- You cannot imagine how moving this movie is 12/28/2006 12:00:00 AM by SurpriseIIIIIIIme
Full marks to Joe Camp for making such a beautiful film!.... Its all too easy for the dog lovers to absolutely fall in love with the movie, and Benji.....but this movie will always have the ability to change people from dog haters to dog lovers .... Benji is absolutely fabulous in this rendition of a street dog who has a certain way of living with with the people in the city.
What changes things is the kidnapping of Benji's human friends. But what is beautiful about the movie is that without using the crutches of special effects (read - talking animals), the expressiveness of Benji in various stages of the movie with just the barking to help is fabulous..... he falls in love (with another beauty of a pooch)...questions using his eyes, flaps his ear to express doubt, rolls on the grass to impress Tiffany (the pooch!)... the works!!! ...
Benji impresses!... and how...!... It doesn't take too much to know that the acting abilities of the humans in the movie aren't too much to talk about. But maybe that just enhances Benji's talent....
You would fall in love with BEnji and have tears flowing down your cheeks when they do the close-up on his sad eyes....
Yes, I am a dog lover.... but Benji .. he is the love of my life!
- A movie for all ages. 12/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by kmacph
I saw this movie for the first time when I was about six years old. I loved it the first time I saw it and I still love it today. My three kids received it for Christmas and they love it as well (they're 7, 4 and 3). It's a movie about two kids, brother and sister, who feed and play with Benji. His origins are unknown and he has no permanent home. He has several friends whom he visits daily and as such has a routine with which he see's them. Bill, the man who owns the café, pays Benji with a dog bone everyday he comes by because when he comes by that let's Bill know that it's time to get the café ready for the lunch rush. The kids want to keep Benji (and his new found girlfriend, Tiffany) but their father won't hear of it. Then the kids get kidnapped and it's up to Benji to help save them. I won't say anymore as I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it. I give this movie a 10 out of 10. I could watch it over and over again and never get tired of it.
- Blockbuster hit for the under-12 crowd 9/25/2005 12:00:00 AM by moonspinner55
Joe Camp probably had no idea this family film about an independent mutt turning neighborhood hero was going to touch off such a reaction at the box-office. "Benji" doesn't have the earmarks of an ambitious movie, nor did its initial publicity suggest it was going to be anything more than a matinée flash-in-the-pan, but positive word-of-mouth amongst kids was incredibly high, and "Benji" became the fifth highest grossing film of 1974 (no small feat; it's just behind "The Godfather Part II"). Although the slim plot pilfers heavily from Disney's "That Darn Cat!", the canine star Higgins (from TV's "Petticoat Junction") is an amazing find: his expressions and reactions are priceless, and the film's narrative--Benji's escapades, his human friends, his romance with a little white pooch--proved to be immediate and bracing with the target audience. Charlie Rich's song "I Feel Love" was Oscar-nominated (!), underlining the doggy romance with uplifting sentiment, the kind that makes a crowd-pleaser. Followed in 1977 by "For the Love of Benji"; but, with a different, look-alike dog and a hoked-up story, the sequel didn't crossover to older children. **1/2 from ****
- If Dogs Made Films 7/9/2006 12:00:00 AM by BrandtSponseller
Although I did initially see Benji as a kid in 1974, I want to talk about some interesting facets of the film for adults instead.
Just a brief comment on showing the film to kids, though. It's probably going to be more of a gamble at this point in time for kids to watch Benji. There's a chance that older kids will be bored by the pacing, content, and general lack of humor. They'll probably hate the music, too. For younger kids (say, maybe 8 or younger), there's a better chance that they'll be entertained merely by seeing cute dogs do unusual things and also that they'll identify with the two child stars, who are about their age. But during the climax of the film, there is some more intense material (at least the ideas involved--the actual images are relatively tame) that may disturb some children.
I think that Benji is probably a safer gamble for adults at this point in time, but you have to approach it in a particular way, not necessarily approaching it either nostalgically or as a kid's film. Viewing Benji at this point in time, it played as a dog's film, told from a dog's perspective. While this is not the only film to tell a story from an animal's perspective, producer/writer/director Joe Camp does something unusual in that he plays things mostly seriously and realistically. There is a bit of tongue in cheek-ness to the whole affair--and one section that is a very funny outright spoof of late 1960s/early 1970s romance films, and the events are idealized slightly in a way that we might imagine a dog to idealize them, but overall, Benji is played straight, not for laughs or melodrama.
