Fluke

Fluke is the story of a dog who discovers he has been reincarnated from his former human form and must now experience life as a dog to learn some very important lessons.

In the opening sequences of the film we see two men, Tom and Jeff, each driving a car at high speed down a country road at night. Tom pulls up alongside Jeff's car and angrily motions him to pull over. However, Tom is so preoccupied that he ends up driving off the road to avoid hitting an oncoming truck which results in a fatal accident. After some special effects that indicate being hurled into the spiritual beyond, the film cuts to a box of puppies and their mom. The pups are playfully cuddling mom and apparently living in a box in an urban alley while being fed by some good Samaritan.

Unfortunately, animal control officers arrive and capture mom and her brood and take them to the pound. All of the pups get adopted except for one who manages to escape just before being put to sleep. As the officer reaches into the cage to take the pup, the pup runs off sliding around on the hallway floors and knocking over a stack of brooms and mops. When the officer catches him and lifts him up, the excited pup urinates on him causing the officer to release him in disgust. Once free, the clever dog runs off and is nearly hit by a car. As he passes a school yard, a young boy pets him through the fence which prompts the pup to have a hallucination. By nightfall, he is luckily taken in by a homeless women, Bella. Seeing a butterfly ring on Bella's finger ignites another of his many hallucinations which are actually flashbacks. We discover that he is the reincarnation of Tom, recently killed in the car crash.

Bella loves the pup and finds that he is quite clever at playing "the shell game." Each time she hides a stone under one of three walnut shells and shifts them around, the pup immediately finds the stone. Passersby are fascinated by Bella and her pup and give her money each time he gets it right. One man in the crowd calls out that it's just a fluke. Wise Bella responds that if "fluke thy nature, then Fluke thy name." Bella's untimely death leaves Fluke by himself again until he is befriended by a mangy old dog named Rumbo. He and Rumbo are able to communicate as fellow animals and from this point on we can understand exactly what Fluke and Rumbo are thinking and feeling through the use of human voice overs.

Rumbo shows Fluke his haunts, especially the lunch counter at a farmer's market where the owner, Bert, feeds the two treats. Rumbo also takes Fluke to the junk yard where the owner adopts Fluke as he had Rumbo previously. While living at the junk yard, Fluke has more flashbacks. Of course, the two get into a bit of mischief by raiding a bakery truck and eating the pies. The two even bark and nip at a stranger whom they see stealing from Bert. This incident, however, really has repercussions when the thief goes to the junk dealer to complain. Fluke is punished by being tied to a piece of junk in the rain all night. Eventually the thief captures him on the street with an animal control collar and pole, known as a "come-along," and delivers him to a cosmetic research facility. Rumbo is able to save him and even releases the other animals in the laboratory as well. Unfortunately, Rumbo is shot by the thief in the escape and is fatally wounded.

Now alone, Fluke makes his way over the countryside to the town of Hopewell where he lived as a human. He waits for his human son, Brian, outside of the local school. He then follows the car, driven by his former wife, to what was his home. Of course, Brian falls in love with the dog and Fluke is able to reenter the world he knew as a man and study his former life. Through Fluke's flashbacks, we discover the truth surrounding the fateful night of the car accident and find that Fluke wants to get revenge on his ex-partner, Jeff. He hides in the back seat and barks and growls at Jeff causing Jeff to have a car accident, but nearly is killed himself when he is thrown through the car window on impact. He finally manages to learn some valuable lessons about life. Although Fluke takes off on his own, we find that he is not alone for long since his good buddy, Rumbo, is back by his side, this time reincarnated as a squirrel. The suirrel perched in a tree talks to Fluke and he immediately knows that it is his old pal reincarnated again. They are happily reunited." "Animal action is extensive in this film since the leading characters are dogs. Every animal in the film had an animatronic double which was used in any potentially dangerous scene. When Rumbo is shot during the laboratory rescue and when Fluke flies through the windshield in the accident, the scenes were shot in cuts with both real and animatronic dogs being used. Three Golden Retrievers were used to portray Fluke. There were also two sets of puppies, four in each set, for the early scenes. The mother dog was a very gentle animal who permitted the pups to nurse her, although they were not her own.

  • Starring: Eric Stoltz and Mathew Modine
  • Director(s): Carlo Carlei
  • Producer(s): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Screenwriter(s): Carlo Carlei
  • Distributor: MGM Studios
  • Release Date: Friday, June 02, 1995
  • Rating: Acceptable

Featured Animal Action

In general, the dogs were very well trained in pre-production to respond to verbal and physical commands and were rewarded with food. In scenes where the animals moved from A to B or appeared to be chasing another animal, they were actually responding to a trainer's command and ran to another waiting trainer who rewarded the animal with a treat. When the animals appeared to be in an agitated state or growling, they were actually responding to the trainer's hand and verbal commands. During any attack training and during filming of the attack scenes, the dogs were prompted by a trainer who used both verbal and physical commands. The dogs were not bothered by this activity, but returned to a playful state immediately and then given verbal and food rewards. Another technique used by the trainers to give the appearance of agitation was to encourage play behavior with the use of towels, balls and noise makers.

