Incredibly, the year 1978 birthed not one but two movies about dogs serving supernatural villains, the theatrical feature Dracula’s Dog (also known s Zoltan, The Hound of Dracula) and the made-for-TV thriller Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. In the telefilm, familiar actors trudge their way through a ridiculous plot, the titular canine accrues an impressive body count, and the whole thing culminates in a low-rent FX sequence that feels like an excerpt from a fever dream. In a too-brief prologue, a Satanist (Martine Beswick) and her accomplices purchase a female German Shepherd from a breeder, then hold a ritual in which Satan is summoned from Hell in the form of a dog to breed with the unfortunate Shepherd. Then the movie introduces businessman Mike Barry (Richard Crenna) and his family—wife Betty (Yvette Mimieux), daughter Bonnie (Kim Richards), and son Charlie (Ike Eisenmann)—in their quiet suburban neighborhood. The family dog is killed in a mysterious hit-and-run accident, and soon afterward one of the Satanists (R.G. Armstrong) turns up in the guise of a traveling fruit vendor who just happens to have adorable German Shepherd puppies available for free adoption. Mike’s kids fall in love with one of the pups, so the dog is given the name “Lucky” and welcomed into the Barry home.
Weird things start happening immediately, and then people start dying in horrific ways after crossing paths with Lucky. Naturally, Mike is the only person to make the connection, because his loved ones fall under Lucky’s unholy spell. Cue the usual drill of Mike saying to people, “I know this sounds crazy, but . . .” The storyline eventually reaches cartoonish levels of absurdity, as demonstrated by the scene in which Mike tries with no success to kill Lucky with a gun, and the bizarre passage during which Mike travels to Mexico (!) to find an ancient wise man (!!) who tattoos a magical pattern on Mike’s hand (!!!). And we haven’t even gotten to the FX stuff yet. As directed by horror veteran Curtis Harrington, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell isn’t quite as zippy as it sounds, but the sheer silliness of the endeavor guarantees a high kitsch factor. Crenna looks uncomfortable in every scene, like he’s got a charley horse he can’t shake, and it’s a kick to see Eisenmann and Richards—the kids from Disney’s Witch Mountain movies—acting together in a lesser-known project.
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell: FUNKY