• Fri, Mar 1 2013

Terrifying Children’s Movies: The Plague Dogs

randsI saved the best for last, my friends. And by “best” I mean “most traumatic.” Of course I’m talking about The Plague Dogs. I can’t do one of my overwrought intros for this movie because there is no available hyperbole to adequately prepare you for what is about to come. We started with animal experimentation, and we’ll end with animal experimentation, only this is a million times more hardcore than The Secret of NIMH. Dog lovers, go look at your puppy porn. Cat lovers, it’s up to us to soldier through.


It starts with sloshing water in a metal tank; we are in an evil amniotic sack of doom. A large dog bursts to the surface of the tank, barking. Other dogs in cages take notice. “I think he’s starting to pack it in,” says an uber-polite British voice. There is nowhere for the dog to get purchase to pull himself out of the water, so he does the only reasonable thing to do: he goes limp, stops paddling, and drifts to the bottom of the tank. Shadowy men with clipboards are the last thing he sees. As they fish him out, they use brainy science talk to speculate that he’ll die pretty soon during one of these tests, as early as next week maybe. (Fingers crossed.) This will solve the age-old academic question of whether a dog is capable of drowning. Britain’s brightest, we salute you! They put a tube down the dog’s throat as he lies soggily on a steel table.


An outside shot of the lab is accompanied by ominous and demented piano music. It sounds like the masterwork of Buffalo Bill, maybe something he composed in between making his skin clothes. Actually, I shouldn’t say that, because we have no evidence that Buffalo Bill played the piano, and “Goodbye Horses” is a goddamn masterpiece. But you get the idea. Naturally, it’s storming, letting us know that this is the place that civilization forgot, except that amoral scientific work like this is civilization at its finest.

Back inside, we see many, many cute dogs including a Papillion (fancy!) One of the dogs, a terrier-type is dead. We know because he’s motionless and missing patches of hair. He’s scooped up and disposed of with a shovel. It is little comfort now to know that “God Loves a Terrier.“ I’m sorry to go there, but the dead dog looks just like Winky.

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  • Cassie

    … what exactly is this supposed to teach children? It certainly isn’t entertaining… ugh

    • piranfello

      uh, maybe compassion and about the abuses of humans towards animals? But the main point is that it is NOT a children;s film, you idiot. NO more than the animated FRITZ THE CAT was for kids, tho it was animated. You people are truly dense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.mccoleman.9 Kelly McColeman

    I watched about 2 minutes of it on Netflix last year and ran away screaming and crying. And I’m 32. I honestly hate the use of cartoon animals to show kids how terrible people are, it fucking sucks. Show bad people doing things to cartoon people.

  • EKW2188

    Sorry, but I wish I hadn’t read that :’-(

  • Anonachocolatemousse

    This has to be the worst “children’s” movie ever and I’ve never even seen it. But when the man who wrote Watership Down one ups himself, you get The Plague Dogs. Richard Adams you were an….interesting man. :/

  • Andypants

    I might be able to sleep tonight after all: Wikipedia tells me that in the updated version they live happily ever after (because–editorializing–I’m pretty sure Adams’ family threatened to disown him if he didn’t quit being so effing bleak) :

    “In a stark contrast to the addendum in subsequent editions of the
    book—which describes the dogs’ finding sanctuary from the hunters and
    being cleared of carrying the plague—the film concludes as the first
    edition of the book proper, with the dogs swimming out to sea.”

    So let’s just all decide they made it to the island and lived a life of peace and prosperity amidst the daises and whatnot? Please?

  • gargoyle

    This is a discusting movie!!! I wont let my children see it..

  • piranfello

    First, it is NOT a children’s film; so the moron who is calling it that has no clue what s/he is watching. Secondly, having worked in an animal experimentation facility, I can attest to the cuelty and stupidity of some of the workers. Finally, yes–they DO die at the end. THe “gauzy” landmass is a METAPHOR (for the completely uneducated and oblivious reviewer’s benefit, I felt compelled to add this). It is NOT a disgusting movie. What is DISGUSTING is HOW ANIMALS ARE TREATED in research. WE are TOLD they receive compassionate care–trust me, it is 9/10 of the time not the case. If you believe it is compassionate, go volunteer to be a caged experimental animal.

    • sara

      I was 10 when I watched it and loved it,it was the first movie that made me cry but I do agree with it not being a childrens movie

  • arthbard

    While it’s probably a bit dubious to refer to The Plague Dogs as a movie for children, my mother, in an apparent fit of obliviousness, did rent the video for my sister and me to watch when we were kids. Needless to say, I was disturbed.

    But, it stuck with me enough that I sought it out when I was older. It’s really a fantastic film if you can handle the unrelenting grimness of it all–clearly this is not going to be everyone’s cup of proverbial tea.

    I want to say, though, that I suspect the version you watched is actually the cut that was edited for American theaters. The original British version runs about 20 minutes longer and contains one additional completely horrifying shot that deserves to be mentioned in a piece such as this.

    The scene where the Tod pushes the would-be assassin from the cliff ends with the starving dogs ominously walking off-screen in the direction of the body. The next scene follows a helicopter tracking the dogs’ footprints through the snow only to find the man’s corpse bloodied and torn apart, apparently having been eaten by the hungry dogs.

    Yeah. Probably best not to show this one to the kids.

  • Paige Cinder Scott

    Call me an optimist, but the ending could have gone either way, we never actually saw them die. In fact, in the addendum to the book, they’re rescued, and Snitter is reunited with his master, who was in fact only hospitalized, not dead(his sister was a *****).

    • sara

      well they were meant to die but the publisher wouldnt publish it unless Richard made a mor happier ending

  • sara

    I loved this movie ever since I was 10 it was one of the best movies ever and actually really meaningful