Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Monster Dog
Directed by Claudio Fragasso (as Clyde Anderson)
“For better or worse we have a new king who will live in the house of the damned forever!”

If you’re going to cast Alice Cooper in your film what better role to give him than “the hottest rock act in the world?” Monster Dog was made in 1984 and stars Alice Cooper as world famous rock star Vincent Raven (a little ironic as Alice’s real name is Vincent). 


Monster Dog was shot in Spain and written and directed by Claudio Fragasso, director of the infamous Troll 2. The Spanish version of this film was called Leviathan, the English version Monster Dog. I of course watched the English version. The voices are all dubbed, including Vincent’s for some inexplicable reason. I have no idea why they did this but it detracted from what appears to be a pretty decent acting job by Alice. 

The movie opens with a music video for the song IDENTITY CRISIS. In it Vincent dresses in a series of costumes to match the lyrics - James Bond, Billy the Kid, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper – to go along with the song...
Sometimes I'm James Bond,
Sometimes I'm Billy the Kid,
Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes,
Sometimes I feel like Jack the Rip-per

It’s actually a pretty good song, and is of course sung by Alice. It sounds musically like it could have fit right into one of Cooper’s previous two albums, DaDa (1983) or Zipper Catches Skin (1982), and in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if this song and the other one featured in this movie, SEE ME IN THE MIRROR, were actually unused tracks from one of those albums. Both DaDa and Zipper were recorded while Alice was experimenting with different styles, letting pop, new wave and even punk influences creep into his music. Alice was also drinking heavily during that period, and in fact has said he doesn’t even remember recording them. He checked into rehab and got sober following DaDa, and Monster Dog was perhaps the first project he undertook post-rehab. In 1986 he recorded his comeback album CONSTRICTOR, returning to his rock roots, this time with a metal edge. But I digress…

The camera cuts to a shot of a van driving down a highway, and we find that the music video is actually playing on a television set in the van. This was before the days of portable televisions or DVD players, so it's pretty funny to see a 80s style top-loading VCR on the front console.

Inside the van are Vincent and a film crew. They’re returning to Vincent's home town to shoot a new music video. Vincent used to live there in a big gothic mansion and they’re planning to use it in the upcoming video shoot. The van comes up to a roadblock where the local sheriff and deputy warn them that a pack of wild dogs is loose in the area and has killed five people. The sheriff recognizes Vincent. "You sure picked a fine time to come home Vincent," he says. "People haven't forgotten that story about your dad..."

The band jumps back into the van and hits the road. Suddenly a dog lunges in front of the van. They screech to a halt. The dog is injured, and Vincent humanely puts it out of its misery - with a rock to the head! Repeatedly! An old man with torn, bloodied clothes emerges from the woods. He warns them that they’re all gonna die before running back off into the woods.

The band finally arrives at Vincent's house but no one is there. They find a roaring fire, food prepared, but the house is otherwise empty. Vincent had expected the old family caretaker Jos to be there – he searches the house for him to no avail. It is, of course a full moon…

 That night one of the girls named Angela has a nightmare where the old man they met earlier is chasing her through the house, trying to kill her. She finds the corpses of her friends and Vincent changed into a werewolf! She wakes and tells the band about it, but they laugh it off. This was actually a pretty cool sequence in the movie.

  Downstairs Vincent’s girlfriend Sandra finds him in the library reading a book titled "WEREWOLVES - LEGENDS AND SCIENTIFIC REALITIES.” Sandra is played by actress Victoria Vera, a real cutie who went on to do a lot of modeling and acting in film, television and theater in Spain. 

There’s another unintentionally funny moment here where they show a close-up of this “scientifically accurate” book featuring a full page photograph of Lon Chaney Jr. in full werewolf makeup! Hilarious! 


Vincent explains about a rare heart disease that causes the person afflicted with it to believe he’s a werewolf. His father had been stricken with this disease and the townsfolk killed him, believing he was a werewolf. Vince worries that the disease has been passed down to him.

The next day filming begins on the music video for SEE ME IN THE MIRROR. It’s a slow song, and the shoot consists of Vincent singing into a hand held mirror while Angela, dressed in a wedding gown, walks slowly down the old staircase of the house. We’re treated to the entire song here, and Vincent wears makeup with blue eye shadow over one eye and sharp, penciled in eyebrows. 


The video is interrupted when the body of the caretaker crashes through an upstairs stain glass window and falls into the shot (actually landing on Angela). The crew runs upstairs to investigate where the body came and Angela wanders off into the woods, traumatized. Vincent grabs a shotgun and heads out after her, makeup still intact!  He tells the rest of them to barricade themselves in and if he isn’t back by sunset to leave without him.

While he’s gone a group of locals surround the house. They cut the phone lines and take the film crew hostage until Vince returns. They tell them that Vince is a werewolf like his father before him. One of the werewolf’s powers is to control dogs, and they believe Vince is behind the rash of killings, commanding his dogs to do his bidding. They have a silver bullet especially for him…

Vince finally catches up to Angela and convinces her to come back to the house with him, which turns out to be unfortunate for her as she’s shot and killed upon their arrival. The men chase Vince up to the roof of the house, where he is able to hide and pick them off one by one. There is a magnificent exploding head scene here as Vince nails one of the thugs right in the kisser with a shotgun.

Meanwhile a pack of dogs breaks into the house and attacks the crew, ripping one of them to shreds. Suddenly they stop, and back away from the crew. The front doors of the house burst open and we see the Monster Dog itself. It’s actually a puppet and is shrouded in fog so we never get a good look at it. This is probably a good thing, honestly, as it’s pretty fake looking. 

The final act of the film is where the werewolf part of the movie FINALLY kicks in. We find out the secret of the werewolf curse and just who’s behind the killings. One thing I can definitely say about Claudio’s movies, they have interesting, if somewhat convoluted, storylines.

This film is unrepentantly 80s – the fashion, hair, music - all of it sets it firmly in 1984. Monster Dog is heavy on atmosphere, and heavy on fog. I have a friend who used to say the higher the fog level the better the film – judging on that scale this would be a masterpiece.

Monster Dog has a fairy tale like quality to it, much like Troll 2 to some extent, and is an interesting movie, all told. If only they hadn’t dubbed Alice’s voice. Definitely recommended for all Cooper fans. Available on Netflix streaming.

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