Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reel Dogs in Art Week 3

The hero’s journey has been a major theme of Reel Dogs since 1943, when one of the most famed and beloved dog movies of all time was released, Lassie Come Home.

From Lassie to Benji to Bingo, it seems dogs on the big screen are always trying to get somewhere. And it’s always very, very difficult. They’re attacked by wild animals, struck by cars, kidnapped, and abused. They battle against starvation, blizzards, raging rivers, city streets, and animal control officers in their fight to find their people, or simply to stay alive. Here are just a few of these journey hounds celebrated in art:

The modern classic of animal journey movies is Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), a remake of the 1963 film and based on Sheila Burnford’s beloved novel. This sketch portrait of “Chance” (American Bulldog, Sure-Grip’s Rattler) by GoldieRetriever captures the enduring personality behind one of these three unforgettable characters.

Japanese classic Nankyoku monogatari (Antarctica, 1983), follows an epic journey, not of travel, but of survival at the bottom of the world for a sled dog team of fourteen Sakhalin Huskies and one Alaskan Malamute. The heroes of this true story, Taro and Jiro, are painted here by SanctuaryWarrior.

In Fluke (1995), a dog is on a quest to find his family. But he’s not a dog. And it’s not his family. Fluke, seen in this emotive portrait by Wolfinden, is a man reincarnated in a canine body and recalling only flickering images and feelings of his past life. Yet some of those images prompt him to set out in search of that life.

The artwork above is published here by kind permission of the artists; GoldieRetriever, SanctuaryWarrior, and Wolfinden of deviantART.

Watch for more Reel Dogs art next week!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Foreign Film Friday - Snow Cake (2006)

This Canada/UK coproduction is not truly a dog film, but worth a look by any Reel Dogs fans for the costarring mixed breed, "Marilyn," played by Charlie and trained by Sherry Davis.

Snow Cake is the story of a high-functioning autistic woman brought tragic news by a stranger who accidentally becomes a part of her life. A life previously shared closely only with her adult daughter and her dog.

Produced by Revolution Films, Rhombus Media, UK Film Council

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reel Dogs in Art Week 2

Modern dog movies are generally associated with a young audience. Benji and Lassie are deliberately marketed toward children. Even when an adult story is adapted into a dog movie, it’s often kept to a PG rating—such as Marley & Me (2008).

Yet movie dogs can be so much more. From the silver screen Hollywood dog heroes like Luke, Strongheart, Rin-Tin-Tin, and Asta, to the animal horror trend of the 1970s and 1980s, to canine sidekicks in modern comedy and drama, Reel Dogs are truly for all ages and all audiences.

One of the most recognizable icons of the movie dog world for grown-ups is Cujo. This vivid portrait by Christopher-Manuel captures the lovable Saint Bernard turned killer who still chills audiences today. Based on the Stephen King novel, Cujo was released in 1983 after animal horror films had already been through their Hollywood heyday with movies like Jaws (1975), Grizzly (1976), and The Pack (1977).

Some films keep their PG rating without ever really being child’s play: White Fang (1991) is the Walt Disney adaptation of Jack London’s famed wolf-dog novel. This illustration by Inarah shows White Fang (played by the extraordinary Jed) in one of many fights throughout the movie that are brought about by human brutality.

Recently, a German Shepherd Dog once more captured the hearts of adult movie goers in I Am Legend (2007). Samantha (played by Abbey) is captured here by Emlis as "Sam" copilots for her best friend (Will Smith) in this post-apocalyptic drama.

These artists bring vividly to life the fact that dog movies take many forms and tell many stories. Dogs appear in every genre, from horror to sci-fi, and play every imaginable role—from background ambiance to killer to hero to talking alien from outer space. Like life itself, the movies just wouldn’t be the same without them.

The artwork above is published here by kind permission of the artists; Christopher-Manuel, Inarah, and Emlis of deviantART.

Watch for more Reel Dogs art next week!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

In honor of the Feast of Saint Patrick here are a few Irish dog films you might want to consider for your next Reel Dogs movie night:

Lassie (2005)

An Irish co-production starring the world's most famous Rough Collie. Filmed mostly in Ireland, along with Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Man About Dog (2004)

Three Belfast friends and a racing greyhound run into a series of comic and unsavory adventures in this Northern Ireland comedy. Available on PAL DVD.

The Honeymooners (2005)

This USA production was filmed mostly in Ireland and features four different greyhounds to play the part of "Iggy."

Animal Farm (1999)

Another USA production filmed in Ireland, Animal Farm stars Spice, a tri-colored Border Collie, as "Jessie."

