Movie One Hundred Twenty Six
White Dog is a film about racism told through the story of a white German Shepard that has been trained to attack black people.
On her way home one night, Julie (Kristy McNichol) hits a stray dog. She takes the dog to the vet and takes him home with her. The dog and Julie share a strong connection, one that grows even stronger when the dog attacks an intruder trying to rape Julie. When the dog gets out, it attacks a black street cleaner. When Julie realizes things are not all right with her new friend, she takes him to a seasoned trainer, who tells her to have the dog put down. Instead, a black trainer decides to help rehabilitate the animal to see if the dog is capable of unlearning this behavior.
The racial themes of White Dog are almost driven to the point of beating the viewer over the head with them but some interesting points are raised. Is racism purely a learned behavior? Can it be “fixed”? Do animals perceive race on their own or do they need to be trained? The film doesn’t give direct answers to these questions, allowing the viewer to form their own opinions. The ending of the film is striking, however, and without giving anything away, shows that racism may just be misplaced anger towards something else.
Samuel Fuller had long and varied film career as both a writer and director before he made White Dog and the backlash from the film all but ended his career. I find this terribly sad because the film itself isn’t racist, or at least I didn’t see it that way. It’s not a fantastic movie or anything, in fact, the first half hour seems incredibly low budget and even a bit cheesy, but the message is strong and will likely stay with you long after the credits roll. Oddly enough, the best actor in White Dog is the white dog (or white dogs, more likely). There are some scenes when I was genuinely afraid that the dog would kill the human actors. While White Dog is not a film I would outwardly recommend, there is a lot to like about it and it would be a great film for a roundtable discussion.
I give it 3 muzzled white dogs out of 5.