White Dog

White Dog is a 1982 American drama film directed by Samuel Fuller using a screenplay written by Fuller and Curtis Hanson loosely based on Romain Gary’s 1970 novel of the same title. The film depicts the struggle of a dog trainer named Keys (Paul Winfield), who is black, trying to retrain a stray dog found by a young actress (Kristy McNichol), that is a “white dog”—a dog trained to viciously attack any black person. Fuller uses the film as a platform to deliver an anti-racist message as it examines the question of whether racism is a treatable problem or an incurable condition. The film’s theatrical release was suppressed in the United States by Paramount Pictures out of concern of negative press after rumors began circulating that the film was racist. It was released internationally in France and the United Kingdom in 1982, and broadcast on various American cable television channels. Its first official American release came in December 2008 when The Criterion Collection released the original uncut film to DVD. Critics praised the film’s hard line look at racism and Fuller’s use of melodrama and metaphors to present his argument, and its somewhat disheartening ending that leaves the impression that while racism is learned, it cannot be cured. Reviewers consistently questioned the film’s lack of wide release in the United States when it was completed and applauded its belated release by Criterion.

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