MovieChat Forums > White Dog (1982) Discussion > Question About the Ending... (SPOILER!!!...

Question About the Ending... (SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!)


Firstly, I just want to say that this film completely blew me away. The final frame had me close to tears.
The question I have is this: Why did the dog attack that last guy? I viewed the ending as a ambiguous twist ending and wanted to know if anybody else drew similar conclusions.
When the dog turns to face the fat man at the end, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the man looked a lot like the racist previous owner of the dog, so much so that I shouted it at the screen. So it seemed the implication that the dog attacked him because he looked like the previous owner and his own confused guilt/rage made him want to attack the source of his misguided teachings.
IMO this was intentional but I just wanted to know what others thought

Cheers

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The way I see it is that ultimately the dog's hatred can't be erased, but it can be redirected. So now that the dog is friendly towards blacks, it turns it's anger towards the "other color" because it feels it still has to hate, and because it's been isolated from white for so long.

OF course, the grander statement being made there is that racism can't be eradicated in humans either, only directed at other targets.

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It's what I thought, too. Pretty pessimistic ending, but an interesting one.

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I was expecting that the dog would run towards the woman, or the old man, and then we'd see that he was actually attacking the grandfather, the guy who trained him.

The only reason I can find for his attacking the Burl Ives character was what's already been mentioned above, that the dog was reminded of his trainer. That, at least, was what I was thinking when watching the film. Which I enjoyed. Great being able to see a new (for me) Sam Fuller film.

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The book the movie is based on is drawn from real-life events in the life of its author, Romain Gary--the film is basically an entirely different story inspired by the book, which goes in an entirely different direction, with entirely new characters. In the book, btw, the dog is much more sympathetic--in the end, the message is that we don't deserve the loyalty and trust of such an animal. And we don't. In the movie, Fuller can't resist the temptation to make the dog a living symbol of racism, and a really scary monster. In the book, the monsters are all on two legs, and come in all colors.

I don't want to give anything away--the book is, in my opinion, far superior to the film, which I do admire, but which is afraid to grasp the reality that racism isn't a one-way street, and that it infects and distorts everything it touches.

Point is, the ending in the film isn't at all the ending of the book--Fuller made up that bit of dialogue about how retraining the dog might make him go insane. That isn't what happened--and the dog didn't get shot--and in fact he never severely mauled any black people, though not for want of trying. The one really serious attack--well, that would be giving it away.

I know it's hard to believe, but the movie is actually pretty PC. The NAACP was worried about it because they had problems with the book--which is anti-racist in the extreme, but which doesn't really take it easy on anyone. The problem isn't white people, Gary was saying. The problem is PEOPLE.

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I didn't read the book, but I accept your comparison between it and the film. However, I didn't see the dog in the film as the monster, but rather felt sorry for him, and what he went through. The grandfather was the monster.

I'll try to read the book.

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Why did the dog attack that last guy?

Because as Keys said that the problem with such dogs is that even if you succeed in de-conditioning it there is a danger of it going berserk in rage and violence and attacking everyone in sight.

When the dog turns to face the fat man at the end, I was suddenly struck by the fact that the man looked a lot like the racist previous owner of the dog, so much so that I shouted it at the screen.

I don't see any resemblance between Burl Ives and the guy who played the dog's owner.

So it seemed the implication that the dog attacked him because he looked like the previous owner and his own confused guilt/rage made him want to attack the source of his misguided teachings.

That would work if the dog were anthropomorphic. But White Dog is a Dog.

In any case you missed the bit where Keys describes how White Dogs are conditioned. The owner pays a black vagabond, a junkie. Some black person(s) who are destitute in need of cash to torture the puppy. The owner and his kids treat that dog kindly so that the dog would be loyal to it while the torturers make the dog insane. That's the horrible part behind the white dogs. The white fat bastard of an owner makes black people participate in the victimization and persecution of other black people all the while making the dogs love the very person who paid for the dog to be tortured and abused.

I think White Dog attacked Carruthers(Burl Ives) because in that stage he was only used to people he knew well like Keyes and Julie and Carruthers was someone who was outside his circle. I think that even if he survived that test he would have snapped and attacked strangers. The ideal thing was to simply keep him cooped up in a compound for the rest of it's life, using it for movies or other things under strict control. No way that dog could have become a pet again.



"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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You're right about what the film is trying to say, but in fact no dog behaves that way, and Fuller was basically guessing about how a 'White Dog' is created--it's not specified in the book.

In the book White Dog (who wasn't white in color) is taught to stop being aggressive towards black people--but the guy who retrains him is racist himself, and teaches him to attack white people, as a twisted form of revenge. The dog only breaks down when he realizes he's attacked a white man who he loved--and he dies of grief and despair, because his 'god' (humankind) has failed him. At least that's how Romain Gary saw it, and he actually knew the dog.

You could train a dog to attack all people who wear hats, if you wanted to. It's a simple matter of conditioning. Some dogs are more trainable than others, of course. But the film is basically saying 'racism is the fault of a few bad white people', and the book is saying 'racism is in all of us and we have to fight it inside ourselves before we fight it in the world.'



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...and Fuller was basically guessing about how a 'White Dog' is created--it's not specified in the book.

Samuel Fuller before he became a film-maker was a reporter in the 30s during the Great Depression and covered many race riots, strikes, public displays of violence and he already knew from that period that the Ku Klux Klan trained white dogs, even then. Fuller worked closely with the animal trainer who trained the 5 German Shephers who's edited into one dog. And while the novel obviously gave him the impetus for the story and some of the themes, it's not the film.

The dog only breaks down when he realizes he's attacked a white man who he loved--and he dies of grief and despair, because his 'god' (humankind) has failed him.

Which is irresponsible BS and as Curtis Hanson(the screenwriter) himself pointed out, "another form of racism". A Dog is a Dog, whether it looks at man as it's "God" or not is totally meaningless.

At least that's how Romain Gary saw it, and he actually knew the dog.

It was his wife, Jean Seberg who met with that dog and tried(and failed) to get it retrained. Gary experienced it only second hand. The book also deals with Seberg's own persecution from the FBI(and that evil scumbag J. Edgar Hoover) because of her support for the Black Panthers(which Gary is against and which colours the book). Fuller removed all of that and made an immensely superior film.

But the film is basically saying 'racism is the fault of a few bad white people', and the book is saying 'racism is in all of us and we have to fight it inside ourselves before we fight it in the world.'

Uhh...the film isn't saying that "it's the fault of a few bad white people" but that it's something inherited from an earlier generation. A curse passed from the parent to the children and which the culture absorbs. The film is about the POWER of a few bad white people. They train a dog to attack and maim black people, the rest of mainstream white society has little idea about this whereas black people have always lived with that knowledge. And then it won't stop there. That old man has grandchildren(one of whom is played by Fuller's own daughter Samantha) and naturally he'd pass that hate to them. The film is about the enormous responsibility human beings have to each other and to nature.



"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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Samuel Fuller before he became a film-maker was a reporter in the 30s during the Great Depression and covered many race riots, strikes, public displays of violence and he already knew from that period that the Ku Klux Klan trained white dogs, even then. Fuller worked closely with the animal trainer who trained the 5 German Shephers who's edited into one dog. And while the novel obviously gave him the impetus for the story and some of the themes, it's not the film.


