Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
This overcooked crime soufflé was directed by three official and a fourth rumored director, yet maintains a distinct style: Random chaos. This is the infamous Jayne Mansfield vehicle where she starts every third sentence with the exclamation, "Crackers!" and writes ecstatic on a bed under a hail of stolen banknotes, while a bouncy pop tune suitable for TV's Batman plays. Basically the story of a group of thieves murdering each other to gain possession of the loot, Dog Eat Dog breaks no new ground as either a drama or a heist film. It didn't turn out to be the brass ring to energize Mansfield's sagging career. But it is not boring!
Thief Dolph Kostis (Ivor Salter) has successfully stolen a million dollars and is trying to eliminate his confederates. He pushes Lylle Corbett (Cameron Mitchell) over cliff, only to find that his moll Darlene (Jayne Mansfield) has spilled the beans to Livio Morelli (Pincus Braun), the boyfriend of hotel manager Madame Benoit (Isa Miranda). Dolph and Darlene escape to a small island, but under the gun of Lylle, who has survived his fall and also kidnapped the beautiful Sandra (Dodie Heath). At a villa on the island they meet more people tempted by the treasure hunt. The weird old woman Xenia (Elisabeth Flickenschildt) speaks in riddles about "the Emperor", but her butler Janis (Werner Peters) catches on immediately and goes after the cash. Soon the villa is littered with corpses. "Crackers!" -- what to do?
As jaw-dropping camp Dog Eat Dog can't be bettered - writers Robert Bloomfield and Robert Hill pepper the dialogue with soft-headed hardboiled zingers like "Your mother must have made love with an elephant!" and "What a party. No dough, enough stiffs for a graveyard, no way out, nobody knows who's next and nobdy knows who's doin' it!" The running time is an endless game of hide the loot while characters run around shooting, pummelling and garotting one another -- or endlessly debating what's going on. Hero Cameron Mitchell goes through the entire picture with a bleeding wound on the side of his face, while Mansfield never gets tired of discussing her underwear: "You know this joint is crawling with bedrooms. You wanna warm one up?"
A European co-production with input from French and West German revenue sources, Dog Eat Dog was filmed on a seaside estate in Yugoslavia. All the roles appear to be redubbed, making everyone's dialogue seem artificial and false -- I don't think Cameron Mitchell is speaking in his own voice and everyone else sounds strange as well. The actors appear to have performed in English.
The camerawork is basically good, especially at night. But the majority of the action occurs in broad daylight. Most of it is fairly ridiculous: When Corbett slams a piano cover on a character's fingers the result looks as if the hand had been jammed down a garbage disposal. Mitchell is constantly called upon to enliven the fake fight scenes. At the end, he tears apart several rooms and breaks at least four large mirrors, indicating that he was a one-take kind of guy.
The intrigues are fairly predictable, as almost all of the conspirators openly state their desire to grab the loot and leave the others in the lurch. Cameron Mitchell keeps pouring out grating one-liners, matched by Mansfield's incessant verbal provocations. The legendary Isa Miranda, the Italian beauty who made two glossy Paramount pix in the late 1930s before returning to fascist Italy, stays behind a hotel bar in a tiny role. Most of the rest of the cast seem to be regulars in German Krimi films. The standout is Werner Peters' crooked butler -- he's best remembered as the oddball intelligence man Hieronymous Balthazar Mistelzweig in Fritz Lang's The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. Ivor Salter's coarse gang leader is rather grating, and the kind of guy you wouldn't trust to mail a letter. Dodie Heath, the innocent among the sharks, had an interesting career of smaller roles in The Diary of Anne Frank, Seconds and The Fortune Cookie.
Darlene: "I'm worried! I don't have an insurance policy!"
Lylle, staring at her chest: "Oh yeah? With all that double indemnity floating around in front of you?"
Dark Sky's DVD of the oddball Eurothriller Dog Eat Dog is a high quality 1:85 letterboxed transfer without 16:9 enhancement. The pristine transfer element yields rich blacks in the night scenes. The soundtrack is a post-dubbed mess, but the music score sounds fine. It's a mix of several styles, all of them interestingly dated. A quirky German nightclub song finds its way into the proceedings, and the go-go music behind Mansfield's 'show me the money' scene really does sound like Neal Hefti with his tongue in his cheek.
The trailer is a good aid for getting the actors linked to the proper cast names - the IMDB is really mixed up on this one. The sloppy English dub on the trailer indicates that it was planned to be released under its original title, When Strangers Meet. Two newsreels with Jayne Mansfield and her husband Mickey Hargitay are included as well. The snappy cover art features a typical chest-out Mansfield pose. Horn-dogs can stop wagging their tails; if the movie had a rating, it would probably be PG.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Dog Eat Dog rates:
Movie: Good --
Video: Excellent but not enhanced
Supplements: Trailer, two newsreels, photo gallery
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 18, 2006
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2006 Glenn Erickson
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