Friday, March 4, 2016

Is Alice Cooper a werewolf or a MONSTER DOG?

Director: Claudio Fragasso

Cast: Alice Cooper, Victoria Vera, Carlos Santurio

Scorpion Releasing / Region A / Unrated / 1.85:1 (1080p) widescreen / DTS-HD Master Audio / 84 minutes

Extras: "Lord of the Dogs" featurette with interviews from Fragasso, Rossella Drudi and Roberto Bessi / Trailer


You may not be familiar with the name Claudio Fragasso but you are probably familiar with Bruno Mattei, a regular collaborator of Fragasso. The two co-directed a couple of films for which Mattei is known and Fragasso was uncredited like Hell of the Living Dead, Women's Prison Massacre and Scalps. The duo also took over for Lucio Fulci on Zombie 3 (actually a sequel to Fulci's Zombie, which was also called Zombi 2, implying that it was a sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead which was entitled Zombi in Italy) after he fell ill in the middle of the production. With the monetary backing of the infamous Joe D'Amato, Fragasso directed a few exploitation classics by himself like La Casa 5: Beyond Darkness, Troll 2 (this one will get is own review in the near future, WOW!) and the bizarre werewolf movie, Monster Dog, starring rockstar Alice Cooper.

In Monster Dog, Cooper plays a version of himself named "Vince Raven"; a rock legend who goes back to his hometown with a group of friends and co-workers to shoot a music video. When they arrive into town, they are confronted by the local sheriff and later a dirty and bloodied old man, both of whom warn them about dog attacks in the area and possibly a "monster dog" aka werewolf. They finally reach the house and one of the girls has nightmarish visions about the bloody old man and sees Vince as a werewolf. She wakes up and tells Vince of her dream and he explains that his father was killed by the townspeople because they suspected him of lycanthropy (being half man/wolf). They go on with their plans to make a rock video and soon dead bodies begin to turn up. The local militia also show up to kill Vince and of course, the killer dog pack and the "monster dog" converge for the final showdown in the house. Is Vince a werewolf? Will anyone survive the attack? Will you be able to get this damned song out of your head?

Claudio Fragasso's Troll 2 is on a lot of people's "Best of the Bad" movie lists and with good reason... it's fantastically atrocious. While Monster Dog doesn't reach the bad movie excesses of Troll 2, it certainly does fall into the same category of "so bad, it's good". We fans who like these types of movies enjoy them because they are entertaining, hysterical and fun to watch. The technical ineptitude, terrible writing and acting along with ridiculous premises are all part of the package. You get all of this in Monster Dog as well as atrocious English-to-English over-dubbing–yes, their lips are saying English words but the dialogue is dubbed in, probably because most of the actors had thick Italian or Spanish accents, since this was shot in Torrelodones, Spain. The creature effects are basically a puppet that is shot at different angles, close up and in the dark to hide as much of it as possible. The gore actually looks pretty decent and there is plenty of blood and guts for everyone. The female lead, Spanish actress Victoria Vera, is incredibly hot but unfortunately keeps her clothes on.

Monster Dog was released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment in 1986 (two years after it was released in theaters) and on a dodgy-looking DVD by Jef Films (who?) in 2005. So we really haven't had a decent representation of the film in the home video era, until now. Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing have come together once again to bring us not only a DVD but a full-fledged, 1080p high-definition Blu-ray of this bizarre and obscure Italian-Spanish production. The box indicates that the aspect ratio is 1.85:1 but it actually looks closer to 1.66:1, with very small black bars on each side of your 16x9 television. But the picture quality itself is very nice and clean with good detail, color saturation and contrasts. I've been watching home video companies get better and better at these HD transfers of more and more obscure titles over the last decade or more and I continue to be impressed with most of them. Kino and Scorpion are two on that list. Monster Dog on Blu-ray is a must-have for "bad movie" fans who like them to at least look really good.

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