plus, but still not great at listening.
And back with movie #4, Harlan is finishing off his drink so he and his girl can drive off back to the school with everyone else. Unfortunately the dogs are climbing in an open window.
Unsurprisingly, the dogs appear and chase the students before they reach the library, and everyone panics and scatters. As you do.
Back with Harlan, they've run into the garage and boarded up the door. They get into her car, but wouldn't you just know it? She forgot her keys. Fortunately, Harlan is exactly the sort to know how to hotwire a car.
On the downside, the garage has these tiny screen-covered holes that are just perfect for dogs to try and sneak in through. Harlan tries to board them up, but isn't fast enough. Especially when the dogs start to literally chew the scenery and bust through the walls via their own holes.
Michael and Howard continue to try and get into the library, while the dogs pull a Hitchcock and just stare at the building. Waiting. Watching.
Howard makes a run for the library, and tries to get the rest of the gang to let him in. Don't worry, Howard! A helpful dog will jump on you and break the door open for you! So much for this being a safe place. Shoulda holed up in a mall. If those doors can hold back zombies, they can hold back a pack of dogs.
Cue more panicking and running as the dogs are let slipped while someone cries havoc, and they pile into the library.
Also cue a lot of dead bodies as the dogs tear through the building. And they get helped along by the occasional person just plain old getting trampled in the chaos. I ain't gonna even try counting all these bodies.
The morning comes, and since its been quiet for awhile, Harlan sends his girlfriend to get her keys, since he can't quite manage to get the car running. Especially with the occasional dog attack. But I guess he thinks its safe enough to try for the *keys*. In fairness, he's having issues finding wire on top of everything else, but it's still an annoyance.
But surprise! There's dogs! They attack, the humans run, and find a convenient car that starts RIGHT up just outside her house.
They drive off to try and escape, and stop just long enough to find Michael's dead, mangled body in a field with Jimmy the cop.
So they continue to drive, the radio tells them how bad everything is getting, and I am gearing up for a post-canine apocalypse here...and the movie ends. Just like that. Just leaving Harlan and his girl to drive off into the sunset and live puppily ever after. And the movie tries to set up a feline based sequel that never happened.
Video: I don't have any major complaints. Everything looks decent for something from the 70s, and clearly with a small budget. My biggest problem is the nighttime scenes sometimes getting TOO dark and hard to see.
Audio: For a mono audio track, this sounds really good. You don't feel immersed, but it's all nice and crisp and clear.
Sound Bite: "Come on, I need a beer!" Defining character moment for Harlan.
Body Count: Oh look, it's the body count ANY of the Corpse Grinders movies shoulda had!
1 - The rancher gets pounced by puppies 20 minutes in while trying to protect his herd.
2 - Biker goes down when some dogs jump all over him and chew him up.
3 - Then they go after an old woman who came out to watch the show.
4 - One hunter gets pounced and mauled by a doggy.
5 - Two hunters get pounced and mauled by doggies.
6 - Three hunters get pounced and mauled by doggies. Hat trick!
7 - The sheriff dies shortly afterwards from wounds (Maybe)
8 - Next Linda Gray meets a swift end in the shower.
9 - Michael discovers a dead deputy at the station.
10 - Morton dies accidentally thanks to Michael having a gun.
11 - And they find his dead wife floating in the pool.
12 - Michael finds a dead body on the quad after the students went running.
13 - Another body found after the mass panic.
14 - ...14 is just going to be an 'event' of the library massacre. Too many bodies, too many hands and legs. I'd say at LEAST two dozen, maybe three, based on the group we've seen.
15 - Michael is found in a field, bloody and a mess.
Best Corpse: Can I count the library massacre?
Blood Type - C: There's a nice amount, and used appropriately. Nothing too out there, no effects, but solid for what they do.
Sex Appeal: Nooope.
Drink Up! Every time you see a puppy! =D
Movie Review: I was surprised at how much I got into this movie. It's yet another movie in the Trisk family that is from the 70s with that certain 70s charm, and while my focus was originally 80s cheese, I've come to love the charming 70s flicks I've come across. There's nothing really wrong here, save for the lack of an ending. I suspect they were going for a bit of a Birds homage with no real conclusion, but that kinda bugs me too, since it leaves the movie as a lot of time running around doing nothing. But the action is decent, the characters are likable with some acting skill from a few of them, and it's better made than most of the other 70s flicks I've done. Four out of five drunken townsfolk with guns.
Entertainment Value: This movie has a good mix of solid acting from the main cast, and pretty cheesy dialogue from the rest. You can hang your hat on the awesomeness that is McCallum's Harlan, and his free-thinking anarchy ways, and laugh at the students being students. This movie ends up having better dog attacks than Embryo, a better plot than Gargoyles, and Corpse Grinders? THIS IS HOW YOU DO ANIMALS ATTACKING PEOPLE!! I remember lamenting how I always felt cheated that they promised cats going crazy, then waste time with guys shoving people into a meat grinder. Dogs ended up delivering on so many failed promises from other movies. While the final moments fizzle, it's a solid ride from the start. I actually recommend checking this out. Four out of five cartons of milk.