Director: Joe Dante
Performers: Hoyt Axton, Zach Galligan, Kate Beringer, Corey Feldman, Keye Luke, Howie Mandel (voice), Mushroom the dog
Breed featured: Mutt
Production information: Warner Brothers, 1984 (USA)
The DD was in a mood for a ridiculous Christmas movie, so he brought home a bit of childhood nostalgia…
Suffice to say, the hazy memories of over two decades past soon cleared for a fresh perspective. I totally had not picked up on the xenophobic commentary (which I think is meant to be satirical and not a targeted vilification of any one race, though it might have been a harbinger of things to come). I was also really struck by how this stupid little horror film rides on collective fears of technological dystopia — wicked critters that are naturally endowed with a knack for manipulating electronics and gadgetry, in contrast to the bumbling inventor father and all the hapless suburban victims. Yet on the other hand, it also celebrates the elaborate artifice of filmmaking through layer after layer of weirdly metacinematic sequences, and of course, flashy (for the time) special effects.
I won’t get into all of that here. Besides, I’m sure some hotshot film scholar has already wrung out a thorough analysis of this kitschy blockbuster. Its time has come and gone, and frankly, I’m not too sad about moving onto better movies. But it’s definitely worth blogging for the sake of one pretty cool movie dog, Mushroom the mutt who plays Barney the family dog.
In the video commentary, it was noted that Mushroom was one of two actors that actually responded to the gremlins as if they were real (the other was Corey Feldman). His ability to “emote” naturally was probably what made him the best actor in the whole movie.
Sadly, some of Mushroom’s scenes got chopped out because the special effects crew couldn’t pass muster. Apparently they had shot a whole extended sequence of the Gremlins sneaking past the parents’ bedroom, cornering the poor confused dog, and trussing him up with Christmas lights. However, the walking puppets looked like crap so they cut the whole scene in the final version.
And the family also stashes the dog for a good portion of the movie, ostensibly to protect him from their dog-hating grinch of a neighbor who threatens to give him a “slow and painful death, maybe […] in a spin-drier on high heat.” But no fear… animal sadists never fare so well, at least not by standard Hollywood logic.
Anyway, there might be a few nuggets of wisdom to be extracted from this screwy little film. One piece of advice that was true then, as it is now: You better think twice about those CHRISTMAS PETS, especially those that come out of Chinatown back alley night market shops. Really. Truly. Not the best place to pick up a well-bred pet, even if it seems like a good bargain at the time.
The House of Two Bows keeps a running index of movies blurbed on the site, annotated by breed. If you’re interested in writing a guest blog for a dog film, contact for details.