My Dog the Thief (1969)

MyDogTheThiefCoverThis is a deservedly-obscure Disney flick from 1969 that features a bunch of has-beens embarrassing their families in a movie about a dog that steals stuff. Most of the movie you’ll spend wondering just what went wrong in each of these people’s lives so that they ended up being outclassed by a St. Bernard.

You’ve got Elsa Lanchester who plays the nosy landlady that doesn’t like dogs. Thirty some odd years prior to this, she was the Bride in Bride Of Frankenstein. Dwayne Hickman, who is best remembered as Dobie Gillis and the younger brother of Daryl Hickman, is the star. There’s also Mary Ann Mobley who was Miss America once upon a time!

There’s even a guy in this movie who was in McHale’s Navy! Are you salivating yet?

The first thing you notice when the feature begins is this astoundingly un-catchy theme song that goes on and on and on, describing what a thief this dog Barabbas was. I couldn’t make out half the lyrics to this one because some guys were doing a bad impression of the Beach Boys while a woman’s high pitched voice caterwauled, apparently indifferent to whatever the guys were trying to accomplish.

To its credit, the song managed to set up the fact that this dog is a kleptomaniac since it played during a montage of him stealing lunches, golf balls, gloves and sexy panties (okay, I made that last one up, but you know that’s what the dog was really after) while all the townspeople rose up against him and finally forced the owner to ship his thieving ass back to the pound.

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En route to the dog pound, Barabbas (named after the thief in the Bible) runs his big jailbreak play and bolts for the airfield just outside of town.

He hitches a ride with mild mannered traffic reporter Jack Crandall and foam-mouthed hilarity ensues!

Watch as Barabbas tries to crash the helicopter! Squeal with delight as Barabbas sneaks a donut from Jack’s lunch! Piss your pants with laughter as Barabbas tries to choke out Jack with the microphone cord!

As you might have guessed, Jack and Barabbas become instant celebrities. The station manager tells Jack that he and Barabbas are partners, so Jack goes to the pound and grudgingly adopts Barabbas, but not before being informed that Barabbas has been adopted and returned eight times before!

Now, just adopting a delinquent dog isn’t the only problem that Jack faces. He happens to live in an apartment building where dogs are strictly prohibited because the old landlady’s cat is allergic to them. You know what this means, don’t you? A really huge box that gets put over top of Barabbas as Jack attempts to smuggle him in like a pack of cancer sticks into the county jail!

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So with Barabbas in this box and riding the elevator up with the landlady and Jack’s new neighbor, Miss America, the dog starts whining and Jack has to play it off like he was yawning.

This is just about as close as My Dog, the Thief gets to comedy. You’re not going to actually laugh, but if there was a moment in the movie where you theoretically might have thought about laughing, this one would probably be that time. But it really isn’t funny.

During one of their traffic reports, Barabbas lets on that he needs to take a whiz. So Jack sets the copter down in the boondocks and Barabbas runs off to do his business.

This is when the bumbling jewel thieves that everyone in the audience knew had to be in a movie like this finally make their appearance. They’ve stolen the Cosgrove necklace and are en route to their leader to turn it over to him. Suddenly a tire blows out and they end up right smack dab where Barabbas was going to drain the lizard!

The necklace is in a lunch pail and Barabbas snatches it and hightails it into the weeds. He returns to the copter and Jack and he take off, with Jack none the wiser as to Barabbas’ latest felony theft.

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The standard kidnap and ransom demand follow as the thieves try to recover the necklace. Jack is lured to some out of the way place where he gets held at gunpoint and is made to fly the copter to where Barabbas last had the lunch pail.

This is pretty shoddy, even by late sixties live-action Disney standards. That should be obvious from the odd collection of ex-movie stars, child actors, and beauty queens, but it’s all run through the bland Disney machine so that there isn’t even anything remotely campy or kitschy about it.

Hickman isn’t particularly memorable like Dean Jones or even Tommy Kirk. He stands around looking a bit constipated most of the time and is forced to make dog noises once in awhile to cover up for Barabbas. (Though I think it’s obvious those dog noises are dubbed in, so he’s really just pretending to make dog noises. Does that make it better or worse?)

There’s nothing surprising about this one and it’s merely a particularly anemic version of the “wacky animal and stupid criminal” movies the Disney company seemed to have a fetish for during this time period.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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