I've read Fuller's entire 500+ page autobiography, "A Third Face" (I was a fan of Fuller's work long before I discovered Romain Gary, after seeing "White Dog" in a theater almost two years ago), and he specifically talks about White Dog, and how he had read Gary's story (perhaps the Life Magazine digested version, as opposed to the book) before he was approached about adapting it--and he doesn't say anything terribly specific about his research or past relevant experiences. In fact, when writing earlier in the book about an article he did about the Klan as a young reporter, he makes no mention of dogs at all. I would think that if he'd had any direct experience with 'white dogs', he'd have brought it up in his memoirs.

Obviously the Klan was not using black heroin addicts to train dogs in the 1930's, so that does not come from Fuller's own experiences--he'd have certainly mentioned that in his very long and revealing personal memoir. There's no question that police dogs were conditioned to be aggressive towards black people in the south, and some very aggressive tracking dogs were used to hunt escaped slaves before the Civil War--but honestly, they could pick up on the fear and hate from their handlers, without the methods referred to in the film.

Gary never found out exactly how White Dog was trained--he just knew he was trained by a man and his son who worked for a southern police department. Which is quite bad enough.

Which is irresponsible BS and as Curtis Hanson(the screenwriter) himself pointed out, "another form of racism".


I'd like to know the exact quote from Hanson, and its context. Is that from the Criterion DVD? There was nothing racist about Gary's book, and given that Hanson and Fuller's script was widely denounced as racist, it's rather hypocritical of Hanson to say that. Assuming he did.

A Dog is a Dog, whether it looks at man as it's "God" or not is totally meaningless.


Then why do the movie? It's about a dog. It's much more about the dog than most of Gary's book, which is much more about racist PEOPLE. Gary doesn't literally mean to say the dog worshipped people as gods--merely that the dog assumed his trainers, who he would see as pack leaders, had good reasons for making him attack black people. But then he was conditioned to attack white people and ended up attacking Gary himself (in the book). He recognizes Gary, who he loves--and stops his attack, running off in confusion and horror.

Gary said the look in the dog's eyes was what "The End of Everything" would look like. He ran home, and died on Gary's doorstep. To me, that's more powerful than just shooting the dog because he went crazy. The ending of the film makes no sense, and just leaves the viewer in despair. The ending of the book, which focuses on the enduring love of a white Frenchwoman Gary meets who has married a black American, and stands by him when he's imprisoned for being a deserter--and had a child with him, who is of both races--that shows us there is hope. And there was hope. Hope just elected us a new President.

It was his wife, Jean Seberg who met with that dog and tried(and failed) to get it retrained. Gary experienced it only second hand.


Not according to the book--again, I'd like to know your source for this. You've read the book? Reliable biographical information about Gary is hard to come by, at least in English.

I know Gary's novel isn't exactly what happened--he says so--but he also says everything about the dog, as opposed to the people, is accurate. Gary had a long history of getting involved with animals, and defending them from human persecution and insanity. Fuller didn't, and simply was less interested in what the dog was experiencing--to him, the dog was just a symbol of racism, not a person. I think this is problematic for the film, because the dog can't really stand in for human racists who attempt to rationalize their prejudices--but we barely see any human racism in the film.

The book also deals with Seberg's own persecution from the FBI(and that evil scumbag J. Edgar Hoover) because of her support for the Black Panthers(which Gary is against and which colours the book). Fuller removed all of that and made an immensely superior film.


The book was an international bestseller, that reached a lot of people during a time when it really mattered. The film, which I do admire (though it's very far from Fuller's best work), has been seen by very few people. There's only one racist in it, and we see him for about three minutes.

Uhh...the film isn't saying that "it's the fault of a few bad white people" but that it's something inherited from an earlier generation.


But then why not show how black people also inherited it? That it's a human problem, not just a white problem? Fuller resorted to easy stereotypes, and easy answers, because he was more interested in the visuals.

When Gary met the man who trained Batka (the white dog), he found that he was a handsome well-built charming southern gentleman--and this made his racism more chilling. Fuller turns him into Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke. It's less effective--and less true.

A curse passed from the parent to the children and which the culture absorbs.


But it can also be passed from victimizer to victim. And the dog was the ultimate victim. Because he wasn't racist. He couldn't even understand the concept of race. He was just doing what he was trained. He could have just as easily been trained to attack people wearing hats. But he wouldn't start attacking white people because a black man had retrained him to stop attacking black people. Dogs don't think like that. In the book, he's been carefully retrained to attack white people--it's an intentional result, created by a black animal trainer who has been warped by the racism he's experienced, and is using the dog for revenge. That's a more interesting story, because it shows that this is truly a human problem, and that we're all the victims. Including the dogs.

The film is about the POWER of a few bad white people.


But racism doesn't just come from a few bad white people. If all white people vanished tomorrow, racism would live on. And if all nonwhite people vanished tomorrow, white racists would just find somebody else to hate. It's not just a few people, or one race. It's in all of us.

They train a dog to attack and maim black people, the rest of mainstream white society has little idea about this


The rest of mainstream society wasn't watching the civil rights protests on TV? It never saw Bull Connor's dogs? There's a reason Gary's novel sold so well--but by the 1980's, all that overt racism had died down, and become less obvious, and Fuller's film seemed out of date--except to European audiences, who were all too happy to talk about American racism, and forget about their own. Gary didn't let them off the hook so easily--he talked about French racism against blacks in his novel.

whereas black people have always lived with that knowledge.


But there's only one important black character in the movie, and we learn about white dogs from a character played by Burl Ives. And frankly, I doubt there are very many black people today who have either heard of Fuller's film, Gary's book, or 'white dogs'. In fact, most of the black people I know personally are really serious dog lovers. And that's how I came to be friends with them. Dogs are much more a force for tolerance than racism.

And then it won't stop there. That old man has grandchildren(one of whom is played by Fuller's own daughter Samantha) and naturally he'd pass that hate to them. The film is about the enormous responsibility human beings have to each other and to nature.


I'd agree with that, but it's so generic. It could apply to any number of other films. Including the film adaptation of Romain Gary's "The Roots of Heaven", which is very specifically about our responsibilities towards ourselves and nature. And honestly--are dogs part of nature? They're domesticated animals, members of society, as much as we are. We're ALL animals. But only humans need to come up with excuses for disliking other animals.

Now please--sources for the quotes you ascribe to Fuller and Hanson. I'm genuinely curious, and it's hard to find information about the novel or the film.

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In fact, when writing earlier in the book about an article he did about the Klan as a young reporter, he makes no mention of dogs at all. I would think that if he'd had any direct experience with 'white dogs', he'd have brought it up in his memoirs.

Not necessarily. You can't mention each and every single thing that happened to you in your memoirs. It's documented in other books about Fuller and interviews. I can't list all the magazines and articles now. But it's easy enough to find.

I'd like to know the exact quote from Hanson, and its context.

Why don't you search it out for yourself. It comes from an audio interview he did a while back, it's somewhere on the internet. This isn't an academic blog and it's not my responsibility to cite all my sources every time. I surf the internet extensively and can't possibly keep track of every single thing I read and heard on it.