Moondance (1995)

With Girlie the Greyhound as "Ishka."

The Matchmaker (1997)

Costarring handsome Border Collie, Murphy, who also appeared in The Last of the High Kings (1996), This Is My Father (1998), the mini-series Amongst Women (1998), and others.

The Snapper (1993)

UK production filmed in Ireland, with Jack Russell Terrier "Famine."

Many of the canines seen in Irish films are provided by Mary Owens and Rita Moloney of Fircroft Dog Training.

For Irish Reel Dogs in not-so-Irish films check out Big Red (1962) and Firehouse Dog (2007):


Friday, March 15, 2013

Foreign Film Friday - Dog Nail Clipper (2004)

Also known as Koirankynnen leikkaaja

Ever seen a motion picture starring a Finnish Spitz? Dog Nail Clipper is a Finnish movie from director Markku Pölönen, filmed in Joensuu, Finland, also a filming location for the classic WWI drama Doctor Zhivago (1965).

Dog Nail Clipper tells the story of a British soldier who suffers a brain injury in World War Two and finds himself in the Finnish countryside looking for work. A friend tells him of the trouble he’s having with his dog’s overlong dewclaws and soon worries of the dog fill his mind as much as the war.

The film is available in the U.S. and Canada with English subtitles on a PAL format DVD.

Produced by Fennada-Filmi

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reel Dogs in Art Week 1

For the next three Wednesdays, we’re exploring dog movies through art.

In 1895 the first film exhibited to a paying audience featured two dogs: Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory a.k.a. La Sortie des usines Lumière (1895). It wasn’t until ten years later that a dog starred in a his own short. Rescued by Rover (1905) was a sensation in Great Britain and the idea of a dog playing a dramatic role in motion pictures was born.

Years later, movie dogs began appearing regularly in short films from New York, then Hollywood. Throughout the 1910s Hollywood dogs were mostly comedic players, from Keystone Teddy to Luke and Brownie. The legendary Charlie Chaplin was one of many stars to recognize the tremendous comic potential of dogs on screen.

This piece from The Champion (1915), by LaurasMuse, shows Chaplin with Bulldog sidekick in one of his early dog films. The Champion was later overshadowed by A Dog's Life (1918) as a true dog centered comedy, juxtaposing a stray dog’s life with that of a human tramp. The Gold Rush (1925) features more comic canines adding laughs throughout the script.

Strongheart was largely responsible for recasting Reel Dogs as dramatic players in the 1920s: heroes of the silver screen who rescued women and children, drove away bad guys, and were wrongly accused of something or other (often sheep killing) in every single film. This portrait sketch of Strongheart is by amberchrome. You can see Strongheart today in one surviving film from the era: The Return of Boston Blackie (1927).

After Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin paved the way for feature films wholly centered around canine characters, dog hero wannabes popped up in nearly every studio. Many did become well known and by the 1930s there were dozens of A- and B-list dog stars and their equally famed trainers.

One of the top Hollywood canines of the 1930s was another comedic actor with an impeccable sense of timing and devilish twinkle in his eye: Skippy, a Wire Fox Terrier, was rechristened Asta after the famous character he played in the Thin Man series. This striking sketch card portrait of Asta is by drewerd.

The artwork above is published here by kind permission of the artists; LaurasMuse, amberchrome, and drewerd of deviantART.

Watch for more Reel Dogs art next week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silent Screen Sunday - Teddy at the Throttle (1917)

This short film stars Keystone's famous comedic actor, Teddy: a Great Dane. Fortunately for the survival of the film, Gloria Swanson costarred beside Teddy and Teddy at the Throttle can now be found on one of her silent film collections on DVD, along with A Hash House Fraud (1915) and The Danger Girl (1916).

Produced by Keystone Film Company

Keystone's Teddy

Friday, March 8, 2013

Foreign Film Friday - The Lady with the Dog (1960)

Also known as: The Lady with the Little Dog, Dama s sobachkoj, Die Dame mit dem Hündchen, etc.

This 1960 Soviet Union film, featuring a white German Spitz Mittel in a co-starring role, is based on a short story by Russian author Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, first published in 1899. Despite the title, the little dog plays a small role and is primarily used as a means to identify the woman he's with (Iya Savvina). (A feeling so many dog people can relate to today: we remember the name and appearance of the dog, but who is that person attached to the leash?)

Produced by Lenfilm Studio

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reel Dogs Freeze-Frames 15

A Schipperke makes a break for it in Daniel and the Superdogs (2004).

This Smooth Fox Terrier barks a challenge to Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967).

A German Shepherd Dog clears a chain link fence in Man Trouble (1992).