The Plague Dogs

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.

The Tod, Rowf and Snitter

The Tod, Rowf and Snitter

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.

Score: 7/10

If you can handle animated animal cruelty you can watch The Plague Dogs here

11 responses to “The Plague Dogs

  1. my gosh! I read the book Watership Down just a couple years ago and was shocked when I found out it was supposed to be a kid’s book. can’t imagine how terrifying the movie must have been!

    • Right? I guess kids need to learn that life isn’t all sweets and rainbows, but rabbits dying horribly and dogs in vivisection labs seems a bit much!

  2. I love “The Plague Dogs”. and ” Watership Down”. I saw both in my youth and never forgot about it. In my teen years, I began to question why animals were used for redundant research especially when many of them did not have similar and tougher systems compared to ours.

    • I’ve never read the books, I’m not sure I’d have the stomach after seeing the films, even though they’re animated!

  3. Never heard of this either! This is why I like your blog. : ) You know I’ve never seen Watership Down? Actually don’t even know the story, except that it’s depressing. I plan to watch it soon – think it’s about time! I’m an adult now – I can handle it, right? Then maybe I’ll check this one out. : )

    • I’d never heard of it until last week. I’m not even sure why this popped up on my YouTube recommendations – what on earth had I been looking at to lead to this?!

      Watership Down is pretty traumatic. I haven’t seen it for years and would have to psych myself up and make sure nobody else was around (in case I cried). You should see it though, it’s kind of a classic.

  4. Saw this when I was really young. The scene where the guy gets shot in the face was nightmare fuel for me for a while.

      • For my sibling and I Watership Down was night-terror fuel compared to Plague Dogs. To this day we have no clue as to how the people who ran the video rental store considered both films to be placed in the children’s section. Even Nausicaa (then re-titled as Warriors Of The Wind, with the worst editing and dubbing job) was a bit much for a kids flick.

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