The “B” in B-Movie Is For Bad: Devil Dog The Hound of Hell
My youth was spent watching Television. In fact a giant chunk of time was spent sneaking into the kitchen, after my bedtime, to watch the magic picture box. Before I discovered, or really understood, the genius of Johnny Carson, my main attraction was watching re-runs of classic Star Trek, The Honeymooners and especially the late night movie. Holy shit did I love late night movies. Every brand of crap got peddled to late night and I savored every drop of cinema like fine wine, or at least as close to wine as a kid between the ages of 10-15 can imagine.
I watched weird movies about kids traveling back to King Tut’s court, more than one Hammer Horror film and even Puma Man before it got to MST3K. It was on Late Night TV where I first saw the wretched Message from Space (the one Sonny Chiba movie I will never watch again, thank you very much) and first noticed Susan Lucci‘s neck veins when I watched Invitation to Hell. Yes, even back in the 80’s Susan Lucci looked like a Lich or at least The Crypt keeper.
But the one movie that sticks out more than any other, the one that terrified my 11 year old brain was Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Richard Crenna, even in the 1970s, may have been the craggiest looking actor who ever lived. I mean if you think he looked craggy in as Col. Trautman in the Rambo movies, in this he looks like he was carved out of a desert peak from Death Valley.
I mean read the title of this damn movie, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. How the fuck does this NOT capture the imagination of any 11 year old boy? I mean that is practically begging to be watched by every pre-teen boy that snuck out of his room to watch TV after bedtime during the 80s. I mean it is Devil Dog. That means it is either a Drake’s snack cake or a hound that will seriously suck your soul and fuck you up… possibly at the same time. Hell the second half of the title just inspires sheer awe, it isn’t just any Hound of Hell it is THE Hound of Hell. All other hell hounds are just posers man, this pooch is the real fucking deal! The title in its entirety is pretty much telling you “DO NOT FUCK WITH THIS DOG!”
I mean the movie starts off innocently enough. Craggy faced Richard Crenna plays Mike Barry, patriarch of the Barry Family. He has his loving wife Betty and his 2 kids Bonnie and Charlie.
Wait hold up!
Bonnie and Charlie?
This has got to be some kind of dig at the Scottish!
Anyway, The Barry’s are sad because the family dog just died. We, the viewer, are spared seeing a potential 20 minutes of exposition dealing with how the Barry’s go through the Kubler-Ross Model of the 5 Stages of Grief. Hint: I’m betting Betty develops a severe Valium addiction between her regimen of 5 champagne cocktails before noon. It’s just a guess. Anyway, the family Barry encounter a local fruit vendor who has a litter of puppies he is giving away. But this is no ordinary fruit vendor. No, this fruit vendor is a Satanist.
No shit, an honest to goodness fruit vending Satanist in Southern California. What the fuck are his biggest sellers? Apples and Pomegranates? (Editor’s Note: If you get that joke kudos to you. We needed to rifle through the Bible and Bullfinch’s Mythology to figure out what the fuck he meant. Then we all had a chuckle. Not a full on laugh, one of those condescending chuckles as if to say “Man do we hate the guy writing this shit”).
So our Satanic Fruit Vendor unloads one of the puppies on the Barry family. The Barry family are rubes of course because they don’t know our Satanic Fruit Vendor (I can never get tired of typing that), somewhere between spraying his fruit down with DDT and attending Black Mass, has managed to imbue this dog with a special kind of power. The power of love… OF SATAN!
So the Barry family, in their all their Middle-Middle Class glory, bring Canis Satanicus home and decide to name him Lucky. Oh delicious irony, you are my favorite of all the flavors. Needless to say, home life becomes a bit livelier. First there is the Barry family’s Maid. Now this was made in 1978 so the Maid isn’t just Hispanic, she is a full on Hispanic stereotype, meaning she is completely Catholic, superstitious and naturally thinks the new family dog is Cucuy (Editor’s Note: Yup, had to look that one up too, don’t even ask where).
