Man's Best Friend

Judy Sanders, who works in a research facility, has contacted TV personality, Laurie Tanner. The plan was for them to meet after work. Judy is going to let Laurie into the research facility to show her the atrocities that go on behind closed doors at EMAX. Doctor Jarrett, who is doing vivisection and genetic altering, discovers the plan and kills Judy. Laurie keeps her appointment, but when Judy does not show, she decides to break into the lab where she finds and films dead bodies and animals that are in the middle of research projects. Among them is a dog named Max, who has been genetically altered with big cats and other exotic animals. While shooting the lab scene, Max escapes. Dr. Jarrett, discovering the filming, chases Laurie out of the research facility. Max follows, and as Laurie drives away, Max jumps into her car. Dr. Jarrett goes to the police complaining that his dog has been stolen. Later that day, when Laurie goes shopping, a thief steals her purse. Max chases him and brings Laurie's purse back to her. The thief is later found dead and Dr. Jarrett verifies that it had to be Max who killed him. Laurie wants to keep Max but her boyfriend, Perry, who lives with her, is absolutely against the idea. He finally agrees, as long as Max remains in the backyard. However, Max, being almost human, understands conversations between people. He also has unusual abilities. For instance, he can unlock doors, open windows, etc. He is also in love with Laurie and a rivalry results between Max and Perry. Max finesses his way into the house, goes up the stairs and peaks through the key hole of Laurie's bedroom, where he sees Laurie making love to her boyfriend. He pounds on the door until Laurie opens it where upon he attempts to attack Perry. All this was shot in cuts with Max responding to visual and hand cues from his trainers with food as a reward. Max, while being a big lovable dog to Laurie, has a propensity, because of his genetic altering, to be a killer. For instance, when the paper boy hits Max in the head with the paper, Max chases him and tears up his bicycle tire. When a neighbor's cat irritates Max, he chases the cat down the street and right up a tree, which he has the ability to do because of his genetic altering with big cats. In a very gory scene, he catches the cat and swallows it. In another scene, Max is maced by the mailman. The mace does not effect Max, but he chases the mailman, jumps over a fence, attacks and kills him. He later tries to bury the body. In the mean time, the jealousy between Max and Perry has accelerated. Max destroys the brake lining in Perry's truck and Perry tries to kill Max with poisoned hamburger. Max, being of super intelligence, realizes the meat is poisoned and instead of eating the meat, he chases the boyfriend out of the house. Laurie, not knowing that any of this has happened, but feeling the animosity of Perry towards Max, feels she must find Max a home. She takes him to a junkyard where she leaves him with the junkyard dealer who assures her Max will be taken to a ranch. Instead, when Laurie leaves, he chains Max and hits him over the head with a shovel, knocking Max unconscious. When Max regains consciousness, he pulls loose from his chain and attacks the junkyard man, who, in turn, puts a blowtorch to Max's face. Max, now terribly burned, escapes and makes his way home to get even with Perry. He climbs the wall of the house, opens the window, and chases Perry, who runs into the closet. Max then crashes through the closet door, attacking Perry, pulls him out into the bedroom and urinates on him. The police, by this time, have heard enough about Max to believe that he is a dangerous dog. They arrive at the house and the pursuit of Max begins. However, Max escapes by jumping over the police cars. In an attempt to get Max back, Dr. Jarrett kidnaps Laurie, hoping Max will follow, which he does. However, in doing so he jumps on the car, causing the car to crash into the front of the EMAX building. Laurie manages to pull herself free from the wrecked car and run into the building. For the first time, Max turns on Laurie and chases her into the lab. His eyes have a glaze to them, and there are scars on his face from the blowtorch. Laurie grabs a knife to protect herself, but in the end, their love for each other is stronger than his propensity for violence and her fear of him. In a very sentimental scene, Laurie reaches out with her bloody hand to touch Max, whom she loves. Dr. Jarrett comes back into the lab and attempts to shoot Laurie, but Max intercedes and takes the bullet himself and is killed.

