If you're old enough to remember begging to stay up late in the late 1970s, then you're probably somewhat familiar with the term Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. And no, it's not about a mass-produced pastry snack that you'll find at your corner supermarket.
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (damn, it's fun just to type it!) is a made for TV horror flick that aired on Halloween Night, 1978. It's notable in that it stars the always-cool Richard Crenna, the lovely yet difficult-to-pronounce Yvette Mimieux*, both of the Witch Mountain kids, and a really cute German Shepard pooch who, you guessed it, is the actual canine spawn of doggie Satan. Or something like that.
(*To me she'll always be the scantily-clad super-hottie from the original Time Machine.)
Barely over their brief moment of sorrow for a family dog found dead in the street, the Barrys welcome Lucky the Puppy into their Bradyesque home. Unfortunately the kids neglect to tell Mom & Dad that Lucky was given to them by character actor R.G. Armstrong, which (as everyone knows) means that the dog must be evil in some way, shape or form.
And boy is he. Lucky kills nosey neighbors and their Marmaduke mutts, inspires Mr. Barry to consider sticking his hand into a powered-up lawn mower, and also turns Mrs. Barry into a serious slut. Seriously, the dog somehow turns a suburban soccer mom into a cheating whore; it'd be creepy if it weren't so stupid.
And there, schlock-fans, is the all-encompassing truism regarding Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell: It could be pretty creepy ... if it weren't so darn stupid.
Let's start with the dog. It's a plain old dog. He's entirely adorable and sweet. How this pooch is meant to caninify the pinnacle of all things evil, I've no idea. It's a dog.
Then there's the magical stuff. Tell me the movie's about a satanic dog who eats people and I'm right there with you. Tell me the movie's about a dog who can inspire a woman to sleep around and two kids to finger-paint evil images before morphing into a mega-matte painting dog-creature with a Liza Minnelli wig on its head ... and I'm lost. Devil Dog has officially shifted over into the surrealist category.
Which is why, I suppose, the movie's being released on DVD in the first place. There's a lot of fun-loving horror fans who enjoy nothing more than pulling the bong out of the closet, ordering a pizza, and spinning Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell while pointing, laughing, and mind-boggling at the sheer awfulness of the onscreen presentation. Truly "so bad it's good," Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell is funnier than most of what passes for actual comedy these days.
"'Camp' is failed seriousness," said Pauline Kael, and that quotation fits this ungainly tv-flick to a tee. You can actually sense that the filmmakers are going for a serious tone and a straight face, which makes the resultant mass so much more blissfully appealing. Plus I can guarantee you that this is the first time Pauline Kael has ever been quoted in a review of Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, so you just know we're dealing with high-end radioactive movie-cheese of the dizziest order.
Video: The strangeness just keeps on coming. On the one hand, the full frame transfer is just sparklingly crisp and clean and colorful. Seriously! I was truly impressed by how solid this forgotten old turkey looked ... but in a few scenes (mainly the ones dealing with the hilariously chintzy special effects) the flick kicks right back into Grunge & Grainfest 1978. Weird.
Audio: The original mono track, in your choice of English or ... Italian? Yep. Italian.
Extras: On the same disc as the movie you'll find a collection of trailers for Just Before Dawn, Frankenstein's Bloody Terror, The Being, Syndicate Sadists, as well as Fangoria International's Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante, Hiruko, Rojo Sangre, and Choking Hazard.
But get this: There's a second disc! Yes, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, a made-for-TV cheesefest horror flick from 1978 ... has earned itself a full-bore 2-disc special edition from the fine schlock-merchants at Media Blasters. And you guys thought the Limited Edition Supergirl DVDs were silly.
Anyway, disc 2 offers a 15-minute audio interview with director Curtis Harrington, in which the clearly riled-up septuagenarian trashes network television, labels other filmmakers "vulgar and crass," refers to Devil Dog as "the worst TV-movie ever made," pats himself on the back a whole lot, and closes by opining that David Lynch and Tim Burton are the only working filmmakers worth a damn. Interviewer Eric Eichelberger keeps the filmmaker rambling, and it makes for a pretty colorfully entertaining interview.
To the Devil a Dog is a (cleverly-titled) 73-minute retrospective documentary that consists of three interview segments, one that's short & sweet, and two that are akin to mental root canal.
Producer Jerry Zeitman rambles on regarding Richard Crenna, the screenwriters, the dog, the end product ... and the possibility of a new remake and/or sequel?!?! This from a guy who produced one of the stupidest TV-movies ever made and hasn't had his name on a film since 1981? Odd. The friendly old guy clearly seems to be under the massive delusion that people actively LIKE Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, when in fact we're all just giggling at its ineptitude. The DVD producers clearly share my sentiments, because every time Mr. Zeitman says the words "Devil Dog," a little animated flame-burst dances across the producer's belly. Cute. Don't bother sticking around for the second half of the interview, which consists of non-stop name-dropping and a litany of "projects I'm gonna do soon, by Jerry Zeitman."
Actress Kim Richards is next on the Q&A circuit, and her eterno-chatter will run you about 30 merciless minutes. Topics include Crenna, the director, the cast, the make-up, the dogs, her work in The Car and Meatballs Part 2 and Tuff Turf and the fun and the work and the blahblahzzzzz... Either Kim needs to stop yammering or the Media Blasters boys need to get a little tougher with those scissors, because large sections of this interview made me want to scream at the top of my lungs and pluck my eyeballs clean out. This chick just, keeps, talking. Oh, but you just haven't lived until you've heard Kim Richards' "How One Time I Sliced My Toe on a Lawn Sprinkler" story. (Bizarre trivia note: Kim played the little girl who got shot in the chest in Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13.)
The third interview subject is actor Ike Eisenmann, who worked with Ms. Richards previously on Escape to & Return from Witch Mountain. Ike seems a helluva lot more grounded and less self-adoring than Ms. Richards, and he's plainly aware of the silliness surrounding Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.
Also included is a new promotional trailer for Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, a photo gallery and text interview from actress Martine Beswick (she plays one of the head satanists / dog-breeders), and a director's filmography.
Rounding out the supplemental platter is a 23-minute easter egg that features MORE of Kim Richards as shares a long and blathering story about something funny that happened while she was shooting a sitcom back in 1979 before launching into an amazingly obtuse and self-obsessed rant. One doesn't need to be a psychiatrist to diagnose Kim with a serious case of "late-career stage-mom-itis."
It's The Omen with a dog. It's Fido-men. It definitely won't scare you, and it'll probably make you laugh (a lot), but at the very least it's got Crenna, Armstrong, Satan, and a few puppies. Sure, they're satanic puppies who'll brainwash your families, kill your neighbors, and turn your wives into sluts, but ... they're so damn cute. Who wouldn't want a satanic puppy?