Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Plague Dogs|
Actors: Christopher Benjamin, John Bennett, James Bolam, Tony Church, John Franklyn-Robbins
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family, Animation
Determined to escape the confines of an evil laboratory, two dogs make a flight for freedom into the rugged hills. Panicked by the cries of other animals on their way out, they accidentally break a vial used by plague res... more »
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A classic animated film for grown-ups... but the DVD could b
Scott A. Schilz | Austin, TX USA | 01/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This woefully underappreciated animated film was created by the team behind the wonderful Watership Down. The story concerns a pair of dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape from an animal-testing lab in the wilds of England and their attempts to survive in a cold and hostile world. Rowf and Snitter traverse the wilds and encounter both a fox named The Tod who trains them in the ways of being wild and humans who are either afraid of them or try to hunt them. The film is excellently animated and touches on themes of friendship, bravery, and animal rights. The ending is very moving and always makes me shed a tear or two.
Many talented people lent their skills to this movie. Martin Rosen, also the creator of Watership Down, led a team which took almost two years to painstakingly craft this masterpiece. Among the actors who gave vocal performances for The Plague Dogs are John Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, and Patrick Stewart as an army major. I was even surprised to see Brad Bird's (creator of The Iron Giant and The Incredibles) name in the credits as an animator!
Unfortunately, while the film itself is great, this DVD leaves a little bit to be desired. The movie is presented in its North American edited length of 85 minutes. There is apparently a longer 99-minute cut available on DVD from Australia, but only in PAL video format. The film itself looks in pretty good condition for being almost 25 years old. Other than Scene Selection and Interactive Menus (as if those even count), the DVD is devoid of any special features. Another feature lacking on the DVD that I do miss from my old VHS copy is closed captions or subtitles. I have a little difficulty making out some of the difficult British Isles accents, especially from The Tod and the sheepherding dogs.
I highly recommend that fans of adult, drama-oriented animation (and Watership Down fans in particular) check this one out. Despite its barebones DVD presentation, it's a great, powerful film that deserves to be seen. I give the film 5 stars but subtract 1 star for the lackluster DVD presentation."
Worth seeking out the Australian version
M. D. Smart | London, UK | 05/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't really have a lot to add about the film itself that the other reviewers haven't already said; this is a dark, distressing, relentlessly grim and harrowing film about two dogs on the run from an animal research laboratory. It has a somewhat slow pace at times, and much of the animation is crude by today's standards, but it has tons of character. It's not exactly a pleasant experience but it has great power and a worthwhile message. Just to make it clear (if it isn't already), this is mature material only suitable for older teens and adults.
I actually just wanted to address a couple of points in a previous review (possible spoilers coming). The original film, released in the UK in 1982, was 1 hour 42 minutes - this is the full, unedited version which can ONLY be found on the Australian DVD release (the quality isn't great, but at least you're getting to see the whole film). The difference in running time (99 mins on DVD as against 102 mins in theaters) is simply down to the fact that films run slightly faster on VHS and DVD than they do on the big screen; ALL films are approximately 3 - 4% shorter when transfered to home entertainment formats.
When it came time to release the film in the USA, director Martin Rosen had great difficulty finding a distributor willing to take it on. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise; the film is far too disturbing for kids or families, and adults are likely to dismiss an animated feature with talking animals as kids' stuff - so who exactly would pay to see this movie? In an effort to placate the distributors, Rosen was forced to cut 17 minutes from the film's running time. Some of the cuts were simply made to speed up the pace, and others were made to remove some of the more unpleasant scenes (most notably the sight of a human corpse which the starving, desperate dogs have partially eaten). Needless to say, these cuts did little to lighten the film's grim tone, and it only ever received a brief and extremely limited run at a few US theaters. Unfortunately, it is this shorter version that has been used for most of the recent DVD releases; as I mentioned before, only the Australian edition has both versions included.
