Have Cheetah,Will View #500 – “Cujo” (1983)

Its 12:00 pm
overcast/chilly

   Wow…..we are FINALLY here……our 500th review here on the blog. Its been quite a journey to say the least. We started out with a very fun dinosaur creature feature,”Jurrasic City” directed by our good friend Sean Cain and starring another friend in Monique Parent. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing (some would say I still don’t) as I had no formal training or attended any kind of journalism classes. I only went into this with one thing in mind and that was not to write about major releases that were being released. Its why while I am a huge superhero fan,I have only covered past releases like the made for TV film releases of “Dr. Strange” and “Captain America“. I did cover “Superman“from 1978 but no modern releases after that.
   As we progressed forward,we discovered Family Video and the world of film really opened up for Paladin and myself.
We discovered IFC Films,Film Movement,A24,Blumhouse,Well Go-USA and Hallmark Channel. We started partnerships with several film companies like Wild Eye Releasing,Warner Brothers and Artsploitation Films among others. Everything has led to our first 500 reviews…..note that its 500 reviews,not 500 film reviews. That is because we have reviewed books,podcasts,YouTube channels and even public service announcements among other things. It has been a lot of fun discovering a bunch of filmmakers and artists that I had never heard of and only discovered by reviewing indie films. Bring their names and faces to you via a review and in some cases an interview via our “8 Questions with…..” series.
But I have had our 500th review picked out since hitting our 400th,I knew which film I wanted to talk about because I think its one of the misunderstood horror film in history and that film is “Cujo” which was a book written by Stephen King in 1977 and published in 1981 and made into a film in 1982 for a 1983 release via Warner Brothers.

 

     Being as I was a huge King fan back then,I read “Cujo” as soon as it hit paperback and I saw it when it hit the theaters.
I remember “Cujo” being different from the book but I was okay with that and I thought the movie was very suspenseful.
“Cujo” slowly became a huge cult classic in the world of horror and of course everytime people mention best King adopted movies,”Cujo” is pretty much listed in the top 10.
The story is well known…..a rabid St. Bernard stalks a mother and her son when their car breaks down at a mechanic’s shop outside their town. They are trapped on a hot summer day and they don’t have any water….and being this is 1983,they don’t have cell phones either. The last hour of the film pits the woman against the dog in a battle of survival.
The tagline for “Cujo” was “Now There Is a New For Terror” and at first glance,the line fits the movie…..at first glance.
When I rewatched “Cujo”for the second time I truly understood what made it so scary and horrific,it wasn’t the Dee Wallace being trapped in the car with her ill little boy. They weren’t victims here either here or in the book,the dog was and always has been the real victim here.

 The owner of Cujo,played by Ed Lauter,was a terrible human being,he was abusive and self-centered. He owned Cujo but never even thought or considered getting his animal his rabies shots and leaving Cujo at high risk for not only rabies but also a whole host of other illnesses. His careless inactions doomed poor Cujo to one of the worst deaths any living creature can die from,rabies.
Watching Cujo being driven mad by pain and not being able to drink is beyond sad,he doesn’t know what he is doing,its not his fault that he is attacking anything that moves,that is how rabies works. In the book,King allows us to see and feel Cujo’s POV and you will read Cujo sees himself as a “good boy” and he is. St Bernard’s are one of the gentlest breed of dog there is which actually makes what happens to Cujo all the more tragic. The level of pain and thirst rises both for Cujo both in the book and in the film as it does for Donna and Tad in the car.
While watching this again for this review,I saw that Cujo was another example of misdirection horror….where the monster we’re supposed to be afraid of isn’t even the real threat or bad guy in the story. Think about it,every werewolf movie features someone getting bit and through no fault of their own is turned….it is what makes “An American Werewolf In London” so jolting with its ending….or “Frankenstein”,again,a “monster” created by someone else and who suffers for it.  While misdirected horror is terrible for humans to encounter,seeing a innocent animal suffer for it in a realistic way like Cujo does,really will make the rewatching of Cujo a lot more insightful. The real face of evil lies with Ed Lauter’s cruel owner,much like the real evil in “It” isn’t Pennywise but Beverly Marsh’s father who is sexually abusing her. When Cujo kills his owner,there isn’t a single ounce of sympathy for Lauter’s Joe Camber,only a sense of justice.
I disliked the ending that director Lewis Teague cooked up…having Cujo come through the window like in a typical slasher movie was a terrible idea but when you find out in the making of features that the filmmakers considered making Cujo a supernatural thriller (a killer was possessing him),the ending sort of makes sense….but having Donna comfort him as he is dying would have been more meaningful,she has been bitten herself and she understands what it means and how she’ll be saved while Cujo was just a victim of neglect and abuse. 


