28 April 2005 | JohnSeal
Top notch prison drama
Paul Ramsey (the under-appreciated Gregg Henry) is a musician traveling home to his loving wife Linda (Kay Lenz). When his car breaks down, he's picked up by a rich couple (Tina Louise and William Windom), but soon regrets his luck when a hit and run accident occurs, and the couple railroad their new hitchhiking buddy. Soon Paul is serving time in a hellish desert prison camp run by tough Captain Kinsman (George Kennedy) and his even tougher subordinate, former jarhead Sergeant Wacker (James Wainwright in a truly hiss-worthy performance). What makes Mean Dog Blues such a good film is Henry's ability to portray a character in control of his destiny, even when things seem completely OUT of control. He displays an almost zen-like calm and a dry sense of humor that disarms gay inmate Jesus Gonzalez (Gregory Sierra), and soon insinuates himself into 'trusty' status when 'dog n****r' Mudcat (Scatman Crothers) loses his job--serving as training bait for the prison's hunting dogs, who include a particularly nasty Doberman called Rattler. As his cellmate Tonto (Gene Silva) tells him, it's the worst job in the camp, and he's in for a lot of fresh air and exercise. Meanwhile, newly pregnant Linda is working feverishly to have his conviction overturned. Will Paul taste the sweet fresh air of freedom, or will Rattler rip his throat oat before Sergeant Wacker does? You'll have to watch to find out. Sadly unavailable on home video, Mean Dog Blues recently popped up on Flix in a beautiful widescreen print. Be sure not to miss it next time they air it. Please note that the 'prohibited word' asterisked in this review is lifted directly from the screenplay, and in no way represents my own opinions.