There was nothing racist about Gary's book,...

What they considered, as another form of racism(which doesn't make Gary a racist necessarily) is the idea that the only answer was to reprogram the dog to attack whites, essentially still stuck in the same racist code and not going beyond it like the film. In the film it becomes more about the Dog's tendency for violence and aggression and the various ways one can try and temper that(or fail to) which is a far more interesting idea.

...and given that Hanson and Fuller's script was widely denounced as racist, it's rather hypocritical of Hanson to say that.

Excuse me, it wasn't Hanson and Fuller's script that was accused for racism. You love doing research a lot and yet you do not do a whiff of actual research on this film's production? The film was long in development for more than ten years and the film finally got the go-ahead because Don Simpson funded a series of low-budget films to make up for the paucity of films that got interrupted because of a writer's strike. The script Simpson commissioned and which Hanson wrote little of, was an exploitation film revolving around a white blonde goddess being protected by this dog, a premise that was very irresponsibly racist.

The film's producer Jon Davison and Curtis Hanson hated that and were trying to get their names of the credits until Mr. Hanson got the idea of bringing Fuller in. When Fuller came on to the project, he and Hanson thoroughly re-wrote the script, turning a racist exploitation film into an anti-racist film about exploitation(and also about cinema itself, it's set in Beverly Hills after all). The protests which Simpson hope would make the film a success de scandale were simply used as an excuse by him to shelve the film. Obviously if after drumming support for an explosive, controversial film people finally saw an anti-racist film like White Dog then that would make him look bad.

But then why not show how black people also inherited it?

Because the film is not obsessed with racism. Racism is an artificial, induced state of being. It is not at all natural. It comes from insecurity, fear, plain ignorance and indifference to other people and a combination of other factors. For human beings that is. Fuller made a film called The Crimson Kimono that examined it clinically, and here it happens to a Japanese American who thinks his white friend hates him because he's in love with his white girlfriend and Fuller's point is that the Japanese guy is a moron and simply acting out on his insecurities and using that as self-justification.

In any case, Spike Lee and other black artists and activists have been more eloquent in denouncing racism on their side of the fence than Mr. Romain Gary ever was.

In fact, most of the black people I know personally are really serious dog lovers.

As is Paul Winfield in this film. His character is a scientist, he loves nature and can't stand to see a dog victimized by human insanity. Look at the scene in the Church after the attack there, on the stained glass window is St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. That's how Winfield looks at things as well.

Dogs are much more a force for tolerance than racism.

Depending entirely on who takes care of the pooches.




"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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Not necessarily. You can't mention each and every single thing that happened to you in your memoirs.


No, but you mention RELEVANT things, and it's hard for me to believe Fuller wouldn't have brought it up when he was discussing how he came to make White Dog.

It's documented in other books about Fuller and interviews.


Okay, which ones?

I can't list all the magazines and articles now. But it's easy enough to find.


That really isn't a satisfactory answer.

Why don't you search it out for yourself.


Neither is that.

It comes from an audio interview he did a while back, it's somewhere on the internet.


Well that certainly narrows things down.

This isn't an academic blog and it's not my responsibility to cite all my sources every time.


That's true, but by the same token, I'm not obliged to assume you've correctly remembered and interpreted what you've read or heard.

I surf the internet extensively and can't possibly keep track of every single thing I read and heard on it.


Nobody asked you to.

What they considered, as another form of racism(which doesn't make Gary a racist necessarily) is the idea that the only answer was to reprogram the dog to attack whites, essentially still stuck in the same racist code and not going beyond it like the film.


I'm very confused by this statement, because that isn't remotely in Gary's book, or the Life magazine article, and I now understand you have read neither, so you are clearly at a disadvantage here.

Gary understood the dog was simply doing what he was trained to do, and because of his deep love for animals in general, and this dog in particular, was unwilling to simply have him put down--he also felt there was value in proving that the dog could learn to love black people. Which in fact he did, but at least in the book, the dog was at the same time reprogrammed to attack white people--without Gary's knowledge.

Now, did that really happen? It's not meant as journalism, but as autobiographical fiction, and Gary admits most of the human characters are composites (for both artistic and rather obvious legal reasons). But whatever did happen, and regardless of whether Gary's interpretation of what happened is accurate (there's always the Rashomon Effect to take into account), in no way shape or form does Gary say that the only way to make the dog stop attacking black people is to make him attack white people. It's made very clear that he only becomes aggressive towards whites because he was intentionally trained to do so, by a black man who has become embittered to the point where he believes it's impossible for the two races to live in peace.

In the novel, Keys expresses his belief that if white people have white dogs, black people need to have black dogs. And never mind what the dogs need. He becomes what he hates, and remakes the dog in his own image. But it's made very clear that Batka, the 'white dog', is quite willing to love both whites and blacks, and is only guilty of being too trusting and willing to do what his trainers tell him to. And that really is how German Shepherd Dogs are, which is why they have such a tragically mingled history of heroism and horror.

It's the movie, NOT the book, which says that if you retrain a 'white dog' to stop attacking black people, he'll snap and start attacking white people. This is pure nonsense from a training standpoint, and it's not in Gary's book at all. It's like saying if a you retrain a pit bull who was conditioned to attack and kill other dogs so that he can be friendly with them, he'll then suddenly become aggressive towards humans. It's poppycock, and it's when Keyes says that in the film that I stop believing in the film.

In the film it becomes more about the Dog's tendency for violence and aggression and the various ways one can try and temper that(or fail to) which is a far more interesting idea.


You might want to consider reading the book before coming to that conclusion, but I've no quarrel with those who prefer the film. It's an interesting film, but in my opinion the book has more to say, and is furthermore amazingly prophetic in many ways. Fuller's movie is kind of a dead end--he says something in an interview about how maybe 50 generations from now, people will look back at white racism against blacks as something utterly incomprehensible. Call me crazy, but I think it's going to take a little less time than that.

Excuse me, it wasn't Hanson and Fuller's script that was accused for racism.


I'm very confused by this statement. I agree that people condemned the film without having seen it (much as you've condemned things in Gary's book without having read it), but it certainly was the scenes of a white dog savaging black people that are in that script which got people upset. And those scenes aren't in Gary's book. If the dog had attacked and injured a black person while he had it (as opposed to snarling and lunging at black people, who he has been trained to believe are threats he is obliged to defend his family from), he'd have shot it himself.

There is an amazing moment in the book where Batka escapes from Gary's car when he isn't looking, and to Gary's horror, approaches a stroller with a black infant in it--and then licks the child's face. That would have been an amazing visual for the film, but instead they imply the dog would kill any black child, when in fact this would be most unlikely to happen. The dog's training wouldn't involve small children, and the dog isn't going to generalize that way--not being human.

You love doing research a lot


I apologize for that.

and yet you do not do a whiff of actual research on this film's production?


I've read Fuller's own account of it in his memoirs, and a few articles--there may be new information available now, which I'd love to know more about--which is why I asked you for specific links, citations, etc--which you failed to provide.

