As much as I love AMORES PERROS now, I was initially reluctant to see it when it first came out. The depiction of dog fighting caused controversy in Britain which lead to an additional caption being added to reassure audiences that no harm had come to the animals. Anticipating the concern, the production company included footage of how the dog fighting scenes were shot in the electronic press kits. The dogs were actually ‘playing’ and wore transparent braces to prevent any harm. It’s the intensity of the editing and the construction of the mis-en-scene (sorry, blame Andy) that causes the squeamishness.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not someone who falls for mawkish-mutts at the movies. LASSIE COME HOME (1943), OLD YELLER (1957) turn me cold. Sorry Mrs Dirk, but MARLEY AND ME (2008) is awful. Dogs die. Get over it.
I’ve never been a fan of the anthropomorphisation of animals either. My mum was an old-school nursery nurse who didn’t like the ideas of animals talking and wearing clothes. She thought that Beatrix Potter was awful and even frowned upon Johnny Morris.
There is a proud history of dogs appearing in movies and there have even been canine super-stars from the early period, such as Rin Tin Tin in a series of films beginning with WHERE THE NORTH BEGINS (1922), and right up until the gormless BEETHOVEN (1992).
When I asked Dom-Dirk for some suggestions he went for scotties and corgis. Humphrey Bogart has a Scottie in STAND-IN (1937) as does Shirley Temple in OUR LITTLE GIRL (1935) and we shouldn’t forget Woody’s robot one in SLEEPER (1973). Angela Lansbury has a corgi when she’s playing Elvis’ mum in BLUE HAWAII (1961).
His favourite dog films are the ones that have more bite. Sorry, there was no room for the dog in YOJIMBO (1961) who was so sinister that Lynch had the same image appear in WILD AT HEART (1990). Never mind, here are Dom-Dirk’s Five:
1) LAUGHING GRAVY (Horne, US, 1931)
Laurel and Hardy are snowbound in a boarding house with a landlord who has a strict ‘no pets’ policy. There are various hilarious slapstick routines as they try to hide their dog. Stan’s hiccoughs provoke the dog to bark and the ensuing mayhem is very funny. Best dog name ever?
2) THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (Lanfield, US, 1939)
The definitive version of the story with Basil Rathbone, however the Hammer version is funnier.
3) KEEP YOUR SEATS PLEASE (Banks, UK, 1936)
The film is more famous for featuring Formby’s signature tune ‘The Window Cleaner’, but there is a very funny scene involving a dog that he tries to disguise as a goat.
4) THE WIZARD OF OZ (Fleming, US, 1939)
Every road movie needs a travelling companion and the ultimate road movie has the ultimate buddy: Toto is the element that makes Dorothy feel like a little girl.
5) PINK FLAMINGOS (Waters, US, 1972)
Probably the most notorious scene featuring a dog is the ‘how much is that doggie in the window’ moment in PINK FLAMINGOS. Set in Waters’ home town of Baltimore it revolves around the eccentric life and family of transvestite diva Divine. The epilogue features Divine picking up a freshly produced dog turd. She pops it in her mouth before munching and gagging.
Its the moment that underground cinema went to the dogs.