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Archive for December 11th, 2010

By Bob Clark

After the monumental success of J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof’s Lost, a program that almost singlehandedly repopularized long-form serial narrative and high-concept sci-fi storytelling on American television, there was a headlong rush between all the major networks and cable-channels to produce the next big prime-time tv-event, the kind of mad scramble towards imitations and pretenders that hadn’t been seen since Twin Peaks and The X-Files inspired their own crop of derivative programming. Some of the shows that were greenlit were real quality, like the post-apocalyptic Norman Rockwell portrait of Jericho on CBS, or the alternate-reality Biblical epic of Kings on NBC. Others, like Tim Kring’s Heroes, had obvious potential and moments of greatness, but nothing more. A few, like the tepid rom-com in space Defying Gravity, were just plain bad. In a landscape of television where the limitations of what audiences would accept as far as imaginative premises and ambitious storytelling went, there were plenty of shows that tried to push those limits further, and paid dearly for it, or didn’t make the most of the new room they were given, and got left behind. Where exactly, then, does the one-season experiment of ABC’s FlashForward, fit in– with the underrated successes, or the overdone failures?

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(UK 1982 103 min)

Director Martin Rosen; Writers Richard Adams (novel), Martin Rosen; Voice Acting John Hurt (Snitter), Christopher Benjamin (Rowf); Colour Consultant Donna K Baker

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

“I had a master once…they are not masters”

Snitter the dog makes a distinction between the men who violently conduct tests on him and the owner he used to have, the man who cared for him. For Snitter there are only two kinds of man : Masters and White Coats. For Rowf, his friend, a dog who never felt the love of a human being, there are only White Coats and only danger.

The Plague Dogs is a double-edged sword whose two blades are both dangerously sharp : those who have never felt Good cannot believe in it but those who have, and whose trust has been abused, now perceive the whole world poisoned. When the dogs see a man innocently holding a knife they scarper and we are punched in the gut by the sadness of this fearful mistrust.

Grimy dank of fog, smells and aromas of cold clinical putrefaction. Men silently looming overhead, eyes out of sight. They, we are made to look alien and beastly. The dogs escape and run for shelter, for affection, for food. All the while rumour runs with them, with whispers and news broadcasts morphing innocent test subjects into murderous carriers of the bubonic plague. Director Martin Rosen, just as he did with another Richard Adams book, Watership Down, blankets the countryside in forbidding greys, browns and dark greens. The film is powerful, unsettling and thought-provoking – an all-round, high quality work.

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