In the scenes where the animal control "come-along" was used to capture the dogs, it was rigged so that the collar could not tighten around the dog's neck and the loop was padded with foam rubber. The trainer actually controlled the come-along during filming, placed the collar around the dog's neck, cued the dog to back up and was promoting play behavior that gave the appearance of the dog struggling.

Scenes shot in the kennel were filmed in an actual kennel. For the scene where the puppy is escaping the shelter and slipping and sliding on the floors, the area was cleared of all hazards. The trainers used verbal comands to call the puppy who responded with enthusiasm and a natural lack of agility. When the pup urinates on the animal control officer, a clear tube was gently taped to the pup's belly and apple juice was pumped through this. The trainer was below the actor holding the puppy for this and caught the puppy as the actor reacted letting the pup fall. In scenes where animals appear wounded, fake non-toxic stage blood was used and applied by the make-up department.

There are two scenes in which it appears as if Fluke is about to be hit by a car. These scenes were shot in cuts and the animals were not near the moving vehicles. While the dogs appear as if they are wandering the busy city streets alone, trainers were present just off camera at all times and the animals were merely responding to trainers' commands and moving A to B. The scenes were always well choreographed and the traffic was either stopped, or when moving, the animals were held by their trainers and kept forty to fifty feet away. When the car looks to have stopped short of hitting the puppy, the scene was shot in cuts. The car was stopped at least four feet from the animal when the pup is seen crossing directly in front of the car and the trainer was right there to receive the dog and reward him with food. For the running scenes, several dogs and their doubles were used so that no one dog was ever tired.

Fluke gets his name by playing the shell game with Bella. For this scene, the puppy was trained by having food placed under different shells and letting the pup find the food in a single location several times. When it was time to shoot the scene, the food was replaced by the stone. This was done in a succession of takes using food under different shells, repetition with each successive shell and then a switch to a stone when the camera was filming.

When Fluke and Rumbo raid the bakery truck, trainers were giving verbal commands. In pre-production the animals were practiced in retrieval training and responded to verbal commands prompting them to pull and hold objects. The scene was shot in one continuous take but when the sequence was edited it looks to be more chaotic than it actually was. When we see the driver of the truck slipping and sliding, the dogs were not in the truck at the time.

For the scene in the laboratory, all the animals were placed into the cages by their trainers just prior to filming. Rumbo valiantly jumps through the glass window to save his friend Fluke. For this sequence, the dog was trained in pre-production and practiced with windows made first of cellophane and then of a very light clear plastic. The actual jump on film was done through candy glass which is very soft and cannot harm the animal. It was also shot at a camera angle that made it look more dramatic. The actual jump was over a windowsill that was only two to three feet off the ground. This was an easy jump for the dog. Rumbo releases all the laboratory animals along with Fluke. For this the dog was trained with verbal commands and repetition to go to the button that would open all the cage doors. Fluke was attached to electrodes and wearing goggles in the laboratory. This was actually a motorized fake dog. In one scene, a chimp saves a little puppy who was afraid to jump from one of the laboratory cages. This was a real pup that the chimp was trained to carry. Fluke is supposedly temporarily blind due to the experiments and must hold Rumbo's tail in his mouth to be led away from the lab. The dogs were trained to do this and it did not trouble either dog. As the animals leave the laboratory, the thief shoots at Rumbo. The scene was shot in cuts and an animatronic dog was used for the actual hit. Later we see Rumbo dying of his wound. The wound was created with fake stage blood applied by the make-up department. The dog had been trained to lie very still as if dying.

In the dramatic accident in which Fluke is thrown through the windshield of the car, the scene was shot in cuts. The interior shots were done in a camera car which is mounted on a trailer. The actor never had control of the car. The camera car driver controlled all the movement which allowed the actor the freedom to react and neither endanger himself nor the animal. The dog was placed in the back seat by the trainer and the trainer at all times was either in the back with the dog, on the floor in front, or outside on the trailer giving the dog verbal and visual commands. When the dog growls he is reacting to his own image in a mirror. When he attacked the arm of the actor, it was really trained play behavior and a response to the trainer's verbal commands. The dog that is seen being hurled into the air amidst broken glass is an animatronic dog. When we see Fluke limping afterwards, the dog is responding to his trainer's commands. He had been trained for this behavior in pre-production.