Full Moon Features: Monster Dog

Craig J. Clark — Dec. 5th 2014

Thirty years ago this month (the IMDb isn’t any more specific than that), the utterly inept werewolf film Monster Dog had its Italian premiere, so it’s only right that it should be this month’s Full Moon Feature. Written and directed by Claudio Fragasso (credited as Clyde Anderson), who would achieve cult infamy by making Troll 2 six years later, Monster Dog is just as nonsensical as that Nilbog-set opus, taking incoherency to the next level as it strings together a succession of poorly shot scenes with the barest wisp of connective tissue.

The inattention to detail starts with the poster, which features the legend “TWENTY YEARS LATER, THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS AGAIN AND NOW IT’S LOU’S TURN TO PAY…” This is all well and good, but there’s just one problem: There’s no one in the film named Lou. There is, however, a Vince Raven (played by a distractingly dubbed Alice Cooper), described by one character as “the hottest rock ‘n’ roll star in the world,” which Cooper decidedly was not at the time. Regardless, Fragasso cuts in cheap-ass music videos for two of Cooper’s songs — “Identity Crisis” (spelled “Chrises” in the closing credits) and “See Me in the Mirror” — the first of which even gets a full reprise at the end. Factor in the edit of the Alan Parsons Project song “A Dream Within a Dream/The Raven,” which plays over a montage of Vince’s crew preparing to shoot the “Mirror” video, and the opening and closing credits, and that just leaves 69 minutes out of the already-abbreviated 84-minute running time for Fragasso’s threadbare plot.

That plot, by the way, revolves around Vince’s ill-timed return to his boyhood home for the aforementioned video shoot, which is unfortunately scheduled in light of the pack of wild dogs on the loose in the area (at one police checkpoint, he’s told they’ve killed five people so far). Accompanying him are his girlfriend Sandra (Victoria Vera), a self-proclaimed “recognized expert in electronic videos,” and four marginally sketched-in industry types whose main function is to be werewolf fodder. The only one that really gets to stand out is the danger-sensing Angela (Pepita James), who ironically enough is the first to go down when Vince’s home is invaded by four loutish villagers intent on killing him because they believe he’s the monstrous dog in their midst when in actuality it’s the old man in the tattered, bloody clothing who periodically pops by to remind Vince and his pals that they’re dead meat.

And what of this werewolf or “monster dog” that we hear so much about? Well, we don’t get to see too much of it because Fragasso didn’t have the budget to get a good enough creature made that it could be shown clearly. Most often it’s enshrouded in the fog or concealed in the underbrush, and when it does pop up it’s only for a second or so at a time and in a variety of contradictory forms. How telling, then, that the only time Fragasso holds on an image of one long enough for us to study it, it’s a photograph of Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man clumsily pasted into a reference book called Werewolves: Myths, Legends and Scientific Realities. Naturally, when it comes time for Vince to fulfill his destiny and undergo his painful transformation, he looks nothing at all like that.