“Cujo” took a long time to get made considering how hot Stephen King was at the time….the original director,Peter Medak,was replaced by Lewis Teague,the man both the producers and King himself wanted to direct the film. At this point,Teague had only one feature film release under his belt,the horror comedy “Alligator”. But he surrounded himself with a top notch DP in Jan de Bont who later directed 5 classic films in his own right. Teague was very unhappy with the editing of the film and he replaced the original editor with Neil Travis who would win a Oscar for his work on “Dances With Wolves” in 1990.
While the setting was supposed to be on a hot summer day in Maine,the film was made in a cold winter in California,a sort of reverse of what happened in a film we just reviewed,”Cold Skin”,where it was supposed to be freezing but was filmed in a very hot Spanish summer. What Dee Wallace and little Danny Pintauro went through during the trapped scenes was pretty rugged. It was so cold that Dee insisted that the car’s heater be turned on as it was so cold inside the car and Dee and Danny were wearing very little clothes,they were freezing!! The scene where Donna tries to open Tad’s mouth so he won’t choke on his tongue,well Danny accidently bit Dee’s fingers,she wasn’t acting when she says “Ouch!!”.
Trainer Carl Miller used 10 different St. Bernard’s for various scenes,a stuntman in a dog suit was used when showing Cujo smashing into the car. Carl followed Lewis Teague when he did the King anthology “Cat’s Eye”. 


The cast was really good…..Dee Wallace has had an incredible career both in horror and mainstream films. Her list of credits is quite remarkable,from “E.T.” to “3 From Hell”,Dee has worked seamlessly between film and TV work pretty much non-stop. She was married to her Cujo co-star Christopher Stone for 15 years before he passed away from a heart attack in 1995.
Daniel Hugh-Kelly,who came from the world of soap operas before landing the role of Vic in Cujo,did well enough to land a TV series that fall called “Hardcastle and McCormick” which co-starred Brian Keith. He still acts in character actor roles.
Ed Lauter who played Cujo’s owner,was a career character who had a long and varied career,like Wallace,he walked perfectly between drama and horror without missing a beat. Lauter passed away from cancer in 2013.
Danny Pintauro who starred as Tad when he was only six years old,went on to do “Who’s The Boss?” before fading from limelight. Whether that was from choice or not,Danny has been rarely seen since then. The tabloid The National Enquirer outed Danny as being gay in 1997. He later shared he was HIV positive and had been addicted to meth. He later married his huband in 2014.
Of course Stephen King is still with us and he is still writing and publishing books. He has admitted that of all of his books,the one book whose ending he would like to have re-written was Cujo’s because of its very bleak and sad ending.
I don’t know how he could have done a better ending,letting Tad live but Cujo still dying of rabies wouldn’t have made it better,its actually a ending that shows what neglect,either in a marriage or a being a animal owner can cause.

“Cujo” has a run time of 95 minutes and is rated “R”. The Artisan edition I have has a 42 minute making of feature and a Director’s commentary with Lewis Teague.

While the cheetah and I both liked “Cujo”,we also think the horror aspect really comes through Cujo’s eyes and suggest when you rewatch it,watch it from Cujo’s point of view.

What do you think about Cujo? Agree or disagree with our POV? Drop a comment below……

 

 

5 thoughts on “Have Cheetah,Will View #500 – “Cujo” (1983)

  1. Congrats on 500! Interesting thoughts! Not sure i would change the ending! I know people who personally are legit terrified of this motion picture! I loved it & ty to you and the cheetah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Josh and I agree,one can’t change anything about this movie and letting Tad live was the right call…having him die through no fault of his own in this book would have really brutal. Frank Durabont did that with The Mist and while a lot of talk about that movie,you don’t see many actually rewatching it. King’s biographer mentions that Cujo sales are always much lower then his other works because of the dark and bleak ending.
      I think “rabies”is a word that strikes fear no matter who utters it….

      Like

  2. Nice! I can’t remember what I was thinking when I read the book or if I had any empathy toward Cujo himself, but yeah, perfect. Cujo was NOT the monster; it was his owner. And the “monster” can be so many different things that we actually never even consider!
    I love the stories of how it was hot for Cold Skin when they were pretending to be cold, and vice versa for Cujo. I had no IDEA from the movie that they were actually freezing.
    And CONGRATS ON 500 ! ! ! !
    That’s a lot, so I think it deserves the Ren and Stimpy Happy Happy Joy Joy song, lololol !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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