June 25th, 2008


By 1976, the old school studio system in Hollywood had pretty much bitten the dust.  Interestingly enough, that year studios were making movies set in the silent era of cinema like it was nobody’s business.  Films like Silent Movie, Nickelodeon and this flick may have been made as the studio system of old was crumbling, but that didn’t stop them from being nostalgic about the good old days and releasing films like this one. 


Won Ton Ton is a German Sheppard who narrowly escapes getting put to sleep and takes off for Hollywood where he befriends an out of work actress (Madeline Kahn).  A tour bus driver (Bruce Dern) discovers the dog and the studio boss (Art Carney) lets him direct his first film with Won Ton Ton as the leading man.  The film is a big success and Won Ton Ton predictably becomes a star. 


This was basically The Player of it’s day as it features dozens of stars such as Henny Youngman, Milton Berle, John Carradine, Walter Pidgeon and Johnny Weissmuller in cameos.  Kahn is always fun to watch (even when she’s reduced to playing second fiddle to a dog) and her considerable screen presence makes the movie worth a look.  Dern (in a rare clean cut role) gets a few laughs as well, with his best moment coming when he pitches ideas for Jaws and The Exorcist to the uninterested studio chief. 


You know, when you think of a slapstick comedy about a cute and lovable dog, director Michael Winner is the last guy you’d expect to be behind the camera.  Winner had just come off directing the ultra-violent Death Wish (not to mention three other Charles Bronson movies), so he doesn’t exactly seem like the ideal choice for this kind of flick, if you ask me.  He did an okay job overall I guess, but he’s not really a comedy director and he doesn’t stage the gags particularly well. 


There’s only so much you can do with a cute dog and Winner pretty much exhausts the possibilities well before the 92 minute running time is up.  There are enough laughs sprinkled about to qualify this as innocuous entertainment, but for every funny joke (like Won Ton Ton receiving his last rites while on his way to be put to sleep), there’s a bunch that doesn’t work. 


Yet again, the folks at Legend Films brings an obscure movie out from the Paramount vaults for its DVD debut.  To order your copy of Won Ton Ton, or to find out more about Legend’s upcoming releases, head to www.legendfilms.net.