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DVD Review

The Plague Dogs


Starring (voice): John Hurt, Christopher Benjamin, James Bolam, Nigel Hawthorne and Warren Mitchell
Optimum Classic
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: PG
Available 07 January 2008

Subjected to harrowing scientific experiments, two dogs make a fight for freedom from the animal research laboratory in which they are imprisoned. However, the outside world proves to be not all that they had hoped for, especially when panic breaks out amongst the human population when it's revealed that the dogs could be infected with the Bubonic plague, and they suddenly find themselves pursued at every turn...

The Plague Dogs (1982), like Watership Down (1978), was directed by Martin Rosen from the book by Richard Adams. As with Watership Down, The Plague Dogs is a bit of a depressing movie - about as far away from Disney as you can possibly get (thankfully).

The plot follows two dogs that are being experimented on in a research laboratory that is located in the middle of the Lake District. Rowf and Snitter escape when a worker forgets to check that Rowf's cage is locked. Once the two escape Snitter is eager to find a new master (his original owner, we later discover, was knocked down and killed trying to save Snitter, who had wandered in to the road.)

As the two dogs wander around the Lake District they soon come into contact with a fox who agrees to help them if they'll share whatever food they can find. But, as food starts to become scarcer, the local news is reporting that the dogs have escaped and may be carrying Bubonic plague and the farmers are trying to shoot them for killing their sheep, it's not long before the dogs are on the run for their lives.

This isn't the first time this movie has been released on DVD, but this time around there is a treat in store for fans of the film. Optimum Classic has included the original, unedited, cut of the movie which has an additional 14 minutes of footage. Most of this was no doubt edited for time. However, one scene was completely cut because of it's shocking content. In the cut version it is implied that the dogs eat the dead bounty hunter after he falls to his death. However, in the full length version there is a shot of the man's body, which has been clearly mutilated by the dogs, leaving no doubt about what happened.

Vocal talents are provided by John Hurt (Snitter), Christopher Benjamin (Rowf) , James Bolam (The Tod), Nigel Hawthorne (Dr. Boycott) and Warren Mitchell (Tyson / Wag). If you listen carefully you'll even hear an early role for Patrick Stewart as the Major. And the '70s/80s phenomena that was Percy Edwards provides the animal vocalisations.

Extras include the aforementioned alternate, extended version that was only previously available on the Australian release of the DVD, and a trailer.

If you haven't seen The Plague Dogs before, then this is the version you should pick up. I know it sounds a little cliched, but they really don't make animated movies like this any more.


Darren Rea

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