|The British Poster.|
Can a learned response be unlearned? This is the main theme of Samuel Fuller’s 1982 film White Dog (1982), based on Romain Gary’s 1970 novel Chien Blanc; it was made as a metaphor for American racism. Fuller was a director that did not shy away from controversial themes and this film is certainly no exception.
What seems a very bizarre story indeed involves a young aspiring LA actress Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) who accidently hits a white German Shepard dog with her car. Taking it to a vet the dog is none the worse for wear. She decides to keep it when it see’s off an intruder in her home during the animals convalescence. But after the dog kills a black truck driver and attacks a black actress on a film set she realises that the animal has been trained from birth to attack black people on sight! Advised by her boyfriend she takes the dog to the Noah’s Ark animal compound run by Carruthers (Burl Ives) who tells her he can do nothing for the dog and suggests that the dog be put down. But when the black scientist-trainer Keys (Paul Winfield) suggests undertaking the re-education of the ‘white dog’ Julie agrees.
Key’s and Carruthers represent the counterpoints of the racialist argument, Keys believes that racialism can be cured and Carruthers supports the opposing argument, with Julia Sawyer believing, naively, that love will cure anything! The end of the film offers no conclusion but leaves it up to us to decide who is right? With its score by Ennio Morricone, Fuller constructs, from its original source novel, a chillingly different examination of racism.
Paramount Pictures first purchased the rights for the movie in 1975 buts the film was not produced until 1981. Released in France and the UK in 1982, but because of the controversy surrounding the film it was not officially released in the USA until 2008 when The Criterion Collection released the original uncut film on DVD.