Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#173. The Plague Dogs (1982) - Spotlight on England

Directed By: Martin Rosen

Starring: John Hurt, Christopher Benjamin, James Bolam

Trivia:  The second animated feature to be based on a Richard Adams novel, and the second to feature the voices of John Hurt and Nigel Hawthorne. The first was Watership Down

The Plague Dogs is the animated adventure of...well...a couple of dogs!

Rowf (voiced by Christopher Benjamin) and Snitter (John Hurt) have escaped an animal testing lab, where they were subjected to a series of brutal experiments. Each day, Rowf was thrown into a pool of water to see how long he could survive without drowning, and Snitter had recently undergone brain surgery. Finally free of this nightmare existence, the dogs set out to rid themselves of the memories of their past. 

Unfortunately, life inside the lab has left them ill-equipped to survive in the outside world. Following a disastrous encounter with some sheepdogs, the two join forces with a wily fox (James Bolam), who shows them how to live off the land. 

But survival in this area of Britain requires that they kill sheep for food, and before long, the entire community is in an uproar. Hunted and hungry, the dogs struggle to pull through, all the while wondering if death would be a welcome release from their troubles. 

Despite the fact that much of the film's action takes place in the picturesque highlands of Great Britain, the animation style of The Plague Dogs remains muted and drab, with a distinct lack of color. This, coupled with the tragic twists that befall the two dogs on their adventures, works towards building - and then maintaining - a dark, dispirited tone. Even when the dogs escape the hell of their clinic, there's no sunshine to greet them, no natural beauty welcoming them with open arms. The world outside is just as fierce and dangerous as the one they are fleeing, and they are as out of place in this reality as they were in the last.

A dramatically intense motion picture, The Plague Dogs is not an easy watch, but it's a movie I recommend all the same.

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