That fact is the cause of some unusual structural properties. Dogs' lives tend to be far more routine than humans' lives. Benji, as extraordinary as his life happens to be, is no exception. He's a stray who has a long daily routine that involves visiting various friendly people to obtain food. So the first half hour of the film sees Benji, from his perspective with a few third person omniscient intrusions, cycle through his daily routine two times.
On the third run-through, things begin to get more dramatic as his routine is broken up slightly--both in a positive way when he finds a girlfriend by the way of a Maltese and in a negative way when some shady characters intrude into his otherwise abandoned home. Although I agree that an interesting, entertaining film could have been made out of just showing Benji go through his routine, that would have been relatively avant-garde, and Camp maybe decided that his dog-perspective film was unusual enough already, so the principal story turns out to be these intrusions which set up more classical dramatic conflicts.
And Camp did a fine job of designing the film in the way he did. The climax works as well as it does only because he has taken us through Benji's lengthy daily routine a couple times. The climax and the build-up to the climax hinge on Benji hurriedly traveling his circuitous daily route a couple more times, and what pushes the events over the edge to success is that Benji has to strain to think more like a human.
I wouldn't have picked up on any of these things seeing the film as a preteen in 1974. But they are there, and for adults, this is an entertaining film as much for its unusualness as for any other reason--you just have to watch it with this in mind. This is what films might be like if dogs made them. And if you decide to show Benji to your children and explain these unusual qualities to them, you might just find it a more enjoyable experience for both of you.
- The Best Dog Movie Ever Made -- Comparable to Buster Keaton's "The General" 10/14/2006 12:00:00 AM by catherine-71
In looking over previously posted reviews, it is obvious to me that people either love this film or hate it. I happen to love it. I consider it to be not only the best dog movie ever made, but also among my 10 most favourite movies of all time (yes, including Casablanca, The Thin Man, Gun Crazy, Chinatown, etc.).
What makes this movie so wonderful is Higgins, the dog (under the direction of his trainer, Frank Inn). Higgins was so far beyond other dog actors that it is impossible to explain to folks who don't own dogs or train dogs. Not only is he cute and photogenic, expressive and believable, he did all his own stunts -- and he was 14 years old when he made this film!!!
Folks who review this movie tend to mention the kid actors, or the creaky kidnapping plot -- but, you know, that's not the point. If you wanted to look at it that way, you could also mention the wonderful interactions between Higgins and Edgar Buchanan, an actor he had worked with for many years on the TV series "Petticoat Junction." Those scenes have a delightful sense of improvisation and charm that easily offset the whiny kid scenes. But the movie is not really about those kidnapped kids at all. It is about a small dog, his daily routines, and how, when those routines are broken, he must rise above his simple life and accomplish a great deed.
In a way, the film that "Benji" most closely resembles is Buster Keaton's magnificent silent classic, "The General." The slow, repetitious set-up of Keaton with his train and Higgins with his rounds about town, the focused realism, the slightly down-at-the-heels outsiderness of the hero, the hint of love about to blossom if only the hero can provide for his beloved, the insistently lengthy attention paid to the immediacy of ultra-mundane cause and effect -- these are the same in both films. The openings have a documentary quality to them -- until, without warning, all hell breaks loose and the plot comes crashing in. Keaton's train is stolen! Kidnappers come to Benji's home! Then, in both films, we see an under-dog, so to speak, rise to the challenge of events and, working with only the slenderest of means and very little advance planning, counter one villainous turn after another, all the while attempting to right the wrongs that have been committed.
The manner in which the heroes devise solutions to the problems they face, both in "The General" and in "Benji," flow logically from the daily routines we saw them perform in the documentary-like first halves of the films, so they seem believable. We gain confidence alongside the heroes, see the sense in what they are doing, cheer for them to triumph, watch them rise to the verge of success -- and then a huge blow falls, a colossal set-back occurs, and we feel despair -- they'll never make it now, too much time and too much ground have been lost! But again, they apply themselves to the task, and now we hope against hope that they will be able to pull it off in time ... except that most people watching The General experience jaw-dropping amazement at the stunts and most people watching Benji really have no idea how great Higgins' stunt-work really is, and spend the last third of the movie in tears because Benji is such a small dog, and he's so dang CUTE, and ... awwww.
I've watched "The General" at least 10 times and never cried once. I've watched "Benji" 10 times and cried every time. I cried just know, merely writing about it. But "Benji" is not just a cute dog movie, any more than "The General" is just a Buster Keaton comedy. Like the best of Keaton's work, it is a heroic movie, and a love story, and a story of physical action and bravery. I just love this movie, that's all.