Screen/Society--"White Dog" (Samuel Fuller, 1982)


"White Dog"
(Samuel Fuller, 1982, 90 min, USA, English, Color)

Unceremoniously buried by nervous execs at Paramount before its 1982 release, Samuel Fuller's powerful and uncompromising look at American racism examines the efforts of a black Hollywood animal trainer (Paul Winfield) to deprogram a racist dog, with a naive actress and first-time pet owner (Kristy McNichol) portraying the white ally. If the setup sounds like pure pulp (and it did to Paramount, who revived the long-foundering script with the hopes of creating a "JAWS with paws"), you underestimate the moral acuity of last-minute-hire Samuel Fuller, whose eclectic direction transforms the source material into something outraged and tender. Today, as CRT hysteria swallows public school board meetings and antiracism consultants pour into corporate offices, urgent questions are struggling for articulation: How are racist beliefs disseminated, and how can they be dismantled? In "White Dog", the contrasting close-ups of man and animal gawking in mutual incomprehension linger.

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Cinematic Arts