Everyone will want – but no one can have – Red Dog. It’s one of the most beautiful things about him. And that kind of exclusivity is priceless.
This is the Australian Cattle dog that makes Lassie look lame and Rin Tin Tin look like an obedient idiot.
That’s because Red Dog is a dog for the soul.
A new movie called Red Dog is the true story of a wandering pooch that brought people together and joy to a community. He exhibited ferocious, inspiring independence and fearless loyalty to freedom. This dog made Che Guevara look like he didn’t give it his best shot.
He had the best qualities of every living creature while still sticking it to the man. No one owned Red Dog – until he met a man and gave himself to that one man.
In real life, all this took place in North West Western Australia at a town called Dampier during the 1970s. There’s even a statue erected in honour of Red Dog who had a reputation for sniffing out a party 600 kms away and turning up. He seduced and intimidated people into giving him free rides all over the country and, as legend has it, hitched a ride on a tanker to Japan for a spell too.
This dog was so clever, he even sorted free veterinarian care for himself – kind of like scamming a fake medicare card.
I laughed a lot during the movie and cried 3 times. And after seeing the sale of spotty puppies go up after 101 Dalmatians and the sale of Clown fish go up after Finding Nemo, I expect the demand for Australian cattle dogs to go up too. But I hope it doesn’t because they are working dogs, not city dogs and apartment living would be like a prison for these very active and intelligent canines.
The film is out August 4 and stars Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Noah Taylor along with one of the last performances by Bill Hunter. But the most kudos has to go to director Kriv Stenders (Lucky Country, Boxing Day, The Illustrated Family Doctor) for shooting a beautiful film in a stunning location while keeping the story elevated to the mythic status Red Dog attained.
Koko is the name of the real dog who plays Red Dog – you can see his audition tape with Kriv at the end of this review. And producer Nelson Woss was so taken with Koko, he adopted him. There’s a wonderful tradition of this in cinema. Johnny Depp adopted a one-eyed horse after a shoot when he learned the horse was going to be put down. And Viggo Mortensen kept the horse he worked with in Hidalgo.
The Australian Cattle dog has been a bit of movie star for a while now. One worked with Mel Gibson in Mad Max, Johnny Depp co-starred with another in Secret Window, Billy Connolly paired up with one in The Man Who Sued God and Russell Crowe shared the screen with one in The Silver Stallion. A few had lesser roles in movies such as Babe and Brokeback Mountain.
Famous people who have owned Aussie Cattle dogs include Owen Wilson, Kelly McGillis and Matthew McConaughey.
And for truly extraordinary stories of Australian Cattle dogs pulling off miraculous feats – look up Sophie in Queensland. She swam 5kms through shark-infested waters then lived alone on an island for 5 months before being rescued and re-united with her family. Another one called Ben in South Australia became the primary witness in solving the murder of his owners – neighbours reported that the dog didn’t bark at all that day – alerting police to the fact that the killer was known to the victims and to the dog.
But back to the movie. I won’t say too much other than – go see it. We haven’t had a film like this in Australia for some time. You’ll want to see it again. And I reckon the world will go nuts for the movie, nuts for Australian cattle dogs and nuts for touring the Pilbara.
The soundtrack rocks too with lots of good ol’ Aussie 70s classics.
Red Dog is a movie with heart starring a dog that’s good for your soul.
** I’m co-hosting the episode of Movie Juice with Koko – the star of Red Dog – which screens Monday August 8 at 6pm on STARPICS channel 415 and 8pm on STARPICS 2.