Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

It’s funny how my monster kid memory fools me sometimes. The walk through nostalgia court always seems be to filled with memories of spooky movie moments and incidents of hiding my face in a pillow during a T.V. presentation of some old monster flick. I clearly remember being glued to the old wingback chair in my parents den while watching this made for T.V. horror movie. I especially remember being “wowed” during the climatic ending as good and evil battled for superiority. Never has my memory been shot down worse than when I found a used copy of Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell and took a gander at it 34 years after the fact.

R.G. Armstrong, sweet old man....and dealer of all that is evil.

Mike Barry (Richard Crenna) and his family take in an adorable German Shepard puppy not long after their previous dog dies in an accident. A kind old man (R.G. Armstrong) who drives a fruit truck gives the puppy to Mike’s daughter Bonnie (Kim Richards) while selling fruit on the curb in front of their house. Little does the family realize this adorable little pup was actually conceived during a Satanic ritual that the old fruit vendor was participating in. 

When summoning Satan always were eye protection.

The puppy soon makes itself at home and instantly adored by Bonnie, her brother Charlie (Ike Eisenmann) and their mother Betty (Yvette Mimieux). Now stop for a moment and let these actors names sink in. These are iconic 70’s names we have here! A star studded cast if there ever was one! I haven’t mentioned that Martine Beswick (Hammer Films starlet) makes an appearance as head devil lady in the opening credits. With that said, even these names can’t save the fate of this low budget Brady Bunch meets the Debil outing.

Awwwww....isn't he EEEVIIIILLLL!!
 Where was I? Oh yes the whole family falls in love with the new addition to the household, except for the maid. She knows something is wrong with this puppy and tries to warn Mike. Mike scoffs at her religious ramblings until one day she is killed in a fire that was totally contained within her own room. As the dog begins to grow and mature it begins to take control of the thoughts of the kids. They begin to show signs of evilness and become very protective over "Lucky". I mean after all isn't that what you name a Satanically possessed dog?

"I want a puppy and to sail away with Charon!"

In what is probably the best scene of the film, Mike experiences the dogs mental powers first hand while working on a lawnmower. Through the power of Satan the dog commands the mowers engine to start, sending the sharp blades into motion. It then commands Mike to slowly edge his arm into the whirling blades. Mike is able overcome the dogs power and escape without a scratch. Mike knows now there is something very wrong with this dog. 

"Lookie what we did in art class Mom!"

 As the whole family’s demeanor begins to change to evil overtones, Mike discovers a Satanic shrine in the attic. He removes the dog from the home and tries to shoot it but the dog is unharmed. Realizing that the dog is a minion of the Devil, Mike goes to Ecuador to find an answer on how to destroy the dog and save his family. He encounters a native priest who tells him that if he confronts the animal with a special holy symbol he can defeat it. 

 Mike comes back home and takes the dog to the plant where he works. Here the big showdown between good and evil takes place. Lucky shape shifts into a monstrous beast as Mike holds up the holy symbol he has drawn on the palm of his hand up to the animal. This all sounds pretty cool on paper but the visual effects are pretty damn funny! Take a dog, slap a fright wig on it, plus some plastic horns and voila! Instant Devil Dog! Needless to say good over powers evil and the dog is sent dragging its tail back to ole Scratch.

The family the worships Satan together.....

Of course the ending of this film wouldn’t be complete without an “epilogue” where the family takes off for a much needed vacation and questions the whereabouts of Luckys siblings that were present in the back of the old fruit vendors truck. Is it the end? Thankfully no one ever cared to find out and torture us with Devil Dog 2: Homeward Bound to Hell. 

I still can't get over the fire power this film is loaded with! Crenna is a wonderful actor and does a great job delivering his character. He is the driving force throughout the whole film. Yvette Mimieux is pretty good too. You probably remember her as Weena in George Pals presentation of H.G.Wells "The Time Machine (1960). Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann make a perfect brother and sister and had previously starred in the Disney classic "Escape to Witch Mountain (1975).
Martin Beswick......looking bored.

 Martine Beswick of course is completely wasted in this film with just a fleeting appearance. R.G. Armstrong as the fruit vendor/proprietor of devil dogs chews up the little scenery he is given. Still this movie just cannot get past the low budget and pedestrian script. Give this thing an Omen (1976) budget, which by the way had a Satanic dog in it, and this really could have been something!

Crenna ponders his career.

 Devil Dog first aired on October 31st, 1978 and aired many, many more times after that. It seemed to be an October staple unitl the mid 1980's  and then it kinda poofed off the airwaves. Thankfully, sort of, Shriek Show released it to DVD in 2005 and then again to Blu-Ray in 2011. Blu-Ray....seriously? I was completely shocked it found its way to DVD but do we really need to see it in high def? If you can find this one grab it. It's not a great horror film but the bad special effects at the end are worth the price tag....of which I paid a whole 3 bucks for so I made out quite well.