|The Tod, Rowf, and Snitter.|
The story opens in an animal research facility as two scientists watch a dog nearly drown in a tank of water. The purpose of their experiment, which has been repeated multiple times on the same animal, is to determine how long the canine can survive before dying. The dog, an old Lab mix named Rowf, is returned to his cage after the experiment. When he regains consciousness, his friend Snitter, a Fox Terrier, informs Rowf that his cage door has been left unlocked. Rowf and Snitter explore the dark halls of the research facility--which is filled with dogs, monkeys, rabbits, and rats--and eventually escape through the incinerator.
Life on the outside isn't what they imagined. Snitter talks fondly of his earlier life with his master, who died in a car accident while saving Snitter. They just need to find a new master, he tells Rowf. But the gray-muzzled Lab mix distrusts people based on his experiences with the "whitecoats" (the scientists). He doesn't understand people and how they could do such awful things to him ("Why do they do it? I'm not a bad dog.").
|Rowf in the background and Tod.|
The Plague Dogs is based on Richard Adams' 1977 novel of the same name. Adams had earlier written the acclaimed bestseller Watership Down, a modern fable about a warren of rabbits that was turned into a surprise 1978 boxoffice hit. Martin Rosen, who directed and wrote the screenplay for Watership Down, performed the same duties for The Plague Dogs.
|A fine example of Rosen's direction.|
|John Hurt provides the voice for Snitter.|
Although most current prints of The Plague Dogs run 95 minutes, the original film was 103 minutes. Several scenes deemed too bloody for American audiences were trimmed. The longer film is available on video only in Australia. Incidentally, the closing gospel song was written and performed by Alan Price, who provided the splendid tunes for the 1973 cult classic O Lucky Man.
The Plague Dogs is a potent film about cruelty and deception. It's a good movie with an important message and I do recommend it. However, as a dog lover, it's not a movie I want to watch again for a long time.