Well since superstitious Hispanics and dog’s given the power of Satan are natural enemies, Lucky uses his vast Satanic Powers to kill the Maid in a fire. Now Mike Barry has never had a Domestic die on the job like that, so naturally he suspects something is not quite right with the dog. Lucky knows the jig will be up if he doesn’t act fast, so he waits for Mike to mow the lawn. Using his vast Sith like abilities, Mephisto’s Dachshund turns the motor of the lawnmower on and tries forcing Mike to shove his arms into the whirring cutting blade. Needless to say Mike has become a tad concerned that Lucky is trying to kill him.
Foolish Mike, he isn’t the target, the rest of clan Barry is. Charlie is first, as the dog … I don’t want to say “seduces” him because that gives the wrong connotation, but that dog is definitely giving young Charlie a come hither look. So demon Rin Tin Tin makes Charlie his minion and evil ensues. Charlie frames his rival at school for theft during the class election. Young Bonnie is next, with Lucky giving her the look of love as he did to Charlie. Before you know it Bonnie, along with Charlie in tow, is breaking curfew and mouthing off to the ‘Rents.
Now any other parent would make a very logical deduction from this, namely that his once model children have started doing copious amounts of drugs. But not Mike Barry, the rebellious kids MUST be the dog’s fault. Well how does Mike explain it when his once perfect monogamous Wife starts screwing everyone in the neighborhood? Can’t be the fact he is a less than serviceable lover. God forbid it’s the husband’s fault. Must be the dog!
I mean yeah, it IS the dog but the fact Mike Barry basically spends a large chunk of the movie telling anyone who will listen (not many do) that his dog is evil and ruining his family is so ridiculous it is great. It is like watching that season 2 episode The West Wing where Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) chronicles his mental breakdown to a shrink (Adam Arkin) with Richard Crenna in the Whitford role and all the dudes getting boinked by Betty (played by k it is OTHING like that Yvette Mimieux) as the rest of the Bartlett White House Staff. Lucky the dog is, of course, the music that drives Josh Lyman into the sweet world of PTSD.
Ok, it is NOTHING like that episode of The West Wing because put simply, The West Wing is great TV while Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell is barely serviceable as a 75 minute TV movie. The story moves on…
Mike, slowly losing his mind, decides he has got to kill this fucking dog that is destroying his once perfect family. He takes Lucky out to a pasture and tries to shoot him and… Aw fuck I can’t take it anymore. So much terribly weird shit happens in this movie that is so random and insane you have to watch the rest of it for yourself. I mean there is some cracked out prophecy involving Mike being “the Chosen One”, a trip to Ecuador to do research on what exactly Lucky is and some weird Incan/Aztec/Whatever comes from Ecuador Shaman drawing an ancient power symbol to send the most evil German Shepard ever back to hell!
Shit this movie has it all. Sex (Slut Wife), Politics (High School Election, I’m stunned Degrassi never did a “Satanist Running for Student Council” storyline), Satanism (DUH!) and Richard Crenna and his craggy ass face playing the most stressed Middle Management slob trying to kill a Satan possessed dog ever!
I mean Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell has it all. What’s stopping you from seeing it?
I mean yeah, its bad. I mean like, really bad. Ok it isn’t Zipperface bad, nothing can be that awful. Still, I expect better of Richard Crenna. I mean this is the guy who talked John Rambo out of wiping out the entire Pacific Northwest after all. When the tensest moment is Crenna trying not to put his arm in a lawnmower, well then should tell you the amount of effort that was put into the performance. Hell Lucky the dog is more convincing than almost the entire cast. I say almost because Yvette Mimieux plays a promiscuous housewife very convincingly. She could have been the next Erica Boyer!
So how do we actually wrap this up?
I mean do I recommend you watch it?
You’re damn right I do!
You NEED to watch Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell because it is just so deliciously awful, like having a diet coke with your 2 boxes of 50 piece Chicken Mcnuggets. Ah, there’s the analogy for this movie! Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, The Chicken Mcnuggets of B Grade Made For TV Movies!