  • Starring: Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, Robert Costanzo
  • Director(s): John Lafia
  • Producer(s): A Roven-Cavallo Entertainment Production
  • Screenwriter(s): John Lafia
  • Distributor: New Line Cinema
  • Animal Coordinator: Clint Rowe
  • Release Date: Friday, August 06, 1993
  • Rating: Acceptable

Featured Animal Action

While this is a very violent movie, all precautions were taken by both the trainer and the production company to make sure that the dog was never in any danger. Most scenes were done with verbal and visual cues given to the dog, who had been carefully trained for each scene. Food and praise were always given as rewards. The scene where Max chases the cat up a tree and swallows it, was done in cuts. The dog and cat had been trained together. In the chase down the street, there was always approximately fifteen feet between them. The cat was running to a toy, with food as a reward. The dog was running to visual and hand cues, also with food as a reward. When the cat climbs a tree to escape, he, again, is running after a toy. Trick photography was used where it appears that Max is also climbing the tree. Actually Max was crawling on a log. A fake dog head was used when it appears that Max has the cat in his mouth. The cat had walked in the back end of the fake dog head and out through the mouth. When the cat appears to be swallowed by the dog, it was a trainer off camera pulling the cat backwards through the mouth of the fake dog head. In the scene where you see the mailman mace Max, Max shakes off the mace, as if it were nothing, and begins chasing the mailman, who jumps over a fence. Max is right after him, grabbing hold of his leg, and as the mailman lies on the other side of the fence, Max jumps the fence and kills him. Actually it was not mace that was used, but water. When you saw Max attacking the mailman, it was either a fake dog head on a real leg or the real dog holding onto a fake leg. The shovel in the junkyard was made of rubber. However, you never actually see the shovel hitting Max on screen. When the junkyard dealer blowtorches the face of Max, it was a fake dog head that received the burns. When Max realizes Perry is trying to poison him, he takes off and chases Perry, who escapes in his truck. Being frustrated by this, Max knocks over the parrot's cage and kills him. The scene was established with a real parrot, but it is a fake parrot that is in the cage when it is knocked over. On screen you see feathers flying. These were fake feathers that had been thrown around by the prop man. Max then puts the poisoned meat in the toilet and flushes it down the drain. The dog had been trained to do this and was responding to verbal and visual cues from his trainer, again with food as a reward. When Max escapes from the junkyard, he goes back to his house and walks up the side of the house. This was done with trick photography. It was a fake dog that jumps through the closet door attacking Perry, but the real dog pulls Perry out of the closet. The dog had been taught to pull on socks, which Perry had tied around his ankles. To make him easy to pull, Perry was lying on a plank with rollers. Max, going berserk, runs down the stairs and a neighborhood boy attempts to stop him with a baseball bat. The bat was made of rubber. When the police arrive they start shooting at Max. Only quarter loads were used in the scenes and Max was never in any danger. Max, when jumping over the police cars, was in reality jumping from a platform over fake sides of cars. In the chase where Max is running down the street, the cars were never really close to Max. In all of the scenes where Max jumps over fences, etc., he was jumping from a platform, either onto padding or onto softened ground. When Max chases Dr. Jarrett and Laurie's car down the street and jumps on it, causing it to crash into the EMAX building, he actually jumped onto the padded roof of a stationary car that was on a slow moving flatbed of a truck. The trainers, off camera, were on the roof of the car with Max and safety precautions were taken so that Max couldn't fall off either side of the car. Max was not on the car when it actually turned over. When Max is hit in the head with the paper by the paper boy, it was not a rolled up paper that hit Max, but a paper with foam inside. When Max chases the paper boy down the street, the boy falls off and Max rips his tire apart. Max had previously been trained to pull on a rubber tire. He was responding to his trainer's visual and verbal cues with food as a reward. In one scene you see animal control officers trying to pull a little dog on a Come-Along. The officers were actually pretending to be rough with the little dog, who was barking in response to cues from his trainers. Max had been trained to growl and speak by using a large bone to cue the dog. When Max's eyes are wild and glassy after he is blowtorched, contact lenses were used. The dog wore them for no longer than two minutes. In the beginning there is a laboratory scene where various primates have devises on their heads, and cats and rabbits have burns and scars on them. All devises were light, fake props. All burns and scars were fake. In one of the scenes, Max falls in love with a Collie by the name of Heidi. He jumps the fence where she lives, climbs through the window, and seduces her. Here again, the dog jumped from a platform onto soft ground. In the end of the picture, Laurie is walking the new little dog that Perry has given her, and as she passes Heidi's home the neighbor boy invites her in to see their new puppies. All of them look like Heidi, except one little black dog, who looks like Max.