Saturday, May 9, 2015

Date with your dog: Turner and Hooch

cat dog remote
Look out, peeps. SAT is straying into the movie-review territory. Gather up your remotes, your nanna rugs, and your viewing companions as SAT introduces its first veterinary movie review. (Michael is totally hogging the remote here).

SPOILER ALERT – If you’ve not seen Turner and Hooch, be warned this post will give away some key aspects of the plot. We figure that's okay given the movie is about a quarter of a century old.

Recently Phil and I joined some friends (two and four legged) for a rainy movie afternoon watching Turnerand Hooch. I was a kid when this movie came out in 1989, but it pre-dates most of the vet students I teach now who were born after 1990. Somehow I had forgotten that Scott Turner, played by Tom Hanks, falls in love with a veterinarian (Dr Emily Carson, played by Mare Winningham).

So that propels it into the category of a veterinary romance. These are few and far between (if you can’t imagine why, check out this Once Kitten, Twice Shy post).

In fact there is romance on two levels. There’s Turner’s relationship with the vet, but there’s also the much more plausible and charming bromance between Turner and Hooch. Hooch is brilliantly played by Beasley the Dogue de Bordeaux.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Beasley was born in 1978 and died in 1992 at the age of 14. So he would have been ten years old when this movie was made – thereby putting paid to that annoying saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" (unless of course these were old tricks). Beasley was owned and trained by Clint Rowe. According to other sources, Beasley was supported by three other dogs, none of whom are named in any source I can locate. Which explains why in one scene Hooch seems to have ballooned to double his size. These dogs do drool a lot and the drool almost deserves a credit in the movie, there’s that much of it. Though I am pretty sure the sound effects team might have been responsible for the unsettlingly noisy moist landings of dog saliva all over every scene. In my experience, saliva isn't that noisy (and I know a thing or two about dog drool).

Hooch’s original owner is killed because he has witnessed some fishy business going on (in a fish company no less), and the baddies want to cover their tracks. Some animal control officers rock up and demonstrate some abominable dog handling, then Turner takes over – handling Hooch almost as badly. He takes Hooch in and together they work to solve the mystery, though without Hooch actually spotting the perpetrator and barking incessantly before destroying an entire office and breaking out of the police station, the investigation wouldn’t have gone anywhere.

In fact Hooch drives everything in the movie, even introducing Turner to the local vet (Hooch has an interest in the vet’s collie, although the ultimate result of their dalliance is a bit far-fetched in that the collie gives birth to a bunch of other purebred collies and a single purebred Dogue de Bourdeaux. Clearly the scriptwriters weren't familiar with this tome). One does wonder what kind of vet lets an entire female purebred dog just free-roam around suburbia where she can meet up with an entire male Dogue de Bourdeaux. Clearly the movie is set in a parallel universe were pet overpopulation and caesarians are unheard of, and purebred dogs rule the streets.

Dr Carson seems nice enough, and appears to operate a sole charge clinic from her house (probably the norm back in those days). She falls for Turner, even though he has extreme OCD, struggles with anger management and has a very annoying habit of yelling all the time. And he's not a responsible dog owner, so he's not exactly off the scale on the hot-o-meter.

For example, there’s a scene where Turner is outside his house, in his underpants at 11pm, desperate to sleep and Hooch won’t stop barking. He loses the plot.

Turner: What? What? What is it? What? If you’re hungry, finish the hamburgers! Eat the buns! You’re not thirsty? You’re not touching the water, the orange juice, cranapple – what is it I am supposed to to? Make you a margarita?
Turner does seem to take pride in the fact that his love interest is a veterinarian, as evidenced in one of the many bro-chat scenes.
Detective Sutton: “You humped the vet.”Detective Turner: “Oh, “humped the vet”! “Humped the..!” You have a lot of class. I happen to have had a religious experience with the future Mrs Scott Turner who happens to…Yes. She holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine.”
Ah, yes ladies. Doesn't that make you feel spesh about that vet degree? 

Without Hooch, Turner is a bit unappealing. But he is redeemed somewhat by falling in love with Hooch and shrugging off things that once made him hysterical, like the inside of his car being eaten. Hooch, for his part, eats the car a lot less once he's allowed to sleep inside and go on stakeouts. There's a lesson in that for all of us!

Disappointingly, Hooch is shot defending Turner and dies at the clinic. This is one of those scenes which might well have veterinarians throwing cushions at the TV. The only treatment Hooch seems to get is IV fluids and some gauze on the wound and a bit of serious cardiac auscultation. 

Dr Carson insists he is losing blood but he looks pretty well perfused to me. The word transfusion isn’t uttered once. Yet presumably Hooch’s ladyfriend is in the house and might have been an appropriate donor. There’s a clink which might or might not be a bullet being removed and then Hooch closes his eyes and Dr Carson pronounces him dead.

According to an interviewwith Director Roger Spottiswoodewhen they made it they shot a version where Hooch lived. Then they did a test. Two versions of the movie screened at the same time with different audiences. There was the version in which Hooch dies, and the version in which he lived. Hardly a placebo-controlled double blinded study if you ask me! Somehow they determined that the Hooch-dying version was slightly preferred. The stats were marginal so the studio let Spottiswoode decide. He took a day and decided Hooch should die. But he has been copping flak for that one ever since (and rightly so, methinks).

So if you’re going to watch this movie, have the tissues (and cushions) handy. And if you’re watching it in canine company be ready for some interaction. In the scenes where Hooch growls, some of our audience members were moved to growl and bark back at the TV.

Twenty six years later, it’s still a good watch as long as you can suspend your veterinary disbelief and cope with some eighties hair.