Starring Kristy McNichol, Paul Winfield, Burl Ives, Jameson Parker, Parley Baer
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Expectations: Very high.
Racism is a learned behavior, but the interesting thing about the racism presented in White Dog is that dogs don’t see color lines. Late one night on a dark road, Julie (Kristy McNichol) hits a white dog with her car and takes it in. She falls in love with it, but soon she learns that the seemingly sweet dog is actually a “white dog,” trained specifically to attack black people. Fuller explored different aspects of racism throughout his career, and in White Dog, Fuller distills racism down to its core, vicious elements. There is no thought or human element involved in the dog’s decisions, he represents racism itself manifested as man’s best friend. But dogs are known for their capacity to learn, so the main drive of White Dog is whether or not this dog can be re-trained to accept black people as non-threatening.
If the core idea of White Dog seems somewhat outlandish and exaggerated, it is. Fuller uses melodrama and symbolism to skillfully tell his story, eliciting deep moments of thought and visceral response amidst what could also be described as a slasher film with a racist dog as the slasher. This bouillabaisse will definitely turn some people off, but for those willing to brave its depths, White Dog proves itself to be highly cinematic and deeply affecting. Fuller was always interested in pushing boundaries and confronting the audience with the harsh realities of the world that surrounded them, and the extreme moments of melodrama work perfectly to convey the stark themes of White Dog.