Though my wife will watch a movie with me from time to time, she is nowhere near as big of a movie fan as I. She prefers to curl up with a book. But there was one movie that she had always enjoyed as a kid that I had never seen. Well, I’ve finally remedied that problem. It’s the story of a crook who trains a bunch of dogs to rob banks for him…1972’s “The Doberman Gang.”
The film begins with Eddie Newton (Byron Mabe) and his little gang of bank robbers (Simon Bow & Jojo D’Amore) in the midst of their latest job. But one of the gang throws the money into the trunk of the wrong car while trying to get away. The gang ends up empty-handed. Human error is causing all sorts of problems, and Eddie can’t take it anymore. But one night, he spots a group of punks breaking into a junkyard and watches as a group of Doberman pinschers subdue the would be crooks. This gives Eddie an idea.
He begins researching guard dogs and learns that they are sometimes used by the military. This leads him to a former air force vet who trained dogs for service in Vietnam. Barney (Hal Reed), who Eddie just calls “Trainer,” ends up being recruited to train dogs he believes are for a guard dog service. Of course, Eddie plans to train them to rob banks. Though Trainer has only worked with shepherds, Eddie insists on getting Dobermann. He rents a farm, then gathers up his two fellow crooks, and brings his gal June (Julie Parish) along as well, and they all begin assisting Barney in training the dogs.
Eddie is targeting a small bank in the nearby factory town. On the day before payday, that bank is bursting with money. Of course, Barney is clueless about Eddie’s plans…even though all the dogs have been given names of famous crooks like Bonnie, Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, and so on. He soon figures it out, though, when he discovers the mock-up of the bank lobby that Eddie and boys have built in the barn. At first, Barney wants no part of it, but when Eddie says that he’ll be forced to kill the dogs if the plan doesn’t go forward he changes his mind.
Barney ends up working out an elaborate system of commanding the dogs with high-pitched whistles…undetectable by human ears. This way, they can command the dogs from nearby, and never need to enter the bank. It’s a perfect plan, but all is not well on the ranch…especially when Eddie tells June that she isn’t getting an equal share of the take.
As they prepare for the robbery, the dogs are each fitted with satchels that will hold $50,000 each as well as collars with huge nails sticking out of them. The dogs are all set to respond to the whistles, and even attack the bank patrons if they don’t obey the written instructions one of the dogs delivers to the teller. It’s all going to go off without a hitch…but both Barney and June have plans of their own to get the best of the overconfident Eddie.
“The Doberman Gang” has a clever little premise, even if it’s not terribly believable. I’m no expert on what these sort of dogs can and can’t do…but I struggle to believe that they could do the complicated series of responses that they do here, and all from hearing an ultrasonic whistle being blown from inside a building across the street. But hey, Delorean’s don’t travel back in time, either. It’s a movie! I don’t need it to be believable, I just need it to be fun!
The human cast does a decent job, but there are really no stand out performances. It’s the dogs who are the real stars. The robbery sequence is quite entertaining and worth the long build up. I did, however, wish that the film hadn’t centered on just one bank job. I think the film would’ve been more successful had the training of the dogs been much shorter and been followed by a whole canine crime spree. Perhaps that came in the sequels…there were two: “The Daring Dobermans,” and “The Amazing Dobermans.” I will say, though, while I loved the Doberman’s, the scene stealer is the little bulldog named J. Edgar Hoover.
Though the film doesn’t quite live up to it’s potential it’s still pretty fun, and with the exception of a few bloody moments is even ok for most younger kids. That is, unless they already have a fear of dogs. Yeah…maybe not a good idea in that case. But most kids would get a kick out of this unique little caper. I can see why wife enjoyed it so much.