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Banned in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 6, 1992
White Dog
Samuel Fuller USA, 1981

"This is a thriller, and it's also a complete metaphor," said Sam Fuller of his controversial feature which went unreleased theatrically for ten years. Loosely based on a story by Romain Gary, White Dog concerns a dog trained to attack blacks. Paul Winfield portrays a trainer who takes on the task of deprogramming the animal on behalf of its new owner (Kristy McNichol). With frequent point-of-view shots from the dog's perspective, Fuller makes a case for his thesis, which is that racism is "a disease created by man" and that infecting the animal is itself a form of violence. The idea of a "white dog" is dehumanizing, but accusations of racism toward Fuller were perhaps derived from a misunderstanding of the film's content, as well as intent. In Gary's story, the dog is retrained to attack whites, perpetuating the cycle of racism; Fuller's version has Winfield (in a fine performance) attempting to cure the dog. Overlooking Fuller's history of anti-racist films, the NAACP urged a boycott, inspiring the studio to shelve the finished film.

• Written by Fuller, Curtis Hanson, based on the novel and Life story by Romain Gary. Photographed by Bruce Surtees. With Paul Winfield, Kristy McNichol, Burl Ives, Jameson Parker. (85 mins, Color, 35mm, From Paramount Pictures)