A Dog Called…Vengeance (El Perro)

February 6, 2012 at 2:38 am (7 Heads, Dog Called...Vengeance) (, , , )

A Dog Called…Vengeance – 1976 – Spain

A Dog Called…Vengeance’s title card simply reads “Vengeance”. Vengeance is a Spanish production set in an unidentifiable South American military dictatorship. A fugitive flees a camp for political prisoners. A guard tracks him into the swampy wilderness but is gunned down in the resulting scuffle. With his last breath, the guard commands his dog: “Kill!” With keen intelligence and a supernatural sense of duty, the dog stalks the fugitive through jungle marshes and a bustling city, despite being beaten, shot, and drowned.

Vengeance is strange and gripping. Sparse dialogue and plot emphasize the desperate contest between fugitive and dog, and incredibly tense scenes result. In the memorable prison break, the fugitive is chained to a man whose hand gets hacked off by a machete. The shackle slips off the man’s stub and the fugitive slides down the wall of a canyon to escape. In another scene, the fugitive and dog struggle savagely in the middle of a lake. And in my favorite bit, the fugitive is moments away from the embassy where he will have political asylum. A dog that looks remarkably like the fugitive’s hunter chases a ball across the fugitive’s path. The fugitive panics, uttering “God damn!” as he shoots the dog, provoking pursuit from the police.

The wild swampland is a perfect backdrop for the battle of man and beast. Unfortunately, Vengeance’s second half takes place in a city where elaborate backstory and a love interest slow the action. Time is wasted on useless lovemaking scenes. Thankfully, Vengeance’s momentum overcomes all that. The fistfights and gunfights are well staged. The roving dog’s eye view camerawork is compelling. And the clever editing dramatically uses fast/slow motion and freeze frames. The opening scene’s taut slowmo chase in the reeds is beautiful, as is a frozen instant of the snarling dog lunging through the air.

Vengeance is most easily available on Tales of Voodoo Vol. 5. Unfortunately, the DVD is a rough VHS transfer. Still, it’s a joy to see this odd and obscure flick. If nothing else, its premise is unforgettable.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. Starring Jason Miller of The Exorcist (1973) and The Exorcist 3 (1990). He’s the only American in the cast.

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