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CUJO: RABID CANINE IN THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER…EVEN MICHAEL VICK WON’T OWN HIM By RICK BALDWIN

This world is indeed weird, and far from purrrfect.  In recent news, a married couple called local police to their house in hopes of quelling a standoff/domestic situation with their, um, cat.  Was the furious feline upset over her humans not buying her favorite overpriced Fancy Feast?  Was she needing a fix of catnip?  No, she had just given birth.  Being hormonal and protective of her kittens, she became overly aggressive by attacking, biting, and giving the paw, towards her homo sapien housemates driving them from the house.  For approximately four hours (I’m not sure how many hours that is in cat time), Pussy Galore held her ground, denying them entry, leaving the owners confused on their front yard.  The cops did arrive to tame, not taze, the tyrannical tabby, and all is well between human and frisky feline once again.  Reading about this humorous story reminded of another tale, a bloody, mouthful of foam kind of tale with a different tail, that of a rabid, ravenous Saint Bernard in Cujo (1983).

Cujo drops us into the suburban bliss of the Trenton household in the town of Castle Rock.  Vic, David Kelly Hugh of Atomic Dog (1997), is struggling with his advertising gig and will soon deal with the pain of discovering that his beloved housewife, Donna, Dee Wallace of The Howling (1981), has a backdoor man.  Talk about givin’ the dog a bone.  The soon to be fractured family also has a young, sensitive, and at times annoying son, Tad, Danny Pintauro, of Who’s the Boss (1984).  The relationship and harmony in the household aren’t the only things in need of repair, before you know it, the family’s Ford Pinto (lucky it didn’t blow up) needs some tune-ups (get the lube).

So off we go, as we are whisked away to the stereotypical, rural garage owned by the abusive, detestable Joe, Ed Lauter of The Longest Yard (1974).  Joe’s family owns a sweet Saint Bernard, Cujo, who has a friendly disposition and the visceral evidence of being bitten on his snout.  Cujo’s time is limited, as the bite’s origins came from a rabid bat, sending the pooch into madness leaving its old docile temperament behind.  After Cujo becomes a Beethoven/Mr. Hyde K9, lashes out, killing the abusive Joe and his drunk buddy.  Unbeknownst to Donna and Tad, they return to dead Joe’s garage for some maintenance, where the Pinto’s alternator dies (my first car was a Pinto, my head gasket blew), leaving them stranded inside the car.  With no internet or smartphones to aid them, the duo truly are in trouble as the rampaging Cujo has tasted blood, and he wants theirs, at all costs.  A standoff ensues between the species as the day go south quickly.  Can they survive the day of the dog?  Will rabies ruin Cujo before he kills again?  Will anyone come to save the Pinto prisoners in their distressing doggy dilemma? Now I have a humorous visual of Tony Danza of Who’s the Boss? (1985), coming to the rescue.

I’m back now, sorry for my descent into a Danza daze.  Cujo was originally slated to be directed by Peter Medak of The Changeling (1980), before being replaced by Lewis Teague of Cat’s Eye (1985).  Cujo’s screenplay was scribed by Don Carlos Dunaway of The Rockford Files (1974) and Lauren Currier of Sharing the Secret (2000), based on Stephen King’s 1981 award winning novel of the same name.  History has it that King was so inebriated battling his drunken demons during this period, that the legendary author, cannot recall writing this bestseller.  Cujo was released to mixed reviews, but turned a small profit in bringing 21 million at the box office in the summer of 1983.  King’s material was high in demand that year, as his novel about a killer ’58 Plymouth Fury, was a hit in John Carpenter’s adaptation of Christine, and David Cronenberg helming the psychological thriller, The Dead Zone.

Cujo is a fun, “when animals attack” feature, that employs decent blood effects, great action, and is very faithful towards the source material.  Even King lauded the big screen adaptation of Cujo after its release, and this just a few years after he was at war with Kubrick’s interpretation of The Shining (1980).  The crew used a total of 5 “Cujos,” to include an animatronic dog, a guy in a costume, and sadly, one of the real dogs died during production.  This was days before PITA ran the world and controlled the industry by the…leash.

Cujo, having the seen the film or not, has been ingrained in the psyche of American popular culture meaning a monster of a dog similar to the word association game we play with the word Shark=Jaws.  If you love dogs, hate dogs, are a fan of King’s material, or want a good scare, take Cujo out for a walk around the block.  Give Cujo a chance, hopefully he returns the favor by not ripping out your jugular while soiling your pristine innocence when nature turns man’s best friend against humans.  Good movie, but I’ll keep the cats, thanks.

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