The film was long in development for more than ten years and the film finally got the go-ahead because Don Simpson funded a series of low-budget films to make up for the paucity of films that got interrupted because of a writer's strike. The script Simpson commissioned and which Hanson wrote little of, was an exploitation film revolving around a white blonde goddess being protected by this dog, a premise that was very irresponsibly racist.


Well, I'm certainly glad they didn't make THAT film. None of that is in Gary's book, as I shouldn't have to mention, but probably better anyway.

The film's producer Jon Davison and Curtis Hanson hated that and were trying to get their names of the credits until Mr. Hanson got the idea of bringing Fuller in. When Fuller came on to the project, he and Hanson thoroughly re-wrote the script, turning a racist exploitation film into an anti-racist film about exploitation(and also about cinema itself, it's set in Beverly Hills after all).


I really fail to see how the film is about cinema. Maybe they aspired to that, but it doesn't come across very well. Gary's novel actually has a lot more insights about the entertainment industry, including a rather telling character sketch of Marlon Brando posturing at an anti-racist meeting.

The protests which Simpson hope would make the film a success de scandale were simply used as an excuse by him to shelve the film.


Regardless of WHY the film was shelved, which it should not have been, that doesn't change the fact that people were concerned about elements in the script that were never in Gary's book. The earlier script is irrelevant. Nobody is saying Fuller was a racist. I mean, except in the sense that it was hard NOT to be back then, and to some extent even now. But we're learning.

Obviously if after drumming support for an explosive, controversial film people finally saw an anti-racist film like White Dog then that would make him look bad.


I'm sorry, that's not obvious at all.

Because the film is not obsessed with racism.


Um----????????

Racism is an artificial, induced state of being.


The intellectual rationalization of it, certainly. As Oscar Hammerstein wrote, you have to be carefully taught.

It is not at all natural. It comes from insecurity, fear, plain ignorance and indifference to other people and a combination of other factors. For human beings that is.


This is all very true, and entirely irrelevant to our points of difference.

Fuller made a film called The Crimson Kimono that examined it clinically, and here it happens to a Japanese American who thinks his white friend hates him because he's in love with his white girlfriend and Fuller's point is that the Japanese guy is a moron and simply acting out on his insecurities and using that as self-justification.


And actually, there's been a lot of criticism of that from Asian Americans about the film's rather odd take on Anti-Japanese racism--namely that it only exists in the head of a man who would clearly have observed the forced internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and all kinds of hate directed against Japanese people. Fuller makes no reference to that shameful episode in our history. There are absolutely no white racists in that film.

In any case, Spike Lee and other black artists and activists have been more eloquent in denouncing racism on their side of the fence than Mr. Romain Gary ever was.


Gary was not the first person to say that racism warps everything it touches.

As is Paul Winfield in this film.


Actually, that's not expressed as clearly as I'd like--you never see him working with any other dogs. He is torturing these animals for a really dumb idea--that by proving he can reprogram 'white dogs', he can stop racists from making more of them. That makes absolutely no sense. For one thing, we only hear about ONE such dog. Obviously there have been others in the past, but we don't hear about racist dogs running around attacking black people. For another, how would it deter a racist dog trainer from making 'white dogs' by learning that with a great deal of trouble and pain, a nonracist trainer could undo his training? Every dog trainer knows that training can be undone--in fact, every trainer knows that training has to be constantly reinforced--so by that logic, no trainer would ever bother to train a dog.

A racist who had trained a dog to hate blacks might be personally offended and angry that his training had been reversed--but it wouldn't stop him from just getting another dog and training it the same way.

His character is a scientist


His character is improbable, is what he is--he's too perfect, and it makes no sense somebody with his educational background would be working as an animal trainer.

he loves nature and can't stand to see a dog victimized by human insanity.


But that's exactly what he's doing--victimizing the dog out of an insane compulsion to do something that doesn't need doing. There is no evidence presented in the film that the KKK is training dogs to attack black people. The dog in the book was a police dog, trained by police, and I'll say it again--that's a much more serious indictment of racism in this country than just referring vaguely to some offscreen extremists. We see ONE human racist in the whole film, and he's a very old man. It is horrifying to see him with his grandchildren, and think what he might pass on to them--that image is drawn very directly from Gary's book. But the book makes it clear this isn't some oddball--he's a respected member of his society. That's the real horror.

Look at the scene in the Church after the attack there, on the stained glass window is St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. That's how Winfield looks at things as well.


It's a nice image--one of many in Fuller's work. But it doesn't make up for a story that just doesn't hold together. It's an interesting movie, but not a great one. Fuller's great films are Pick-up on South Street, Shock Corridor, and The Big Red One--maybe a few others. But all of them are interesting and worth seeing in their own right. I just think Gary had a much more sophisticated take on racism than Fuller, who is merely content to say "It's bad", without really trying to get any further into the subject. By the time Fuller's movie came out, it really wasn't any kind of revelation to say racism was bad. Fuller's most powerful anti-racist statement was probably in Shock Corridor, showing how a black man has been driven insane by white racism, to the point where he believes he IS a white racist. It's powerfully symbolic--but not terribly realistic. Fuller's work is always excessive, expressionistic, symbolic--never realistic.

It's interesting to me that even when he wrote scripts about subjects he'd experienced firsthand, he tended to be extremely fanciful and lurid--Park Row is a very idealized portrait of American journalism in that era, and is full of excessive touches. Everything about Fuller is excessive, larger than life. It's what makes him such an interesting storyteller--but also, at times an unreliable one.

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I really fail to see how the film is about cinema.

Well the Dog reacts entirely on the basis of what he sees. He's been conditioned on the basis of differentiating visually and Paul Winfield's character de-programmes him by introducing and confusing the safe visual schema the dog is used to. You can say, academically speaking, the dog represents one-dimensional black-and-white approach to films whereby white is good and black is otherwise and what Keyes does is to show the complexity in that. Don't forget the scene where the girl is attacked on the film set. This is part of Fuller's cinema - Verboten(where a kid learns about the Holocaust after seeing a newsreel) and The Naked Kiss(clearly referred to here).


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Obviously if after drumming support for an explosive, controversial film people finally saw an anti-racist film like White Dog then that would make him look bad.
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I'm sorry, that's not obvious at all.


It isn't? The protests that began after hearing the initial ideas and stories were leaked out(and in Hollywood parlance, allowed to be leaked out) were intended by Simpson to make the film into a big commercial success since audiences would wonder if the film was that notorious or not. Similar to The Passion of the Christ where the film became a box-office success because people wanted to know about the violence and the alleged anti-semtism. The kind of film Simpson expected and what he had people expecting was a thriller with lots of violence and maybe some sex.

Simpson needn't even worry about backlash since he knew that the(then) mainstream took a
"minority's" protest for granted. The only time protests and demonstrations have effect is when it's the mainstream WASP that gets offended as in The Last Temptation of Christ.

And actually, there's been a lot of criticism of that film's rather odd take on Anti-Japanese racism--namely that it only exists in the head of a man who would have experienced the forced internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Fuller makes no reference to that shameful episode in our history.

He already did in The Steel Helmet(the very first American film to mention it by the way ). And it isn't specified when James Shigeta's character immigrated to LA anyway. And this film is about a love triangle, using wrongful internment as a motive would be very cheap and vulgar(something Fuller never was, despite the pulpiness of much of his films).

