Original Title: El Perro
Director: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi
Screenplay: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi, Juan Antonio Porto
Actors: Jason Miller, Lea Massari, Marisa Paredes
Publisher: Carlotta Films
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller
Cinema release date: June 4, 1980
DVD/BR release date: May 17, 2022
Somewhere in Latin America, a dictator named Leónidas Arévalo reigns terror in his country. Like many other political opponents, mathematician Arístides Ungria languishes behind bars in San Justo prison. One day, he takes advantage of a moment of inattention to run away, before being caught by the guardian Zancho and his fearsome dog. Arístides ends up killing the soldier but, before dying, he orders the animal to kill the fugitive. The beast will then track Arístides to the capital to avenge his master…
We had already discussed Devil’s Fangs last year on the occasion of the Blu-ray release of the film Rottweiler directed by Brian Yuzna in 2004. Indeed, it turns out that Yuzna’s film is in fact a remake of the film edited today by Charlotte Films, based largely on changes made to the original novel (“El Perro” by Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa) by screenwriter Juan Antonio Porto for the 1977 film. , played the card of an approach that was minimalist to say the least: a protagonist called “the man” (in capital letters in the narration) was chased there by a dog named “dog” (in capital letters in the narration). Only two anonymous characters and an extremely simple and linear plot, taking the form of a chase: it was probably a bit short for Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi and his screenwriter Juan Antonio Porto, who would in fact rework the story in order to to offer a new structure, and to create a background to the story that is told to us in Devil’s Fangs.
Juan Antonio Porto therefore proposed a metaphorical situation, situating the plot in an anonymous South American country, in order to evoke violence and repression. Therefore, the scenario of Devil’s Fangs stands out more as a reinterpretation or a “free version” than as an adaptation of the novel”. The scriptwriter and the director manipulated and changed part of the meaning of the book, increased the number of characters and situations. In the film adaptation, the animal will quickly become a symbol, since it is identified with political tyranny. The dog-oppression metaphor is all the clearer because the relationship between the dog and the dictator is clearly established from the first seconds of the film, which explain to us that the sovereign’s nickname is “the dog”.
The scenario of Devil’s Fangs thereby considerably enriches the basic plot of the novel, not only by geographically locating it, but also by adding a handful of subplots: the hero of the film, Arístides (Jason Miller), is now a mathematician, who is more in love with Muriel, a woman married to one of the regime’s most bloodthirsty policemen. More importantly, the film’s storyline is also politically and socially charged. For Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi and Juan Antonio Porto, addressing a military dictatorship in a Latin American country obviously refers to leaders such as Augusto Pinochet, Alfredo Stroessner, Anastasio Somoza, Jorge Rafael Videla… and of course by extension to Franco.
Devil’s Fangs also had another life under the title The dog, which was used for its exploitation in VHS. And there is a logic to that: the main character of the film is indeed the dog, a German shepherd in this case. The “human” hero, Arístides, is certainly the motor of the action, but the staging unquestionably enhances the efforts of the dog, his strange “personality”, his extremely seductive charisma. The cutting of the film in itself also puts the film forward: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi will thus only offer us a single subjective shot from Arístides’ point of view, while we will be entitled to about twenty shots seen from the dog’s point of view.
A dog as handsome as a truck, in short, and which one could almost compare to the heavyweight in the center of Steven Spielberg’s film Duel : indestructible, indestructible, he always goes forward without ever really being able to clarify his motivations. However, there are also quite clear differences in context: the truck in Spielberg’s film is a killing machine as indecipherable as it is evil, while the dog in the Devil’s Fangs is used as a symbol of power (it is petted and petted by bullies), oppression (it barks and controls prisoners) and death (it is used to find and capture fleeing prisoners).
It should be added, moreover, that the fear of the “bite”, central to the heart of the film, could be extended to a certain fear of castration, which we find during the first sequence of Devil’s Fangs, which sees two fugitives stalked by the dog – when the latter ends up attacking one of the two fugitives, Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi’s camera is clearly placed between the fugitive’s legs, just before the animal’s charge. We will also find this idea at the heart of the incongruous sequence during which Arístides confronts the dog when he is completely naked (a sequence which will moreover be repeated in the Rottweiler by Brian Yuzna).
We did not necessarily expect to see the landing Devil’s Fangs in Blu-ray format in France, and we owe this pleasant (re)discovery to the teams of Charlotte Films. The release of this title is moreover an event in itself, in the sense that it is a world exclusive – France is indeed the first country to offer us the film in Blu-ray format. And the least we can say is that on the side of the master High Definition, the publisher has undeniably done what was expected of him: from the first shots, we will see that the restoration work has been done with care, the visual quality of the whole is really striking. The original grain is there, and very rough as it should be, the sharpness is of a beautiful precision, and the colors are natural and pay homage to the beautiful photo of the film, signed Juan Gelpí. In short, we are in the presence of a very beautiful Blu-ray! On the sound side, it’s also class: the two mixes DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 (VF/VO) are particularly clear in the restitution of the dialogues and the different atmospheres. Nice work. It should also be noted that the illustration adorning the cover of the Blu-ray was created by Doaly exclusively for this edition.
In the bonus department, we will start first with a special broadcast of the “Bistro de l’Horreur” (27 minutes), produced and directed by the team of Filmo as part of the film’s release. We will listen with pleasure to the words of François Cognard, Mélanie Boissonneau and Christophe Lemaire. We will finally end with an exciting interview with Fabrice du Welz and Fathi Beddiar (35 minutes), devoted to the film, and operating on the principle of discussion between friends.