Friday, February 25, 2011

In Haste: The Plague Dogs

Answer: to cause me pain.

Goodness, gracious... please, goodness and grace come down on me -- after such a movie experience I long for such things.

Now, I've seen my fair share of frustratingly depressing flicks, but man alive, this one takes the cake.

I dare you to make it through the first 10 minutes in full knowledge that the rest of the film offers no light at the end of the tunnel. No solace.

One of the most excruciating moments comes in the first few minutes, where a dog who has been relentlessly tortured, asks to his buddy,
Why do they do it Snitter? I'm not a bad dog.
Lord, Lord... have tender mercy upon all the creatures of this earth. Please.

Throughout the film there are several short cut-backs to the 'animal experiment center' where we see a secluded macaque monkey trapped in a small cylinder. A little post-film research brought up the real experiments of Dr. Harry Harlow. The good Doc was obsessed with maternal bonds, social isolation, and depression. He created what he coined a "pit of despair" in which monkeys would be stripped of hope and left completely alone for up to six months.

Oh, but it gets worse! The monkeys that came forth from these experiments would all be horrifically mentally damaged. Recovery was not something achievable. But you must understand, isolation was not the only thing Dr. Harlow wanted to examine! He also needed to test how these disturbed monkeys would treat their young. But a problem arose: no monkey wanted to have sex with the socially disturbed monkeys. Being the problem-solver that he was, the master-and-commander Doc devised a jerry-rigged "rape rack". Apparently that worked. Quoting from wikipedia,
He found that, just as they were incapable of having sexual relations, they were also unable to parent their offspring, either abusing or neglecting them. "Not even in our most devious dreams could we have designed a surrogate as evil as these real monkey mothers were," he wrote. Having no social experience themselves, they were incapable of appropriate social interaction. One mother held her baby's face to the floor and chewed off his feet and fingers. Another crushed her baby's head. Most of them simply ignored their offspring.
Once upon a time I thought Dancer in the Dark was the most depressing film I had ever witnessed. That film at least had moments of hope (and even singing). I have found its melancholic destroyer.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most depressing film my eyes have ever witnessed:  
The Plague Dogs.

 One more note: the fox in the film (spoiler: he dies) has the same name as the fox in The Fox and the Hound; Tod.

I shall leave you with a few more quotes from the cartoon.

Rowf: Something's been burnt in there. It's a death place. Bones, hair...
Snitter: They must burn creatures in there, Rowf.
Snitter: Sheep... rain... I can smell it underneath the ashes.
Rowf: In there? Smells come through the cracks. Dogs don't. 

Snitter: Rowf, if we don't find food soon, we'll die.
Rowf: I'm not going to die. Not without a fight.
Snitter: Who are you going to fight? There's no one here.
Rowf: I'll fight this.  

Rowf: They can't do anything worse than they've done already...

The Tod: Oh, I'm just going to bark at the farmer's door! Maybe he'll let me shove me head up his gun! Save a lot o' bother, that will! 

Snitter: Have you ever thought, Rowf... that we won't need food when we're dead? Or names for that matter...  

Why do they do it Snitter? I'm not a bad dog.


  1. Man alive that film was excruciating!

  2. St. Francis is weeping. This is truly terrible.

  3. Ayodele, this is why "The Brave Little Toaster" is so awesome. It has elements of true sadness and regret, but there is always copious amounts of hope for the humble appliances. "The Plague Dogs" strips you of hope from the very first shot of the film (the main dog being drowned via exhaustion).

    Man alive, how I am wounded!

  4. Only now do I see your point about The Brave Little Toaster. Maybe watching it again will restore your soul?

  5. I've loved this movie for years, but you are right that it will tear out your heart and stomp on it over and over again. It's easily the most emotionally powerful animation I've ever come across. Grave of the Fireflies was tame by comparison.

  6. I'm a self-admitted wuss.... but this blog made me cry.
    The question I always come to in moments like this, as I wish I'd never read/seen the disturbing thing... just because I'm ignorant of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So is it wrong for me to want to stay ignorant?
    This was a large question I had about moving to India. I am very tenderhearted, and was warned that after a few months, I would just grow blind to the starving street children. I'm not sure what would be worse... feeling the pain every day, or ignoring the pain every day.
    I supposed the mature response would be I want to read things like this, and see hard things, because they are true. Simply trying to ignore them is childlike.
    However, what should be the end result of such self-imposed education? The loss of empathy after seeing so much pain? God forbid.

    Forgive my emotional early morning ravings.

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  14. I thought this was a very good movie, with a lot of underlying messages, yes it was very sad but from another point of view the dogs got what they wanted all along, something they couldn't get from the world they were subjected to.. in the end, through death they were finally free

  15. Watched this film as a child and although it is very sad it also taught me about respecting animals. Great film.x

  16. Watched this religiously as a child from the age of 3 or 4 till I was at least 10. made me cry every time.
    Although I did not understand the full scope and tragedy till I was older.
    But I disagree it does have a happy ending, a bitter sweet one.... they escape to the next life together.
    Fantastic tool to introduce and teach empathy to children, probably the most important emotion for a wonderful world.