His character is improbable, is what he is--he's too perfect, and it makes no sense somebody with his educational background would be working as an animal trainer.

Didn't you see the dinner scene? Keyes talks about that and explains it. It's the highpoint of the camaraderie between the three characters. As he himself says, "I didn't want to be tied down to the academic world." And they aren't ordinary animal trainers, they train animals for TV shows and movies and that costs a lot of money. Those guys are rich, hence the fact that they serve caviar to the heroine in that scene.

...he's a respected member of his society. That's the real horror.

Whereas Fuller is saying that it could be your nice ol'grandpa which is even more scary. Respected members of society are a reflection of society. Fuller's film is about individual responsibility and that each and every one of us have to be careful of our actions. Simply saying society is racist too is no justification for that grandfather's actions.

Everything about Fuller is excessive, larger than life. It's what makes him such an interesting storyteller--but also, at times an unreliable one.

What does unreliable even mean? He's an artist. So White Dog is not an accurate portrait of animal training, what's important is what the film says, it's style and vision. That's what being an artist is all about.



"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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Well the Dog reacts entirely on the basis of what he sees.


Which would make him truly unique among his species, which reacts much more to smell than sight.

He's been conditioned on the basis of differentiating visually


Conditioning can't change natural instincts, merely shape them. And it certainly can't change the fact that dogs are colorblind. Their visual apparatus is secondary, though important. It's a bit of a taboo subject still, but black and white people have certain chemical differences in their sweat, and a dog would respond much more to that. However, the dog would still think of black humans as humans. As Frederick Douglass once pointed out, even a dog in the street knows a black man is a man, no matter what white people may delude themselves into thinking.

and Paul Winfield's character de-programmes him by introducing and confusing the safe visual schema the dog is used to.


I haven't seen the film in a while, but I don't seem to recall any reference to that. He does what the trainer in the novel does, which is use a protective suit to fight the dog, and wear him down, to the point where he becomes desensitized to the presence of black people--and of course he also withholds food, so that the dog will be hungry enough to accept food from a black man. I may be forgetting some embellishments in the script, but in short, the training regimen you describe would be totally ineffectual. Dogs respond to visual stimuli, but not in that way.

You can say, academically speaking, the dog represents one-dimensional black-and-white approach to films whereby white is good and black is otherwise and what Keyes does is to show the complexity in that.


No, Gary shows the complexity, Fuller is the one who boils it down to black and white--even to the point of making the dog a White German Shepherd, which the real dog was not.

Don't forget the scene where the girl is attacked on the film set.


I do remember that, but I don't think it makes the film about cinema--as you say, it takes place in Hollywood, and the characters mainly work in film (even the trainers), but I don't think there's a consistent enough approach to this to make it an effective commentary in this regard.

This is part of Fuller's cinema - Verboten(where a kid learns about the Holocaust after seeing a newsreel) and The Naked Kiss(clearly referred to here).


I obviously agree that there are many things consistent with Fuller's earlier work. But I think you're overemphasizing this, to try and make the film into more than it really is, or could be.

It isn't? The protests that began after hearing the initial ideas and stories were leaked out(and in Hollywood parlance, allowed to be leaked out) were intended by Simpson to make the film into a big commercial success since audiences would wonder if the film was that notorious or not. Similar to The Passion of the Christ where the film became a box-office success because people wanted to know about the violence and the alleged anti-semtism. The kind of film Simpson expected and what he had people expecting was a thriller with lots of violence and maybe some sex.


But then why not just give it a limited release? It's an artfilm, so release it as an artfilm. It could never have been a mainstream hit. I find the comparisons with Cujo really idiotic--not as idiotic as Cujo itself, of course. The notion that it could have resurrected Fuller's career if given a decent release (as it should have been given) is simply not realistic. Fuller was a dinosaur in the film industry of that time--in fact, you see hints of his realization of that fact in White Dog--the Burl Ives character--a relic of an earlier (and superior) era of filmmaking.

Our point of difference here is that you're saying nobody was concerned about the script being racist--but then you say that people were concerned about it--about images in the film that involved black people being savagely attacked just for being black--and by a dog. People mainly understood the film was not a pro-racist statement--the novel was certainly widely recognized to be an indictment of racism--but some felt the images would speak louder than the intent.

I disagree with the censorship, but the fears were understandable. After all, D.W. Griffith was quite certain there was nothing racist about Birth of a Nation, and didn't understand why it upset black people so much. In his mind, he'd gone out of his way to moderate the racial animus of Dixon's novel, and to show positive black characters (played by white actors in black face).

Simpson needn't even worry about backlash since he knew that the(then) mainstream took a
"minority's" protest for granted. The only time protests and demonstrations have effect is when it's the mainstream WASP that gets offended as in The Last Temptation of Christ.


The NAACP sent an observer to monitor the making of White Dog. Fuller describes how angry and offended he was by this, and he basically threw the guy off the set. There's no question that this kind of thing didn't help the movie. Fuller should have been more understanding of how black people didn't entirely trust white filmmakers. This was, after all, the first time he'd ever made a black man the hero of one of his films--John Ford had done that decades before, with Sergeant Rutledge, and of course Sidney Poitier had become a major leading man, and won the Oscar, in the same period when Fuller was making films that occasionally alluded to the race problem, but never really said much about it. There had been many many major Hollywood films that tackled racism far more directly and successfully before White Dog came out. Even one with a dog in it--who loved his black sharecropper family, and was a living symbol of their pride and loyalty. You've never seen "Sounder"?

Fuller was making a movie that wasn't attacking racism so much as exploiting it for shock value--the image of a racist dog attacking black people. Of course his intentions were good. But he shouldn't have asked black people to take that on faith--he was rude and dismissive of perfectly natural concerns. And I don't buy the explanation of how the film got pulled--Fuller made a movie with extremely vivid violent imagery. It was not an intellectual treatise. But neither was it terribly commercial, and this was probably the real concern.

He already did in The Steel Helmet(the very first American film to mention it by the way ).


And a movie I have long wished to see. But we're talking about The Crimson Kimino, which I have seen, and which I do not consider a terribly effective or relevant anti-racist statement, because it doesn't actually show any racism, except from the Japanese American protagonist. But at least there was a Japanese American protagonist. Btw, there had been Hollywood films about Japanese men having romantic relationships with white women back during the silent era. Sessue Hayakawa played romantic leads. I give Fuller a lot of credit for what he did, but there's very little that he did FIRST.

And it isn't specified when James Shigeta's character immigrated to LA anyway.


This is a very weak response--obviously he was born and raised in the U.S., and was living there during WWII. And the film would make a lot more sense if it related his experiences during the war, and showed actual instances of white people being prejudiced against Japanese Americans, which it doesn't. It's really the same problem as White Dog--we hear how awful racism is, but we see very little actual racism.

And this film is about a love triangle, using wrongful internment as a motive would be very cheap and vulgar(something Fuller never was, despite the pulpiness of much of his films).


I don't see how that follows at all.

Didn't you see the dinner scene? Keyes talks about that and explains it.


