Review Date: March 23, 2006
Released by: Dark Sky Films
Release date: 2/28/2006
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
Despite the presence of cult figure Jayne Mansfield in the cast, this 1964 production seems to have fallen into relative obscurity. The problem seems to be that it canít really be pigeonholed into any specific genre. Itís not a horror film (despite a few moderately grisly moments), itís not a pure crime thriller and itís not a typical exploitation film. So what is it? Keep reading and find out...
We begin with a frenetic chase through the dark streets of some unnamed city on the Aegean Sea. The chaser is Costas Smithopopulous (Ivor Salter
), who is pursuing petty thug Corbett (Cameron Mitchell
) with his car. Eventually he corners the frightened man and forces him to walk up on a ledge overlooking the ocean. Costas gives Corbett his regrets over killing him and then promptly pushes him off the cliff. Corbett takes a nasty fall and rolls into the water.
We cut to a nearby hotel where Costasí wife Darlene (Jayne Mansfield
) has been rolling around on a bed covered with $1000 bills. It seems that she, her husband and Corbett were all in on a plot to steal a million dollars in cash from a passing ship. Though the raid was successful, a guard was killed in the process. As she waits for Costas to come back to the room, the manager of the hotel, a man named Livio Morelli (Aldo Camarada
), knocks on the door to tell her that her radio is too loud. She tells him that the knob is broken and asks him to try and fix it. As he is doing so he stumbles upon one of the $1000 bills, which she had tried to pick up before he came into the room. Then Costas shows up and throws him out. Suspicious, he listens in outside the door to the room and realizes that they are the thieves he has just heard about on the radio.
Rather than be the good citizen and turn them in, Livio decides to try and take the loot for himself. Costas has requested the rental of a boat for the evening, and Livio realizes that they must be trying to escape to one of the coastal islands. He wires up an explosive device and sends his younger sister Sandra (Dodie Heath
) to plant it in the boat. As she is doing so she is captured by Corbett, who is still alive despite having had his face gruesomely smashed up by the fall. When Costas and Darlene come down to the boat Corbett takes them hostage too and they all sail to the destination island (the bomb never goes off). Upon arriving there they discover that the chateau that overlooks it shore is inhabited, contrary to what they had believed. Corbett storms into the house and takes the senile and terminally ill old woman Madame Benwaur (Elisabeth Flickenschildt
) and her butler Yannis (Werner Peters
) captive. Livio also shows up at the island, and so begins the frenetic duel between these ill-assorted people over which one will eventually get to walk away with the cash...
Dog Eat Dog
is based on a novel by writer Robert Bloomfield. Shot on location in the former Yugoslavia, the film is a surprisingly lively thriller. Once the characters get to the island there is rarely a dull moment. There are murders, slugging matches and one honest-to-goodness cat fight. Characters double cross each other and try to build alliances to get their share of the loot. They scheme, deceive and plot until it becomes obvious that nobody amongst the group is completely innocent (producers of modern reality TV shows only wish they could get their contestants to react like this). The constant plot twists keep the viewerís level of interest up, even though all the intrigue eventually becomes tiredly repetitious. Though it remains largely enjoyable, it still feels like it goes on a little bit longer than it really has any right to.
The cast is a little bit of a mixed bag. Cameron Mitchell and Jayne Mansfield, the two American leads, deliver lively performances with the somewhat hackneyed material they are given to work with. Corbett is a one-note psychopath, constantly screaming this or that about ďthe money!Ē and jumping around threatening people with a perpetually intense look on his face. His performance is more than a bit overblown, yet somehow appropriate to the story. Jayne Mansfield is also given a one-note role to play, and she really doesnít do much except exist on the periphery of the plot to add some more double crossing in. She seems to be in the film primarily so thereís someone who looks sexy in the cast, and she does this fine. Unfortunately, both her and Mitchell have their performances hurt by the dubbing. This being an international production with actors delivering their lines in multiple languages, even the dialogue delivered in English is dubbed over, and not always well either (apparently this is also not even Mansfieldís real voice). Itís of a sufficiently mediocre quality that their voices donít match much better than those of the European performers.
The European cast members add some extra color to the film. As they are all dubbed it is difficult to gauge just how good their performances really are, but at least some of them have a distinctive screen presence. As Morelli, Aldo Camarada looks like the weasel that his character is supposed to be, while Werner Peters, as the bald-headed butler Yannis, gets to deliver some amusing material about the ease and naturalness of killing another human being. Elisabeth Flickenschildt, as the senile Madame Benwaur, seems to be overacting as well. Fortunately for them, this is the type of material where itís okay for performers to be hams. In fact, itís part of the reason why the movie is as lively as it is.
Dog Eat Dog
is pure, unadulterated pulp. Itís very hard to view it as a serious thriller. But itís a decently entertaining and engaging one, nonetheless.
Dog Eat Dog
is presented letterboxed at 1.85:1. For a film that is forty or so years old it fares remarkably well. The image is sharp and super clear, with an excellent level of contrast that produces deep, brilliant blacks and clean whites (though there are a noticeable number of scenes where black levels deviate from shot to shot). There are some inherent flaws in the source material like the occasional scratch or blemish, and the first few minutes of the film are afflicted with some visible white flashing on the left side of the frame, but nothing worth complaining too much about.
What is worth complaining about, however, is that the transfer is not enhanced for 16x9 displays. Now, at a less mature point in the home video industry, companies released many, if not all, of their releases in 4x3 mode. But even by the time I first started writing for this website in late 2000 anamorphic enhancement was already almost the industry norm. Dark Sky Films is clearly aware of this Ė every other title of theirs I have on my shelf is 16x9 enhanced Ė so the lack of anamorphic enhancement is a little odd. Unless the filmís licensor was only able to provide them with a 4x3 master it seems hard to guess why this title gets treated differently.
The filmís original 2.0 Mono soundtrack has a rather hissy sound to it throughout the early portions of the film, and intermittently so after that. But the dubbed dialogue comes across fine and there is little else in the way of distortion or background noise other than the hissing. The level of depth and fidelity to the soundtrack is actually surprisingly good, better than is often heard from other releases of films from this era.
Optional English subtitles are included.
This release is a little bit light on extras compared to Dark Skyís other releases. There are two brief (very brief) newsreel excerpts on Jayne Mansfield, one documenting her and her familyís trip to Hungary to visit the family of her then-husband Mickey Hargitay, the other a posthumous tribute to her career, produced after her death from a car accident in 1967.
The release also contains a lengthy still gallery and the filmís original theatrical trailer.
Dog Eat Dog
is certainly a watchable film, and usually a fairly entertaining one. What it is not is a classic, and nobody should mistake it for one. And while the movie itself gets a mild recommendation, the lack of anamorphic enhancement hurts this release, though. Owners of standard TV sets will not suffer (in fact, it looks great on them), but viewers with widescreen displays will be inconvenienced. Though itís great that the film has finally been given a mass market release (and the newsreel extras are a nice addition), the apparent technical oversight makes it not quite as much of a recommendation as it would be otherwise.
Movie Ė B-
Image Quality Ė B
Sound Ė B-
Supplements Ė C+
- Running Time Ė 1 hour 26 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- English subtitles
- Jayne Mansfield newsreel footage
- Still gallery
- Theatrical trailer