Tuesday, 14 December 2021


Dog Days

USA 1982
Directed by Al Adamson
Severin Blu Ray Zone A

Although it’s not the last footage he shot for a potential movie, Lost is the last film that Al Adamson directed that got any kind of commercial release and it’s one of those films which seems to have been missing in action for some time. Indeed, the 16mm 1.37:1 print which Severin have scanned in and preserved for this, the final stop in their brilliant Blu Ray boxed set, Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection, isn’t in the best shape when compared to some of the other, much older films in this collection.

The film carries on in the direction that Adamson found himself going at this point in his life, with a pleasant and heartwarming (at least in its intention) family film, much like the far superior Carnival Magic was (reviewed here) but, for my money, this just wasn’t as engaging a film as that one.

The film stars the main male protagonist of that previous film... sorry, I meant the main male ‘human’ protagonist of that film, Don Stewart as Jeff Morrison, a new husband from a family who has just been divorced. Playing his new wife is none other than Sandra Dee as Penny Morrison (yes, that Sandra Dee, the once teen star immortalised in a song from Grease decades after her time in the spotlight) and the film is about both them and the real main protagonists of the picture, her eleven year old daughter Buddy (played by Sheila Newhouse) and their dog Skipper (played by Skipper The Dog).

The family have just moved to the mountainous wilderness of Utah to start a farm in a beat up old shack to make a fresh start for themselves. And it goes through several clichés you would expect from that set up... Buddy is not getting on well with her ‘new father’ and missing her divorced dad, the whole ‘town folks having a hard time trying to start a farm’ situation but being befriended by the locals, the kid being teased at school and, the old classic, helping out on the neighbouring farm and rescuing the horses during a fire.

And then, around half way through the film, Buddy runs off with Skipper and gets lost in the mountains for three days while her family worry about her and join various search parties to try and rescue her. More clichés, of course, such as being washed away in a river, reuniting with her dog, catching her own fish, nearly being killed by a cougar but escaping in a similarly perilous river and ultimately befriending an old man in the wilderness, who is a guest appearance by the one and only Jack Elam.

Of course, all is well in the end but the film is just a whole lot more clumsier than I would expect from even Adamson, with some choppy editing which I suspect is as much to do with not getting coverage on the shots and scenes as it is to do with anything else. He and his cinematographer do try though and there are some interesting shots within the smaller aspect ratio which are well done, such as where they use the cross sections of big window frames from outside the cabin to frame the face of one of the actors in one square while another actor stands way behind and to the left, taking up the length of two squared off window sections, thus pushing the depth of the shot. So, yeah, there’s nice stuff in it but it mostly just felt sloppily done, I have to say.

The acting was all pretty good though. Probably the best one in it was Skipper The Dog although, you do get that common thing happening in canine starring movies where the dog is looking off shot to their owner, waiting for a visual cue as to what they have to do next in the scene (this seems to happen with humans in porn movies a lot too, from what I can remember). In fact, there’s one annoying moment when Buddy and Skipper are on their lonesome on a mountain where, if you check out the bottom left corner of the shot, you can see the shadow of the dog’s owner moving around from off frame.

The music is a bit too syrupy and generic for my liking and, truth be told, it kinda works against the images in some ways. I couldn’t find a composer's credit so I’m guessing the producers used needle drops from a music library for this one, like a fair few of Adamson’s past films. It’s not something which stays with you in any way and I certainly couldn’t find a uniting theme or connection to any of the pieces used throughout the course of the movie.

And I’m not sure I’ve got too much more to say about Lost other than I’m wondering if it’s a somehow cursed film because this was the last released feature film for Al Adamson, Sandra Dee, Ken Curtis, William Kerwin and Sheila Newhouse (as the eleven year old Buddy, it was also her first screen role and she did quite well so I don’t know why nobody used her again). It’s not a film I would really recommend to anybody but it is a milestone for me because this means I’ve finally watched the huge boxed set of Adamson’s films that Severin put out (and sold out of fairly quickly) last year. Tomorrow, I hope to put up one final review which will serve as both an overview of the box contents plus an index link to my reviews for all the other films to be found in this Severin edition (for anyone who wants to read through them all).

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