Director: Curtis Harrington
Shriek Show/Media Blasters

The 1970s was the decade for the made-for-TV horror film. This was the period that offered us such noteworthy Dan Curtis productions as THE NIGHT STALKER, THE NIGHT STRANGLER, DRACULA (with Jack Palance), TRILOGY OF TERROR, as well unforgettable creepy monster fare like GARGOYLES and DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, and the toothy Stephen King mini series, SALEM’S LOT. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as there were countless slipshod genre “movie-of-the-weeks” that were cranked out one after the other, and often seasoned pro theatrical directors were hired to helm them. Take for instance Curtis Harrington, given a seat in the teledirector’s chair for the likes of HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN, THE CAT CREATURE, KILLER BEES, THE DEAD DON’T DIE and the project in question here, DEVIL DOG: HOUND OF HELL, possessing a title as ludicrous as its premise.

A champion breeder canine is purchased from a pound (for $5000!) by a group of Satanists who apparently turn it demon-like during a black mass. The pooch mates, has a large litter, and one of the pups, who soon becomes a full-grown German Shepherd, winds up in the hands of the typically suburban Barry family. They become very attached to their new pet, but before it has a sinister influence on Mom and the kids, with several friends and neighbors ending up dead through unexplained, albeit supernatural circumstances. Only Dad seems to have kept his virtuous will, and he travels to a foreign land to seek aid to regain his family’s souls and destroy the devil dog once and for all.

TV movies are always limited by what they can show, and DEVIL DOG is no exception. It also suffers immensely through a cut-rate budget, halfheartedly implied shocks, laughable special effects, and uninspired direction by Harrington who was obviously going through the motions here. But perhaps this is what has given this cheesy little TV film such an undeserved following through the years? The plot is simply one of the most idiotic committed to celluloid – devil worshipers (led by former Hammer starlet Martine Beswick and character great R.G. Armstrong, both only seen briefly in the opening moments) infiltrating the peaceful homes of middle-class denizens with evil puppies, with no motive other than to make them nasty and conceded while knocking off a few bystanders who happen to get in the way. It’s too bad such a shoddy screenplay is given to a decent cast made up of Yvette Mimieux (THE TIME MACHINE) as the mom, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann (the kids from Disney’s earlier “Witch Mountain” films) as the children, and the late Richard Crenna as the father. Crenna brings a sense of class and credibility here that saves this camp session as being sit-thruable. One of the more gripping scenes has him nearly being willed by the dog (a well-trained performing animal for certain) nearly willing him to plunk his hand in a spinning lawnmower blade.

Media Blasters presents DEVIL DOG: HOUND OF HELL on DVD in its original full screen format, and it looks absolutely terrific. The transfer was obviously culled from the original negative, as it looks like it was made yesterday. The clean image has brilliant colors and excellent picture detail. Several scenes appear to have been taken from a noticeably inferior video source, but fortunately, this only amounts to a few minutes. The mono audio is pretty clear, with some slight hiss during the more quit parts. An Italian mono track is also included.

With the exception of some trailers for other Shriek Show releases, all the extras can be found on a second disc. A featurette titled “To the Devil, A Dog,” contains three separate interviews with producer Jerry Zeitman, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, all of varying length (with Richards’ being the longest and Eisenmann being the shortest). All three talk about DEVIL DOG with a kind of “it is what is” attitude, and go on to discuss various aspects of their careers. Richards is especially bubbly and revealing, and all of them concur that Richard Crenna was a delightful person on and off screen. A new audio interview with Curtis Harrington displays his dislike for DEVIL DOG, stating that he was just a “director for hire” and how he thinks this is the worst of his TV movies. Harrington also discusses the headaches of dealing with bigwigs in the film industry, his recent USHER project, and that the favorite of his TV movies is KILLER BEES. Also included is a Martine Beswick still gallery, a lengthy 20-year-old text interview with her originally published in Fangoria, a DEVIL DOLL promotional trailer and a filmography of Harrington. An Easter Egg will take you to further interview footage with Richards, commencing on the subject of her late 70s sitcom "Hello Larry." It’s here that she tells some amusing anecdotes about McLean Stevenson and Larry Hagman. (George R. Reis)