The Plague Dogs started out as a novel by Martin Rosen, the man who brought us the brutal and disturbing Watership Down (I’m still not sure why my mum let me watch that, much more gruesome than your Jasons and Freddies). Anyway, I could be lazy and describe it as Watership Down with dogs, but I won’t. Because that would be lazy.
This one tells the story of two dogs who escape an animal testing lab, only to be pursued by the authorities and the press when a story gets out that they may be carrying the plague. Suddenly everyone wants the pooches dead.
The dogs in question are Snitter, a fox terrier who was sold to the lab following a car accident, and his companion Rowf, a labrador cross who was born there. Following their daring escape they join forces with a canny fox, who helps them to survive in the countryside, as far as his self-preservation instincts will allow.
Snitter is voiced by the ever excellent national treasure that is Sir John Hurt (ok the Queen hasn’t made him a Sir yet, but she surely will one day) who brings fragility and vulnerability to the character of the confused, ill-treated dog. It’s no wonder he also played a major role in Watership Down. Who wouldn’t want the legendary Hurt on board?
Christopher Benjamin holds his own as the world-weary Rowf; Nigel Hawthorne is chilling as the cold Dr. Boycott who’s determined to destroy the dogs and save the lab’s reputation, and James Bolam is suitably slimy as the apparently untrustworthy fox, The Tod.
The Plague Dogs, much like Watership Down, is a violent and upsetting tale and despite the fact it’s animated, is most definitely not for children. It’s dark hard to watch and almost relentlessly depressing but is well done and worth persevering with if for no other reason than it’s so unusual.
If you can handle animated animal cruelty you can watch The Plague Dogs here