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Film: The Dog Murder [Quan sha 犬杀]
Director: PENG Xiaolian 彭小莲
Performers: SONG Ruhui 宋茹惠, LI Xiaojia 李晓佳, ZHANG Qide 张启德, GAO Shuguang 高曙光, Laifu the dog
Breed featured: German Shepherd
Production information: Shanghai Film Company, 1996 (China)

Xu Lin, a famous stage director, lives in a palatial mansion in Shanghai’s French Concession with his surly wife. The only thing that seems to liven his days is his long-haired German Shepherd, Laifu. So it is most unusual when one evening, the household pet and loyal guardian turns on him, tearing out his throat and killing him. Female cop Teng Li is called in to tie together the loose ends when it is revealed that the dog was only acting under human command — that of the real killer.


File this under so crappy, it’s boring. No one is ever going to do anything with this film other than scoff at it… Nevertheless, the giant plot holes and factual absurdities reveal some common misconceptions about dogs. At the outset, Laifu’s vicious behavior is attributed to a case of rabies, so it’s a big deal that he’s at large in the city. There’s a lengthy chase scene in which Laifu is pursued through some Shanghai back alleys. Though he is not caught, these claustrophobic urban mazes provide an interesting spatial contrast to the Arcadian grounds whence he escaped.


In another scene, the female cop questions a professional dog trainer about Laifu’s behavior. “A dog turning on its own master? That’s the first I’ve ever heard of such a thing,” claims the expert. The scenario is supposed to be even more impossible because the dog in question is a purebred German Shepherd, known for its absolute devotion and obedience.

So obviously, some outside factor was involved, which completely absolves the dog of blame. I was struck by this fairly generous assessment, given that Chinese dogs are often euthanized en masse given even the mere suspicion of rabies.


So the real reason for Laifu’s fatal attack?

The answer: Nazis.


Yeah, they went there.

As it turns out, the killer was motivated by reading about a temporary insanity serum that the Nazis supposedly created to make dogs (and by extension, humans) lash out with intense violence for a brief period of time. By coincidence, this technique mirrors a fantastic idea proposed by a Taiwanese businessman and would-be lover of the dead man’s widow, who briefly comes under scrutiny early on in the cop’s investigation because he presents himself as claiming to know how to handle dogs. However, this Taiwanese businessman’s knowledge was also derived from another fictional world — Jin Yong’s martial arts novels.


The identity of the real killer doesn’t matter in the end, nor why the crime was committed. I got tired of the movie after they completely dropped the premise promised in the title.


We’re basically reassured that Laifu returns to the safe haven of the affluent household that raised him, and that justice prevails. If nothing else is stable in post-Socialist China, at least you can count on the integrity of law and order.


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