Not convincingly, but we can agree to disagree. I mean, it's a movie. Movies are full of improbable characters, and certainly Sam Fuller movies. However, I think it would be more effective if Winfield's character was less of a paragon, and simply an animal trainer offended by somebody abusing the techniques of his trade. Which any decent trainer would be, regardless of race. It's not going to convince anybody who isn't already convinced, which makes it useless as an anti-racist statement.

It's the highpoint of the camaraderie between the three characters. As he himself says, "I didn't want to be tied down to the academic world."


This line of dialogue simply demonstrates that Fuller and Hanson realized they had created a character who needs to be explained away, and they do so rather clumsily and unconvincingly.

And they aren't ordinary animal trainers, they train animals for TV shows and movies and that costs a lot of money. Those guys are rich, hence the fact that they serve caviar to the heroine in that scene.


And yet Burl Ives laments that there's less and less use for them in the film biz, because of the increasing prevalence of special effects to replace real animals--and that, for me, was the best bit of dialogue in the movie.

Whereas Fuller is saying that it could be your nice ol'grandpa which is even more scary.


I just told you that in the book (which I must again point out you have not read), the man shows up with his grandchildren, and the very same point is made (much more subtly and non-stereotpyically), so that comes directly from Gary--it's not Fuller's idea. It's one of the few instances of a scene that is derived directly from the novel, albeit in a very altered form. And the man is a RETIRED POLICEMAN, not just somebody's grandpa. I don't really think it comes as any kind of revelation that racists can be grandfathers.

Respected members of society are a reflection of society.


Certainly.

Fuller's film is about individual responsibility and that each and every one of us have to be careful of our actions.


I really think the film is a lot more interesting than you make it sound with bromides like this.

Simply saying society is racist too is no justification for that grandfather's actions.


Simply saying he personally is racist is no indictment of the rest of us, which is what the film should be doing. Racism isn't some aberration, nor is it uniquely American, or white. It's a human problem, and all of humanity should be indicted--not a dog. ONLY THE DOG IS PUNISHED.


What does unreliable even mean? He's an artist.


So was D.W. Griffith--in fact, a much greater and more influential cinematic artist than Fuller. That didn't stop him from making a film that is still being sold on racist websites as propaganda.

So White Dog is not an accurate portrait of animal training, what's important is what the film says, it's style and vision.


And judged purely on that basis, it's an interesting piece of work, but ultimately a failure--ironically, it's reputation has been enhanced all these years by the fact that it was almost impossible to see. I still think it's very much worth seeing for a film buff.

But Gary's book has more to say to the Age of Obama than Fuller's film. It has more to say about racism, more to say about how to fight it, more to say about how we all have the potential for racism in us, and it also manages to give a pretty accurate portrayal of dog training.

Fuller was a remarkable man--and so was Gary, who Fuller knew and admired, as a man and an artist. They had a lot in common--two tough Jewish guys who were constantly getting into trouble, and had fought the Nazis in WWII. But Gary actually experienced the Holocaust. He had been in a concentration camp. He had fought in the French Resistance.

Fuller's admirable service in The Big Red One didn't give him the same perspective--and it must be said, Fuller just didn't have much intellectual heft, though he was an extremely bright person. He was mainly self-educated, and that gives his films a refreshing pugnacity and directness--but also makes them very naive--modern audiences often giggle at his dialogue--at times he approaches unintentional camp.

Gary was a much more sophisticated and well-educated man than Fuller--and perhaps in part because of this, a much less happy one, which is why he didn't live to see (and critique) this very free adaption of his book. He saw life too clearly to be able to bear it. The ability to clearly perceive reality is not always a blessing.

Fuller's very American naivete (not saying all of us are naive) is not a negative thing in itself, but it does mean you have to take him with a grain of salt. You have to love him for who he is, warts and all--he shows you who he is in his films. And he was a remarkable person, and a filmmaker of great integrity and personal vision. However, very few of his films completely hold up to close scrutiny today. And White Dog isn't one of them.

I have seen White Dog in a theater--THEN I was moved to read the book it was loosely based on. I find the book entirely superior, as a work of art, as well as a commentary on racism. You are free to disagree. Once you have actually read the book.



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But then why not just give it a limited release? It's an artfilm, so release it as an artfilm.

Don Simpson is not really known for having that kind of thinking you know. He produced Top Gun, remember?

Our point of difference here is that you're saying nobody was concerned about the script being racist--but then you say that people were concerned about it--about images in the film that involved black people being savagely attacked just for being black--and by a dog.

As I told you the original script before Fuller came on to the project was leaked and it was that script to which the NAACP was opposed. This review by Mr. Jonathan Rosenbaum was published when the film had a brief theatrical run in the early 90s, in effect it's maiden American release(although it aired theatrically) http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=7278 goes into the details.

Most of the protestors didn't like racist violence used as a pretext for a cheap thriller. In Fuller's films when the attacks happen, it's sudden and brutal with little "thrill". Like the surreal attack of that truck driver who crashes into the department store destroying everything inside. What generates suspense in the film is not when'll the next black guy or girl get attacked but whether or not they'll succeed or not.

The NAACP sent an observer to monitor the making of White Dog. Fuller describes how angry and offended he was by this, and he basically threw the guy off the set. There's no question that this kind of thing didn't help the movie.

Well Fuller was considerably more generous to David Ehrenstein, a writer on film, culture and politcs involved in gay rights activism and who's also black. Mr. Ehrenstein spent a week on the set of the film and is one of the most eloquent defenders of the film.

It's a human problem, and all of humanity should be indicted--not a dog. ONLY THE DOG IS PUNISHED.

But his death is tragic. All their efforts to save the dog failed. They did everything they could to save it. The dog didn't attack Kristy MacNichol's character as they feared it would and then turned on Burl Ives, according to some people the reason being that the character resembles the dog owner to an extent.

So was D.W. Griffith--in fact, a much greater and more influential cinematic artist than Fuller. That didn't stop him from making a film that is still being sold on racist websites as propaganda.

He also made Intolerance, a plea for just that, and Broken Blossoms a very anti-racist film. Griffith was also a complex artist, A Corner in Wheat is one of the most effective parables of overzealous capitalism you'll find in cinema.

But Gary actually experienced the Holocaust. He had been in a concentration camp. He had fought in the French Resistance.

Whereas Fuller was trained to kill as a soldier and not ask questions. I don't see how one person's experience is greater than the other's. Fuller's unit liberated the Falkenau Concentration Camp and shooting footage of that was the first time Fuller ever had experience with film.

He was mainly self-educated, and that gives his films a refreshing pugnacity and directness--but also makes them very naive--modern audiences often giggle at his dialogue--at times he approaches unintentional camp.

Unintentional?! Clearly you haven't seen Forty Guns.

And a movie I have long wished to see.

Well order now - http://www.criterion.com/boxsets/499

The other two are also worth it.




"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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Don Simpson is not really known for having that kind of thinking you know. He produced Top Gun, remember?


So? Dino De Laurentiis produced total commercial crap AND most of the great Fellini films. I think Simpson just knew the film was not going to succeed with either a mainstream commercial audience OR an arthouse audience. It falls between the cracks. There really wasn't a market for it, except in Europe, and it was hardly a hit there.

As I told you the original script before Fuller came on to the project was leaked and it was that script to which the NAACP was opposed.


