DEVIL DOG: HOUND OF HELL
*** Out of 5
Release Date- October 31st, 1978
Running Time- 95-Minutes
Screenplay- Stephen Karpf & Elinor Karpf
Director- Curtis Harrington
Starring- Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Ike Eisenman, Kim Richards, Victor Jory and R.G. Armstrong
Devil Dog is a really fun and silly made for TV movie that originally aired on Halloween night in 1978. I’ll admit to being a big fan of TV movies of the 70s and 80s and to a lesser degree the early to mid 90s. That goes for all genres and not just horror and while Devil Dog wouldn’t rate as one of the best the film does have this campy tone throughout despite being played straight. Surprisingly enough Devil Dog has a solid cast led by Richard Crenna and a bit part from Ken Kercheval best known as Cliff Barnes on Dallas (both original and continuation). If anything the only problem I have with TV films are they are often bogged down by TV conventions and production values and even some of the better ones can often have these very problems. Devil Dog again while not one of the best TV movies does have more of a theatrical look than TV and some of the flaws of the film have nothing to do with being a TV movie.
The whole concept to Devil Dog is quite absurd and the plot of the film is beyond silly; Satanists posses the body of a dog with satan and then breed the dog, which has satanic off springs. After the death of their dog, the Barry family adapts one of the puppies and soon the satanic dog begins to gain control over the family.
The screenplay by Stephen Karpf & Elinor Karpf is fairly entertaining as they take a silly concept, but yet never really play up to camp value. Characters are fairly decent actually and while the plot absurd it oddly enough works. I however learned a few things from this film; a devil dog will turn the children into sociopaths and the mother into the town slut. As entertaining as the script is the story wasn’t strong enough to fully carry the film and by the final act things get really sloppy and messy.
Director Curtis Harrington opts to play the film straight rather than go for camp value and with the absurd plot it does make for a really fun film. Pacing as fairly strong through most of the film and while Harrington attempts suspense and tension the devil dog is just too cute to ever take as a serious threat. German Shepard are big dogs and can do damage if they attack, but the dog was calm and non-aggressive and seeing how beautiful the dog is, Harrington really can’t entice much suspense. The highlight is when the dog is chasing after Betty (Mimieux) when she realizes something isn’t quite right with the dog, but the dog casually follows her non-aggressively and while this isn’t the fault of the director, but it does make for an unintentional funny scene, which this film is filled with. Also while the dog is following her it looks up and off screen probably to the trainer (what a bad actor that dog is lol). However as I mentioned about the script getting a but sloppy in the final act, the direction does as well. The final 30-minutes just seem to drag on and on; the fun factor found in the first half is gone and the film is very sluggish with some long scenes that bring about boredom. While tolerable it does hinder the film, but the first half Harrington delivers a fun paced and silly film and while some of the comedy may be unintentional I found the first half a total blast.
Overall The Devil Dog: Hound of Hell is a really fun film that’s highly entertaining, but does unravel in the final act. Despite that it can’t fully bring the film down and this again was just a lot of fun with an excellent cast. While not the best TV horror movie it is however one of my favorites.