Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If This Wasn't Streaming On Netflix, Would Anyone Remember It Existed? Vol. 2: MONSTER DOG (1985)

This review was originally published in a slightly different form at the Mobius Home Video Forum in March 2011

(Spain - 1985)  Written and directed by Clyde Anderson (Claudio Fragasso).  Cast: Alice Cooper, Victoria Vera, Carlos Santurio, Pepita James, Emilio Linder, Ricardo Palacios, Charly Bravo.  84 mins. Unrated.

Now that TROLL 2 and BEST WORST MOVIE have raised Claudio Fragasso's profile in Bad Movie circles, we can go back and see if his films were always as terrible as TROLL 2 and his collaborations with Bruno Mattei. The Spanish-made MONSTER DOG isn't as bad as I thought it would be, which doesn't mean it's good. It's definitely more competent than TROLL 2, which I realize isn't saying much. It's interesting as it provides a rare acting lead for Alice Cooper, who was taking a sabbatical from music at the time after a string of terrible records and successfully seeking treatment for severe alcoholism.  A newly-sober Cooper doesn't look very interested in what Fragasso (using his "Clyde Anderson" pseudonym) has him doing, and he's dubbed by Ted Rusoff (whose voice can be heard in hundreds upon hundreds of English-dubbed European B-movies), which is a little jarring at first. MONSTER DOG was released in the US in 1986, the same year Cooper would return to music with the first of two moderately successful albums, and a year later, would have a small but memorable role in John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS before his huge 1989 comeback album Trash.

But first, he had to play rock star Vincent Raven, who's going back to his family home in the outskirts of California (actually Madrid) to shoot a music video with his girlfriend (Victoria Vera, dubbed by Rusoff's wife Carolynn De Fonseca). Vincent doesn't talk much about his family, and the locals are leery of his return. Could it be that his father was killed under mysterious circumstances and accused of being a werewolf with a psychic command over a pack of wild dogs? And maybe they think Vincent is just like his old man?

There's nothing much scary about this, but as far as 1985 werewolf movies go, it's maybe slightly better than HOWLING II, even if it lacks anything as awesome as Reb Brown yelling or Sybil Danning ripping her top off 25 times in a row in the closing credits. Fragasso does accomplish a marginally effective atmosphere with all the fog, and MGM's restored, widescreen print of this Trans-World Entertainment release does look surprisingly good. But other than the novelty of seeing a Rusoff-dubbed Cooper slumming in a Spanish horror film by a D-grade Italian hack and somehow not crawling back into a bottle, MONSTER DOG doesn't have much going for it. Fragasso keeps things at a brief 84 minutes, and that's with two Cooper/Raven music videos (the only times we hear Cooper's actual voice) and a montage of highlights and goofs at the end, scored to Vincent Raven's chart-topping (and misspelled in the credits) "Identity Chrises." Also features a likely unlicensed guest appearance by the Alan Parsons Project tune "A Dream Within a Dream."

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