The Doberman Gang

This greatly deceptive movie might easily pass at first for an amateur job, but that’s all show and no mistake. By and by it slowly turns up its cards. A robber and his moll enter a bank and a laundromat, respectively, that are next door to each other. Chudnow puts his camera out front and films this like everything that went before, except now you notice the trumps of his naturalism. A boy walks his bicycle across the scene, a bit of paper blows along the unprepared street.

The robber is only casing the joint, in preparation for Chudnow’s startling coup. The gang rents a warehouse and lays out a mock-up of the bank’s interior big as life with unpainted wood counters in position, a life-size photographic cut-out of the security guard in black-and-white, and panoramic photographs lining the walls behind the counters, also life-sized in black-and-white, which show the various tellers and staff, etc. (the effect is oddly like the gag in John Rawlins’ Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, which prepared “A Kind of a Stopwatch” for The Twilight Zone).

All of this is for the purpose of training the gang’s newly-acquired Doberman Pinschers to go in and deliver commands, pick up the money, etc. This is wonderfully surreal and droll, and the purpose of Chudnow’s style is to absorb all the mickey out of it. Disarmed, you stare at all this dastardly brilliance, never knowing what comes next.


The Amazing Dobermans

After the success of The Doberman Gang, this looks a little like Glamis and Cawdor. There is a swinging tone, featured players are in the cast, something is sacrificed of the original’s stark genius. And this too is brought into account, a little Indian boy is allowed to tend the dogs, there’s even a little song about childhood wisdom, the men are a little bit cruel and stupid. In the end, it’s an allegory.

It opens with a recap of the bank robbery, which figures in a twist ending. The dogs are now roaming free outside town, robbing the supplies of hunters out chasing them. Three men set up electronic gear to acquire them for a heist, this time on Wilshire Boulevard.

The object is a slush fund in a wall safe behind an American flag (which is raised by a drawstring, like a theater curtain) in a Western Region Campaign Headquarters on the ninth floor of an office building.

The still surface of drollery is tested time and again, but never broken. Ragland’s score is the perfect complement.