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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » It Shouldn't Happen To A Dog (Fox Cinema Archives)
It Shouldn't Happen To A Dog (Fox Cinema Archives)
Fox Cinema Archives // Unrated // December 16, 2014
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted January 31, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Pleasingly silly B effort, with the delightful Allyn Joslyn in top form. 20th Century-Fox's Cinema Archives line of hard-to-find library and cult titles has released It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog, the 1946 crime comedy directed by Herbert I. Leeds, and starring Carole Landis, Allyn Joslyn, Margo Woode, Henry Morgan, Reed Hadley, Jean Wallace, Roy Roberts, John Ireland, John Alexander, and Rodney the Dog. Fast-paced and funny anytime expert farceur Allyn Joslyn is running around and pulling a face, It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog's quick, efficient pleasures are easy to take. No extras for this sharp fullscreen black and white transfer.

WWII veteran Henry Barton (Allyn Joslyn) has a problem. While away in the war, his police beat on The New York Record was given to female reporter, Bess Williams (Jean Wallace). Barton's editor, Mitchell (Roy Roberts), has "promoted" Barton to "Science Editor," a position Barton despises...especially since he can't make heads or tails of his latest assignment: atomic energy. Anxious to get a scoop on the notorious Valentine case--so Mitchell will have no choice but to give him back his crime beat--Barton gets a tip on Olive Stone (Margo Woode), the girlfriend of Chester Frye (Whit Bissell). And who is Chester Frye? He's the missing accountant for gangster Mike Valentine (Reed Hadley)--the key witness against Valentine in a stalled income tax trial. Barton locates Stone's old room, and rents it, finding a photo of her. Showing the picture around the neighborhood, trying to locate her (and thus, Frye), Barton goes to Nick's Bar & Grill, asking about Stone, when one of Valentine's gunsels, Gus (Harry Morgan), overhears and hightails it out of there. Just as he leaves, beautiful blonde Julia Andrews (Carole Landis) enters with Rodney (Rodney the Dog), an equally beautiful 80lb Doberman Pinscher and veteran of the war. Asking for scraps for her dog, Nick (Ralph Sanford) reluctantly agrees, but when the lights suddenly go out, Julia and Rodney are gone...and so is seventy bucks out of Nick's till. Newspaper man Barton smells a terrific headline--"Dog Raids Icebox For Bones!"--and calls the city desk. Unfortunately, after the story goes to print, Barton finds out that the money was innocently taken by drunk off-duty cop Joe Parelli (John Alexander), who swiped Nick's money as an April Fool's joke. Desperate to keep the story alive, Barton convinces Nick and Joe to continue the dog robber lie, but what soon follows is an ever-increasingly complicated set of misunderstood circumstances, with Barton and pooch Rodney running for their lives.

I have to write that even though there have been problems over the years with some of Fox's Cinema Archives releases in terms of their later widescreen titles' aspect ratios, I love that so many older, forgotten, "marginal" Bs like It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog are getting released. Thinking back on some of these Bs that I've really enjoyed over the past few weeks, I noticed that the name "Herbert I. Leeds" was frequently popping up in the director's credit--first a couple of brisk Lloyd Nolan efforts that caught me off guard (Manila Calling and Just Off Broadway), and now this amusing, fast-paced crime comedy starring a favorite, Allyn Joslyn, and a well-trained, photogenic pooch. I don't know much about Leeds' career--from what I've read, his apprenticeship as an editor may have been key to his later speedy directorial efforts--but he's 3 for 3 with me so far, and I'll be on the lookout for more of his sharp, entertaining movies.

Based on a short story by mystery writer Edwin Lanham, and scripted by Eugene Ling (Shock, Port of New York) and Frank Gabrielson (Something for the Boys, lots of episodic television), It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog's hair-brained, cynical dashes back and forth as Joslyn tries to juggle one lie or dodge after another to save his hide and solve the case, are nicely assured, and carefully put together with an A-level confidence. For this kind of farce, the key to the material working--the constant lying and hustling to keep the ever-enveloping charade still going--depends on if we start getting as confused and caught up in Joslyn's shenanigans as he does. And, more importantly, are we laughing as he digs himself in deeper and deeper with his schemes (the more logically ridiculous, the better), while he still manages to fall ass-backwards into solving the crime? Ling and Gabrielson properly manage that amusingly frenetic build in the story, while director Leeds keeps the actors moving, moving, moving in the frame, talking fast through the constant plot twists, while just simply getting on with it all. Smart lines run throughout It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog (I particularly liked the finale, when the crooks are caught and Joslyn and Landis pledge their love for each other, a listening hood grimaces and complains, "Hey, do we have to get pinched and listen to this, too?"), while we get a glimpse of that long-gone breezy, brash, pre-P.C. America, where prank-playing drunken cops, sentimental dog-loving murderous hoods, and lying, scheming, chiseling newspapermen, still got un-ironic laughs in the movies.

The cast is nicely balanced, as well, with the pros like Morgan, Roberts, and Alexander getting hoots without doing anything (I also enjoyed Rodney the Dog, trained apparently by Lassie's owners; he's used well here: not for cutesy-pie effect...but rather as the smartest "person" in the whole group). I wish I saw here the vivacious, sexy Landis I've seen in earlier efforts, but clearly there's some discernible reserve to her performance in this B...perhaps because she knew her career was heading nowhere at Fox (after an unhappy affair with the boss, Darryl Zanuck, she was dumped into low-profile outings like this one--she'd be a notorious suicide in just two years). Joslyn, however, more than makes up for Landis' caution. A particular favorite of mine, supporting player Joslyn rarely got a lead slot (even though he gets the most screen time, he's still second-billed to Landis), but here, he's letter-perfect as a sour-puss reporter whose lies and scams keep him right on the edge of getting fired, kissed, or plugged. You can't learn how to be naturally funny like Joslyn: you either are, or you aren't, and he is, getting laughs just by sighing in exasperation or scrambling with an insincere compliment so as not to get whacked. At the end of It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog, Landis believably spits out some slang to the crooks--"Drop the roscoe or I'll fill yer belly fulla lead! "--before Joslyn takes a perfect two beat pause and bitchily deadpans, "Such language." Reminding me, somehow, of a more sophisticated-yet-weary version of Charlie Chase, when Joslyn gets an earful of Rodney's licking, and mistakes it for Landis kissing him, he exclaims, "Oh honey, you're wonderful!" in such unrestrained--and perverted--joy that even Landis can't keep a straight face. What a shame he didn't get more chances to headline his own vehicles...particularly if they had been as well-crafted and amusing as this one.

The Video:
The fullscreen, 1.37:1 black and white transfer for It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog looks quite sharp, with nice blacks, good contrast, and little grain.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track has low (and expected hiss), that shouldn't bother anyone used to these older titles. No subtitles or closed-captions.

The Extras:
No extras for It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog.

Final Thoughts:
Expert silliness. With an amusingly sardonic script, sharp one-liners, a breathless plot, and solid performers anchored by gifted, hilarious Allyn Joslyn, It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog is one little B comedy gem that any fan of the genre will want to seek out. I'm highly, highly recommending It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published movie and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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