That isn't what Fuller says in his book. I'm not saying there isn't some truth in it, but obviously the truth about why the film didn't get released here is more complex than you want to acknowledge--Fuller didn't make a surefire hit/timeless classic. He made a movie that deserved a chance, but would probably not have delivered the goods, critically or commercially. Just not a movie people needed to see, unless they were Sam Fuller fans (which I am, so I had to see it).

Most of the protestors didn't like racist violence used as a pretext for a cheap thriller.


Well, they probably didn't have a problem with Blaxploitation films. Maybe Simpson should have hired Gordon Parks to direct a movie called "Black Dog". Actually, that might have been a lot more fun than Fuller's movie. But too late for that by the 80's.

In Fuller's films when the attacks happen, it's sudden and brutal with little "thrill". Like the surreal attack of that truck driver who crashes into the department store destroying everything inside. What generates suspense in the film is not when'll the next black guy or girl get attacked but whether or not they'll succeed or not.


This is kind of an academic distinction to make. And this isn't an academy we're talking in here.

Well Fuller was considerably more generous to David Ehrenstein, a writer on film, culture and politcs involved in gay rights activism and who's also black. Mr. Ehrenstein spent a week on the set of the film and is one of the most eloquent defenders of the film.


I hope this doesn't come across as overly cynical, but how do you think most black Americans of that time (or this time) would respond when a gay black man named Ehrenstein told them the old white guy who made a movie about a dog who chewed up black people was totally cool?

But his death is tragic.


Yeah, I get it's not intended as an upbeat ending, man.

All their efforts to save the dog failed. They did everything they could to save it.


See, in the movie, it really doesn't come across that they're trying to save the dog. They're using the dog as much as the guy who programmed him. McNichol starts out wanting to help the dog who saved her from a rapist, but then she wants Keyes to shoot him. Keyes talks about the dog like he's a piece of faulty machinery. He doesn't love him--but in the book, the character of Keys clearly does, and has always wanted a German Shepherd, which makes the ending TRULY tragic.

The dog didn't attack Kristy MacNichol's character as they feared it would and then turned on Burl Ives, according to some people the reason being that the character resembles the dog owner to an extent.


So hey, maybe the dog just dislikes stereotypical crusty old movie codgers now.

He also made Intolerance, a plea for just that, and Broken Blossoms a very anti-racist film.


Intolerance was a plea for intolerance? I think you were typing too fast--but it certainly was not a plea for RACIAL tolerance, since all the main characters were white, even the ones living in Ancient Babylon. The only black people in the film were extras playing Babylonian slaves.

Broken Blossoms is not really a plea for racial tolerance--it's a plea for sensitivity over brutishness. Griffith cast Richard Barthelmess as the rather passive asexual Chinese hero, when in fact he could have cast Sessue Hayakawa, a popular leading man of the time--not Chinese, but closer to it than Barthelmess (who gives a fine performance, but also a rather stereotyped one).

Griffith was also a complex artist, A Corner in Wheat is one of the most effective parables of overzealous capitalism you'll find in cinema.


I'm certainly not saying Griffith was ONLY a racist, and most of his work doesn't deal with race at all. But you don't see present-day socialists selling "A Corner in Wheat" on their websites as propaganda.

Whereas Fuller was trained to kill as a soldier and not ask questions.


In which case, he should have done the movie from the dog's point of view, having been a dogface himself. But I don't believe Fuller was ever the kind to not ask questions, and I don't believe his military training in WWII was equivalent to what the dog has gone through.

I don't see how one person's experience is greater than the other's.


I don't see how you got that out of what I wrote.

Fuller's unit liberated the Falkenau Concentration Camp and shooting footage of that was the first time Fuller ever had experience with film.


I've read his entire 500+ page autobiography, man. Believe me, he covered all that stuff.

Unintentional?! Clearly you haven't seen Forty Guns.


I have--in a theater--and I'm sorry to say, people were laughing at the clearly UNintended camp in scenes that were meant to be taken seriously--which is not to say Fuller was completely unaware of the homoerotic elements in that film.

It's wonderful that so much of his work, from the best to the worst, is available now--it used to be quite a challenge to see all but a few of his films. I'm glad White Dog is on DVD. I'm glad you enjoyed it. But the book is still better. And btw--

http://www.amazon.com/White-Dog-Romain-Gary/dp/0226284301/ref=sr_1_1?i e=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232052609&sr=1-1

I'm just saying.







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First of all, this discussion turned into who's got the bigger dick rather than a discussion of the film and the ending (which is the subject of this discussion by the way). Having owned a white German Shepherd as a child, we were forced to part with it because it bit a neighborhood child. It wasn't a savage attack as portrayed in the film, and the girl was white (as is my family). Earlier in the film, Carruthers described his friend who owned a German Shepherd for 8 years. They did everything together, then one night the dog just randomly decided to attack him. Tore out his jugular. Everyone knows that if you play with a dog, they get excited and if they're not trained properly, they might bite you. Actually, any animal if not properly trained might bite you. I think if you couple that with the fact that the dog in this film (played by 5 dogs) had been raised to be a racist by the white grandpa who paid black people (crack addicts, degenerates, etc.) to beat the dog when it was a puppy might have been the reason it attacked Carruthers in the end. It wasn't that he saw Carruthers as a threat or that he looked similar to his previous racist owner, but that it was a random act of violence by a dog who had just been deprogrammed by a black man and who had had no previous interaction with anyone other than the young white actress and the character of Keys (everyone keeps spelling his name wrong in this discussion). Right before Keys calls Julie to tell her it is almost a complete success, he has Joe (the black man who the dog attacked when Julie is first getting ready to leave Carruthers & Keys business toward the beginning of the film) walk up to the dog while Keys has his handgun ready to shoot the dog should he attempt to attack Joe. Now notice that when he let Joe come see the dog, the dog was still attached to leash with a metal spike drilled into the ground so there was no way the dog could attack Joe. That was really the second to last test for the dog. Being out in the open with everybody the dog had come to be familiar with (except Carruthers whom the dog had spent next to no time with over the entire de-conditioning period). The dog had already ran across to both Keys and Julie who were positioned pretty far from one another (a nod to The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly) and once he ended at Julie's feet there was no indication that there would be any other problems. Then he turned to look at Carruthers and for some unknown reason attacked him. That's not an indication that the dog had become racist at all or that the de-conditioning had failed. I think the dog had been unstable due to its upbringing in racism (and beatings in order for him to learn to be racist). Then it was de-conditioned by a black man to not be racist or attack black people (after it had effectively murdered a black man). Then it's given the opportunity to be allowed back into society and it just couldn't handle all of the teachings and reprogramming it had received by Keys to not be racist toward one color or another. I think the dog's mind had simply lost it. Other dogs in the same situation (but not the same background) might have lept on Carruthers and licked him not biting him ferociously. I think all of these experiences in his life had triggered something and when he would have been friendly with Carruthers he instead reacted violently as he had in the past. It's like Old Yeller. He was a sweet playful dog, but then got rabies and needed to be shot. Let's just say this dog had gone rabid from all that he had been through and therefore was put to death because of he was mentally unstable. The end.

