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Dustin Putman

Man's Best Friend  (1993)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: March 12, 2019) – "Man's Best Friend" is unapologetically over-the-top and go-for-broke, a sort of "Cujo" on steroids with fewer brains and less scares. It's also a lot of fun for viewers willing to submit to writer-director John Lafia's energetic mix of brutality and goofiness. A stylish opening-credits sequence depicting art history's sometimes idyllic, other times violent portrayal of dogs segues into the story proper, finding ambitious television news reporter Lori Tanner (Ally Sheedy) sneaking into genetic research facility EMAX after hours with the intention of outing the company's heinous treatment of animals. In her escape from scientist Dr. Jarret (Lance Henriksen), Lori rescues a caged Tibetan Mastiff named Max. When he in turn saves Lori from a mugging (she has a very busy night), she cannot resist bringing the protective canine home with her. As Dr. Jarret desperately attempts to track down Lori and warn her of the danger Max poses (unbeknownst to her, the dog is genetically altered and on the verge of a psychotic break), Max is set loose on Lori's unsuspecting suburban neighborhood.

With enhanced speed and strength and even the chameleonic ability to physically blend into his surroundings, Max is the pooch version of the Terminator, in one outrageous scene chasing a cat up a tree and swallowing it whole. Granted, 1993's "Man's Best Friend" is over 25 years old now, but it's still amazing to witness a time not that long ago when characters still thought nothing of freely smoking indoors at their places of work. Endearingly dated elements such as this aside, the film boasts a winning showmanship; at 87 minutes, the pacing is unfussy and direct, tautly directed by John Lafia even when his script verges on the dopey. Ally Sheedy finds emotional honesty in her turn as protagonist Lori, anchoring the lunacy and developing a sweet relationship with Max at the onset before he becomes anything but—wait for it—man's best friend.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

For its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory has gifted fans of "Man's Best Friend" with a fresh 2K scan of the original film elements. With the exception of a few moments of minor pop-up speckling, this is a vibrant, impressively dimensional image. Colors appear consistently accurate, black levels are rock-solid, and the high-definition uptick in detail and clarity practically puts to shame the old DVD transfer. Two audio options are offered on the disc: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo. The 5.1 track is my preferred presentation; this film provides a surprising amount of potent activity, from animal attacks and chase sequences to a bombastic third-act car crash that gives the surround channels quite a workout. Dialogue is always clear and confidently situated within the mix, while Joel Goldsmith and Alex Wilkinson's classy music score sounds consistently terrific.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director John Lafia
  • Trailers (2:38, HD)
  • TV Spots (0:50, HD)
Bottom Line
"Man's Best Friend" is a likable, often outrageous cult action-horror item with a certain nostalgic value for fans who remember its original 1993 release (I very clearly remember seeing it in the theater). It's not a great film, but it sure is an engaging one. Scream Factory's Blu-ray release is an almost unequivocal success, from its attractive 2K picture scan to its superb 5.1 DTS-HD audio track to its new audio commentary from writer-director John Lafia. Its only misstep is in the packaging; the reversible cover art features a hilarious typo in its tagline: "Companion. Poretector. Killer." What, pray tell, is a "poretector?" We may never know. "Man's Best Friend" comes heartily recommended on Blu-ray.

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© 2019 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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