Friday, September 5, 2008

The Plague Dogs (1982)

Many of you may have seen, or at least have heard of, the 1978 animated movie Watership Down. In short, it's an adaptation of the novel by Richard Adams about a group of rabbits who take heed of an apocalyptic prophecy and leave their home. On their journey they undergo many trials and confront a great evil in the form of a fascist regime of rabbits. It is very dark, heart-wrenching, and beautiful. If you haven't seen it, check it out. It is one of my favorite films, and easily one of the greatest animated features.

Watership Down isn't the topic of the discussion though, rather Watership Down's lesser-known bastard sister - The Plague Dogs. Plague Dogs is an adaptation of another Richard Adams book, directed by the same director, and produced by the same studio. However Plague Dogs wasn't a success like Watership Down was, and it's easy to see why. While Watership was dark, it maintained enough lightheartedness, hope, and adventure to serve all audiences. Sure, some kids would get nightmares, but not all of them. Plague Dogs is DARK, pitch black dark. Nightmares, seriously.

The story is about animal testing and the severe and brutal cruelties that can come from it. It opens with one of the main characters, a dog named Rowf, being repeatedly drowned and having the water pumped out of his lungs, you know, just to see. Rowf, and his friend, a dog called Snitter, escape the laboratory and search for a place to call home. Meanwhile, the lab thinks there's a chance that the escaped animals might be carriers of some deadly viral strains they were exparimenting with so they begin to scour the country side to exterminate them. This film is bleak and some really remarkably awful stuff happens, but it's a work of art and throughly compelling. It's basically the Dancer in the Dark of animated films.

After a long time the film was finally made available on DVD in the US, but it's not the full version, about 15 minutes are missing. The most recent international releases are the full 99 minutes. So whip out the region-free DVD player. If you don't have one, get one - there are plenty of good reasons. If that's not the road for you, you can always watch it on good ol' YouTube.



- Cap

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