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A Dog's Dinner Of A Film
on 1 December 2011
I was introduced to the Lassie films by Father, who was a huge Lassie fan. He used to make paper mache models of Lassie and then cover them in real dog hair. They looked quite realistic, but myself and Mother could never work out where he got all the dog hair from. Father always refused to answer and slunk off to the back of the garden to 'dig his pit' as he called it.
The first Lassie film was made in 1914, silent of course and featured Al Jolson as a down on his luck tramp who befriends Lassie in a Jazz club and then they tour together as Minstrels. Over the years, many Lassie films were made. Some were great and some were downright awful. Who can forget the horrendous 1986 erotic drama 'Last Tango With Lassie' where Lassie and Ted Danson hook up in a seedy French hotel.
This particular version is a decent enough film. Lassie is a Tibetan Mastiff with a beautiful silky coat and a nose for trouble. The gender of the dog can be confusing at times. The cast keep switching between calling it a 'he' and a 'she' throughout the film, but this is a small quibble.
So onto the plot. Lassie lives peacefully with her family somewhere in the Swedish Alps. The family (Britt Eckland, Jeremy Irons and various unknown child actors) work on a farm and are self sufficient. When Irons becomes unexpectedly involved in a nuclear weapons exchange with terrorists, the family must find a way to escape the drama they've gotten involved in. It is down to Lassie to save the day of course and he/she does this in true Lassie style.
Granted, there are some poor effects. In a lot of the action sequences, Lassie is clearly a stuffed puppet. Completely rigid and suspended from wires, the scene where it flies through the air and 'attacks' the terrorists is unconvincing. I was also not won over by the scene where Lassie walks on hind legs and carries a barrel of water up a hill. Despite the production flaws, the acting is warming, the scenery pleasing and even the heavy violence and bad language adds to the pleasure. Recommended viewing.