Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Monster Dog
Genre: When Animals Attack
Tagline: The fear… the terror… the nightmare… they will never forget it!!!
Released by: Trans World Entertainment
Director: Claudio Fragasso
Plot: Pop rocker Vince Raven journeys back to his hometown to shoot his latest music video with a small production crew. Upon arrival they are warned by the local police that there have been several murders reported recently where the victims bodies have been torn to shreds by a pack of wild dogs. But Vince knows that a terrible family secret could be the problem and only he can stop it.
Thoughts: I feel that watching the right bad movie with the right people can be an experience that sometimes borders on mentally orgasmic. We all have our favorite cinematic atrocities and Tommy Wiseau wouldn’t be the household name he’s become if folks weren’t responding to this trend of reveling in “bad cinema.” The recent popularity of stuff like The Room, Birdemic and the forthcoming Alamo Drafthouse release of the amazing “lost” bad movie classic Miami Connection, reminds me of those old SNL sketches with Dan Aykroyd where he played Leonard Pinth-Garnell, the host of a weekly program that appreciated bad art of all kinds. One week it would be called “Bad Ballet” and the next it would be called “Bad Opera.” I believe they even did a “Bad Cinema” sketch once. Monster Dog is so terrible it’s almost unwatchable if you’re alone, but if you’re in the right mood and surrounded by like-minded people it can be a truly sublime experience.
The original shock-rocker Alice Cooper stretches his acting chops by playing a pop star named Vincent Raven, who returns home with a small film crew and his hot girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera) – a producer who wants to shoot a new music video in the old mansion he grew up in. They are greeted by the local sheriff who tells them that murderous packs of dogs are roaming the area and killing people! The lawman seems a little bit suspicious of Vince and mentions something cryptic about his long departed father which makes the superstar very upset.
To make matters worse, Vince accidently hits a dog with their van. While the group inspects the damage, a battered old cook steps out of the fog to tell them that they’ve unleashed the monster’s fury and all will soon die as a result. He then retreats into the darkness and is attacked by a snarling beast of some sort.
They hightail it back to the gothic old mansion on a hill that Vince grew up in. Before long, we discover that Vince’s father was murdered by a group of crazed townsfolk because the locals accused him of being a werewolf. Why he would want to return here to shoot a rock video is beyond me, but that’s the plan regardless.
An armed posse of the same roughnecks that were responsible for his father’s lynching come looking for Vince, but the musician easily dispatches them all with one of the many shotguns he keeps on hand. But nothing can stop the monster dog from coming after all of them! As each crewmember is viciously attacked by the hellhound, the suspicion turns to Vince and whether or not he has inherited his dad’s cursed condition. Could he be the monster dog? One thing for sure, this pissed-off pooch needs to be put to sleep pronto!
The film was made by the Italian bad cinema auteur Claudio Fragasso, who gave us the fantastically awful Troll 2 among others. In typical fashion it’s terribly written, directed and acted. Someone other than Alice Cooper dubs his voice and it’s very obvious and awesomely silly. Rumor has it that Cooper agreed to make the film because it was supposed to only be released in the Philippines, but to his chagrin it ended up in video rental shops from Maine to California. It features two original songs by Cooper entitled, “Identity Crisis” and “See Me In The Mirror.” They’re both really, really bad.
The special effects are so lame; you never once get a clear shot of what the monster dog looks like. I think they were unable to make a complete puppet because you only see the front quarter of the creature at a time and the lighting is purposefully dark, so that you can’t get a good glimpse at it. It must’ve looked really cheap.
I watched this movie for the first time late one night with a group of friends at an independent theater here in L.A. after hours. It was projected off of VHS onto the big screen and everyone was drunk enough and giddy enough to have a really great time with it. It’s a beer-party gem and a good movie to make fun of. I’m not a huge fan of audiences turning out their own MST3K experiences, but this one was made for it. In the words of Dan Aykroyd’s SNL character, “Splendidly awful! It really bit the big one! Bravo!”
CHECK OUT THE OPENING VINCE RAVEN MUSIC VIDEO FOR MONSTER DOG:
Note: a “company” calling itself Jef Films has released this movie as a bootleg DVD. It is nothing more than a bad VHS transfer onto disc. The film has not yet received the digital remaster it would need to officially consider it a DVD release. The analog source is superior in sound and quality to the dub, thereby making it still only available on VHS and therefore eligible for review under my one rule.