I finally checked out an animated movie I’ve been curious about for years! ‘The Plague Dogs’ from 1982 is from the same team who brought us ‘Watership Down’ so if you’re familiar with that you know right off the bat that you’re in for something quite special. Like Watership down The Plague Dogs is hardly a children’s movie, it deals with some pretty damn heavy stuff. We the follow two dogs Snitter (John Hurt) & Rowf (Christopher Benjamin) who’re caged in a lab where they’re continuously abused by scientists for testing purposes.
However one day, one of the “white coats” (as the dog’s call the doctors) accidentally leaves Snitter’s cage door ajar and both him and Rowf escape to the open countryside. In the wild they struggle to find food and shelter and find help from a mischevious fox named the Tod (James Bolam). The three of them go on an epic journey. where the two dogs long to find a new kind family to take them in, but once the Government tell the locals that the two of them are infected with the bubonic plague, it becomes a race for survival as true danger lurks around every corner.
The Plague Dogs goes in some shockingly dark directions, some sequences so surprising I’d paused the movie to double check the rating. Much of it’s admittedly depressing and bleak but done so beautifully with it’s animation and painted backdrops that’s it’s really worth the effort. It’s the morning after and the movie still weighs heavily in my mind so much so that I’d really rank this in the top 10 best animated features I’ve seen. There’s so much heart in it’s characters and by mid point in the movie there’s nothing more I’d wanted than to see these characters get a happy ending. Be warned though, this one doesn’t play out like a Disney movie of the 80’s, no one remains safe here and some of the directions it goes in will literally have you on the edge of your seat. At least it did for me. All that being said I’d wondered who they made this movie for back in the early 1980s, as most kids seeing it might be fully scarred after viewing. I suppose ‘Watership Down’ follows this same formula and has a similar reputation. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally view as it’s clearly in a league of it’s own, one that nearly had me in tears several times, unlike anything I’ve seen in recent years.
It’s based on the book by Richard Adams (who also wrote Watership Down) which I’ve never read but supposedly has a slightly different ending. There seems to be some debate about the relatively ambiguous finale and that luckily leaves me with a little bit of hope. The Plague Dogs is a largely forgotten feature even among animated feature film buffs but it’s still got a devoted cult following and for good reason. If you’re ready to take an epic, heartfelt & truly dangerous journey with two amazing dogs and a cunning fox, this one will not disappoint. One of the best lost 80’s flicks I’ve seen in quite some time. I think it’s available to rent online on platforms like Amazon and Youtube as well as a sweet Blu Ray from Shout Factory. Check it out, but be ready to maybe shed a tear or two..