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On the other hand, the concept that Keys was trying to teach the dog to not be racist believing that racism is learned, and Carruthers believing that racism is not something that can be cured could have had something to do with the dog attacking Carruthers. Although Carruthers had come around and felt that what they were doing was right, the dog only knew Carruthers to think he was an evil animal that should be killed. Maybe the dog regressed due to the fact that the dog didn't know Carruthers wanted him to be healed. It's something to think about.

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The question I have is this: Why did the dog attack that last guy? I viewed the ending as a ambiguous twist ending and wanted to know if anybody else drew similar conclusions.

No, it wasn't ambiguous--if you watch the film again you'll see that Winfield's character had warned much earlier that if the racism was taken out of the dog it might go crazy.

I figure that idea was added to amplify the dangers of racism, to say that it's so evil that once it's established you can't root it out: it'll blow up on you one way or the other, no matter what.

I thought the movie was kind of a snore, but at least they surprised me by *not* doing what I expected all along: revealing that Burl Ives, Winfield's friend and business partner, was a closet racist who had trained the dog to be that way in the first place.

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????

Dude, there was no way they were building up to that. Ives' character is based on an animal trainer in Gary's novel, who is probably the most admirable person portrayed in the entire narrative.

The film is quite effective at points, but it's the novel that really confronts the issue of racism--the film is dated, but the novel still has a lot to say, even in the Age of Obama. And if only Romain Gary and Sam Fuller had lived to see that.

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The film is quite effective at points, but it's the novel that really confronts the issue of racism--

The novel is rather obsessed with the theme which the film moves beyond. Fuller being a very modern artist. Racism is a pretext, a cover for deeper issues, by itself it isn't a strong emotion. It manifests itself as a holdover from conditioning that human beings experience growing up in a community of racist biases.

Like in Fuller's films, Kristy MacNichol's character has no idea of such a thing as white dogs simply because she's white. Whereas most black people(and of an earlier generation since Kristy's friend who got attacked doesn't know about it either) had to live with that as a reality. This doesn't mean that Kristy MacNichol is racist just a product of her upbringing which is white, middle-class.

Ives' character is based on an animal trainer in Gary's novel,

And this is A FILM BY SAMUEL FULLER. Don't go by a novel what you can't understand in a film.



"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

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The novel is rather obsessed with the theme which the film moves beyond.


The film is actually a step backwards, in my opinion.

Fuller being a very modern artist.


In some respects, but a lot of his work is very dated now. Including this film.

Racism is a pretext, a cover for deeper issues, by itself it isn't a strong emotion.


You're really just illustrating what's WRONG with the film by attempting to praise it. And dismissing what's genuinely good about it.

It manifests itself as a holdover from conditioning that human beings experience growing up in a community of racist biases.


Say this about Fuller--he would have found shallow postmodernist drivel like this as boring and irrelevant as I do.

Like in Fuller's films, Kristy MacNichol's character has no idea of such a thing as white dogs simply because she's white.


But Burl Ives' character is white, and he's the one who ends up telling her about them--not Paul Winfield's character. I agree there is an attempt to tell the story through her increasing awareness of white racism, but since no white person she knows personally gives any sign of being racist, it just doesn't work very well. The characters are too sketchily developed for this approach to work--White Dog really is much more about the imagery than anything else. Fuller himself says it was the image of a racist dog being violently retrained by a black man that got him excited.

Whereas most black people(and of an earlier generation since Kristy's friend who got attacked doesn't know about it either) had to live with that as a reality.


Says who? Why don't you ask black people you know whether any of them have ever met a 'racist' dog in their lives? They would know about the police dogs used by Bull Connor, but of course those could just have easily been turned on white protesters. Police dogs are trained to attack on command, regardless of what color the person they're being directed to attack may be--otherwise they'd be useless.

The black actress friend of McNichol's character clearly has never experienced anything like this before. It was not something most black people would know about, though they'd be more likely to if they came from the rural south, back before the civil rights movement.

There have been dogs trained specifically to be aggressive to black people--or who simply picked up on the attitudes of their owners, dogs being very empathic, and not really inclined to ask WHY their people dislike or fear certain other people. Dogs were used against black people, particularly before the Civil War to track down runaways. But they were also used against Native Americans, lower class whites, etc.

Blacks were forbidden to own dogs in many parts of the south, before emancipation. That was because whites knew that dogs would be just as loyal to black owners as to white ones, and they didn't want blacks to have such useful protectors and helpmates--or to acknowledge that dogs saw no real difference between the different races of humanity.

This doesn't mean that Kristy MacNichol is racist just a product of her upbringing which is white, middle-class.


Yes, and this was not such a stunning revelation in the early 1980's.

And this is A FILM BY SAMUEL FULLER.


Which will never have a tenth of the impact that Gary's novel did.

Don't go by a novel what you can't understand in a film.


Understanding doesn't always mean agreeing. I just don't think the film is that impressive. Even the greatest filmmakers made some movies that don't hold up very well. And much as I admire Fuller, he does not belong in the first rank of filmmakers. Let's praise him for what he genuinely achieved, not some idealized vision of his work that doesn't hold up under scrutiny, and will just lead to overreactions in the other direction.



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He attacked the Noah's Ark dude because he looked similar to his original trainer- old, fat, and balding.

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That's a fair interpretation, but what does that mean? The dog recognizes he was used, and wants revenge? How would he recognize that? He was only indirectly abused by the old man, who we are given to understand paid black men to abuse the dog, in order to create this aversive response. We have no reason to think his trainer was ever directly abusive towards him--in fact, we can be fairly sure such was not the case, if he let the dog play with his granddaughters. One could imagine a dog having some sense of confusion over learning that black people, who he'd been conditioned to see as a threat, were actually no different from other people (for better and for worse). But it would never occur to a dog that he'd been manipulated and used as a weapon, because a dog is simply not capable of comprehending that kind of deception, let alone emulating it.

Please note--Romain Gary never found out what training methods were used to make the dog he briefly adopted into a 'white dog', and there really doesn't seem to have been any one acknowledged method of doing this in real life--Fuller and Hanson basically came up with an explanation, and not a very believable one, IMO.

The ending works symbolically (the dog is just a stand-in for ignorant racist whites being manipulated), but the film's script and general approach to the story isn't well-suited to such a symbolic approach. Fuller didn't put enough thought into the film. Back in the 1950's, even the early 70's, such a movie might well have been a groundbreaking diatribe against American racism, but by the time it came out, it was covering old ground to diminished effect.



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I do think it is no coincidence that the dog attacks an elderly man just like his original owner. It could be an expression of the fact that the dog has become so confused with its hate as Winfield describes earlier that it would even turn on someone who looks like his original owner and possibly on the female that saved him. Remember, the owner created a monster and the final scene is an expression of all the violence and aggression that had been apart of the dog's upbringing to a climax of unpredictable madness.

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The dog simply misunderstood the retraining. He had been taught by a white man to attack blacks, so in the dog's mind whites were not to be attacked. Keys retrained the dog to not attack blacks and thought the dog would no longer attack anyone. But the dog mistook the training in the reverse, thinking that the black man was training him to attack white people. He never attacked Kristy's character because he knew she had been kind to him. The dog didn't have that relationship with Carruthers and so attacked him.

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