There were some changes to the plot in the transfer from novel to screen. The somewhat forced but nevertheless welcome happy ending in the book was removed, to make the film a more powerful anti-vivisection statement. Also the fate of the fox, or The Tod as he is known, was changed; in the book he falls victim to a hunt, whereas in the film he sacrifices himself to a pack of army hounds as a distraction, allowing the two titular dogs to escape (temporarily) on a train. This was NOT changed due to any pressure from pro-hunting groups; neither Richard Admas or his admirers would have tolerated such a move. I imagine it was changed to allow the Tod's death to play a more important part in driving the plot forward, and to show us the wily fox was a noble fellow in the end."
Powerful and deeply moving story
Ratspit | California, United States | 04/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree pretty much with what everyone has already said here about this great film, The Plague Dogs. This is one of, if not thee, most heartbreaking movies I own. Yet, it is so moving and powerful that it's worth going through such viewing pain. It is something that older kids (with care) should probably see. A lot of life lessons can be learned from this movie, such as the cruelty of man and life, and the need to respect living things and treat them with care. I would not describe this movie as preachy either. Just a real sad, moving story, very emotional. There is a funny bit or two as well. Look for a dog peeing at a gas station or something near someone. All in all, I would love to see it come out on dvd. Listen for the voice of Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) as the Major. I think, even though for being made back in 1982, the animation holds up fine.
As for the ending and the March 31, 2005 "Kid's review"... This person does not seem to understand the ending. The ending does not suck (not in the sense that the reviewer remarked). SPOILER ALERT: Yes it does not show them dying, but that was heavily implied IMHO. The two dogs were trapped by the military or police etc., on the shore. The two dogs jump into the ocean and are swimming for their lives, remarking about the lovely (imaginary) island they believe they see off in the distance. The idea and tone is: "yes, just a little further. It's a beautiful place, a place of no pain, a place of wonder, yes, there it is, if we just keep swimming...." Meanwhile they are getting more and more weary, getting further out into the ocean, and are running out of strength. The point was they had ran out of hope, options and strength, and they died reaching out for unobtainable peace and love. THE VERY PEACE AND LOVE these two dogs should have had to begin with and that we should treat all pets with. It's very sad, but is meant to inspire a good point. See it if you can, and never forget it. It's very memorable."
An Animated Animal Movie with Bite
Brian Markowski | Cedar Rapids, IA | 05/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's easy to look at the cover of the movie "Plague Dogs" and then call the kids into the living room for an enjoyable Sunday matinee. There is a deceptive nature to the beautiful hand drawn animation of cute little animals that harkens back to the golden age of Disney animation. This would be a mistake however for it's that very deceptive quality to "Plague Dogs" that makes this film such a treat for adults and a rather disturbing nightmare for children.
Like it's predecessor "Watership Down" (another Richard Adams book made into an animated feature by director Martin Rosen), "Plague Dogs" is a very adult tale about animals in jeopardy. In "Watership..." it was a small group of rabbits in search of a safe home. "Plague Dogs" is the story of two dogs who escape from a testing laboratory. Together they are desperate to find safety and a life free of abuse and pain. The smaller dog (Snitter) having just had brain surgery, is a smart but tortured animal. Rowf, is a dog mentally and physically beaten by repeated drownings. Together they search for peace, but peace does not come easily on an empty stomach and the many pastures of sheep are too tempting for the two dogs to pass up. As sheep carcasses begin to pile up local farmers begin to make the connection that the testing laboratory may have had something to do with the two wild dogs that are roaming their land. When it's discovered that the laboratory was working with Bubonic plague, the dogs are marked for death.
Ultimately "Plague Dogs" is an adventure tale; however, director Martin Rosen uses the bleak storyline to propel a theme of hopelessness. Snitter and Rowf and undesirables, cast out by bad luck and bad timing. The society that they find themselves in is unable to fully understanding their situation and their destruction is a simply seen as a more effective way of dealing with them. The ending in particular has our two furry antagonists in questionable straights.
Such a film would not play well today, nor did it play that well in this country 25 years ago. It asks too many questions, pushes too many cringe inducing buttons, and often doesn't wait for the passive viewer to catch up. I can't think of one reason why or how a movie like this got made, but it's our great fortune it did. "Watership Down" proves to be a better movie experience but "Plague Dogs" goes where "Watership Down" didn't and we are all the better for it.