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  Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood It's A Dog All Right
Year: 1976
Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Madeline Kahn, Bruce Dern, Art Carney, Phil Silvers, Teri Garr, Ron Liebman, Sterling Holloway, William Demarest, Rory Calhoun, Billy Barty, Ricardo Montalban, Aldo Ray, Yvonne De Carlo, Andy Devine, Broderick Crawford, Dean Stockwell, Victor Mature
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: A group of tourists are being shown around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but when they reach a couple of pawprints in cement with the name Won Ton Ton next to them, they are baffled as to who that could possibly be. The tour guide sets them straight after telling them to shut up, and so we travel back to the mid-twenties where a large, stray dog was about to be put to death at the pound because nobody had claimed him. However, this was one wily pooch, and he escaped, played dead in one of the cages, then attacked the dog catchers and locked them in. Freedom and stardom beckoned!

Michael Winner proved with Won Ton Ton that he was not the best choice for directing a comedy after the sixties had finished, as his tendency towards the crasser end of the entertainment spectrum was in full flow by the time this happened along. It was one of those flop movies that hoped to cash in on the seventies nostalgia, which centred in Hollywood terms at least around the classic movies that were being repeated all over the world on television, and if you were lucky, at revivals in independent cinemas. Among these were Nickelodeon, W.C. Fields and Me, Gable and Lombard, with Under the Rainbow probably representing the last of the cycle.

Nevertheless, the idea that packing your movie with famous faces was one which stretched back to Around the World in Eighty Days and beyond to the flagwavers of the forties, Hollywood Canteen and the like, and one which is still revived albeit not in so committed a form to the would-be family hits of today. Robert Altman probably showed the most creative side of this method in The Player, but rest assured Michael Winner in 1976 was no Robert Altman, and Won Ton Ton became a briefly notorious failure before sinking into obscurity. The main problem with all those famous celebs was that most were hasbeens, and besides, they were so old it would be surprising if you recognised even half of them.

Not least because the majority appeared on the screen for a matter of seconds, not even enough time to pause and say, isn't that Johnny Weissmuller? or whatever. This might not have been such a complaint if there was any wit in the script, but here was a film that paid tribute to the Golden Age with no understanding where the charm of that era's entertainment resided, so for supposed fun for all the family there was far too many gags that would not pass muster for many kids' movies even now. Indeed, there's a pall of bad taste hanging over this that sours even the nostalgic aspects, with two jokey setpieces involving attempted rape, a naked Marilyn Monroe (when she was a toddler, which somehow makes it worse) and the lead dog being repeatedly thrown against a wall.

It is supposed to be bashing against that because it has been trained to jump through walls on film sets, which not even its inspiration Rin Tin Tin would have put up with. Won becomes a movie star after latching onto struggling actress Estie (Madeline Kahn) and aspiring screenwriter Grayson (Bruce Dern, one of the most 1970s of faces here cast in a period piece), who pre-empts Jaws and The Exorcist with his ideas, but studio boss Art Carney turns him down until he sees the mutt. What nobody except the couple know is that Won only does what Estie tells him, so she has to be smuggled onto the set to encourage him to perform, although you'll be surprised there's any studio left after the orgy of destruction that passes for slapstick there. Later, Estie becomes a star alongside cross-dressing Rudolph Valentino clone Ron Leibman, fails and turns to prostitution, as meanwhile the dog attempts suicide and attacks yet more people, even drawing blood. One of the least appropriate kids movies of all time, it's almost worth catching for its sheer grotesquerie. Music by Neal Hefti.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michael Winner  (1935 - 2013)

Opinionated British producer-director whose early comedies - You Must Be Joking, The Jokers, I'll Never Forget Whatsisname - were promising enough, but come the seventies he had settled into a pattern of overblown thrillers.

Of these, Death Wish was a huge hit, and Winner directed two similar sequels. Other films included horrors (The Nightcomers, The Sentinel), Westerns (Lawman, Chato's Land), thrillers (Scorpio, Dirty Weekend) and disastrous comedies (Bullseye!). Also a restaurant critic.

 
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