• Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: March 21st, 2017.
    Director: Michael Winner
    Cast: Art Carney, Phil Silvers, Bruce Dern
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    And a cast of thousands...

    What could possibly be a more logical follow up to a brutal revenge thriller than a wacky period comedy about a German shepherd that escapes canine death row in 1920's Hollywood and becomes a star? DEATH WISH to Wishbone anyone?

    Welcome to Michael Winner's WON TON TON THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD.
    Make no mistake. This is, by every objective standard, a terrible film. Designed as a tribute to the silent film era, the humor here is painfully forced and corny. The main reason for the film's existence is to get a huge number of golden era stars in front of the camera - many for the last time. This explains the film's afterlife as a movie buff party game where guests are shown the opening credits and then tasked with spotting the stars listed. Some are obvious, but the more common order of the day is "blink and you'll miss 'em".

    Plot you say? The film opens with a flashback (which we never flash OUT of) where a group of modern day tourists note the paw prints of a famous dog on the Hollywood walk of fame. Our story proper begins in 20's Tinseltown with actress and bumbling ditz Estie Del Ruth (Madeline Kahn) looking for work. She's having a hard time and ends up in a situation getting sexually harassed but rescued by the unlikely interference of our canine escapee. Meanwhile, Grayson Potchuck (Bruce Dern), who is a tour guide and wannabe director AND and the assistant to the cranky head of the struggling New Era Studios named J. J. Fromberg (Art Carney) is having a hard time getting his boss to take his ideas seriously. In one of the movie's more entertaining bits, Potchuck pitches the plot of JAWS - 50 years early - and it's rejected out of hand.

    Once our intrepid furball hero has saved Estie for getting pawed (you see what I did there?), the two become inseparable. But Fromberg, who's seen the dog in action and been suitably impressed, wants to,out him in a film. Potchuck quickly cooks up a story about being Won Ton's trainer ("The dog was left to me by a Chinese man!"). When Fromberg then realizes that the dog has star quality but will only take direction from Estie, he strikes a bargain to help her career if she'll let him put Won Ton in a film. The film is a hit and shenanigans ensue as Won Ton becomes a star and they run into trouble later when cross dressing star Rudy Montague (Ron Liebman) weirdly decides that the dog is a threat to his career.

    This thin gruel is really a paperhanger for a series of goofy scenarios that allow a multitude of aging stars to traipse in front of the camera. A quick stroll through the trivia page of the movie on IMDb shows that this was the final appearance for many people like Stepin Fetchit, Peter Lawford and Johnny Weissmuller. Hell, the last surviving Keystone Cop is here! The acting is quite broad and nobody is at the top of their game here except maybe the dog. He isn't at Bart the bear in THE EDGE skill level, but he's pretty good. Carney could do these kind of characters in his sleep at this point, and Dern is suitably oddball. Kahn's whole persona tended towards the grating, but she's perfectly cast in this.

    Mileage will vary, but if you find silent films and broad comedy amusing, you might like this.


    Olive's AVC encoded 1080p 1.78:1 framed presentation is the kind of typical midline job they're known for. The good? Nice film like appearance, no digital tinkering and a good representation of what this probably looked like in a he theatre back in the day. The bad? The film was given what looks like an ugly slight gold/brown tint in its original postproduction. Much like sepia, it appears to have been used to create the illusion of age. It's mule enough that many may not notice it, but I found it distracting at times. Otherwise, this is a decent organic transfer with good facial and fine image detail.

    The sound is a workmanlike but bland DTS-HD Mono affair. There's little punch or range here, but no piercing shrillness or muddy bottom end. Dialog is clear Sind centered. There are zero extras - not even a trailer.

    The Final Word:

    I can't really recommend this unless you're a huge fan of silent and 20's Hollywood. The cameos are fun, but The whole setup is poorly thought out and painfully corny. And Olive's utterly barebones set doesn't particularly sweeten the pot.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      This sounds terrible.