The Man Who Wagged His Tail (1957)

aka Un angelo e sceso e Brooklyn
Article 3424 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-19-2010
Posting Date: 12-29-2010
Directed by Ladislao Vajda
Featuring Peter Ustinov, Pablito Calvo, Aroldo Tieri
Country: Italy / Spain
What it is: Transformation fantasy

When a cold-hearted landlord earns the enmity of his tenants by knocking down a young boy, a beggar with magical powers transforms him into a dog until someone grows to love him.

The “reformation of a scoundrel” is probably one of the most common story arcs in fantasy cinema, with A CHRISTMAS CAROL being only the most famous example. Peter Ustinov plays the reprobate who needs to be taught a lesson, and though he does a fine job, the movie is stolen by Caligula the dog, who shares with Ustinov the title role. The dog has some of the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen on an animal actor, and it is this performance that really draws us in and makes us care about the fate of the characters. The interesting milieu is also a strong point; Brooklyn is portrayed as a veritable melting pot of immigrants from other countries, and it gives the movie a really nice flavor. My favorite scenes include the dog having to perform an act which on the surface seems horrible but in truth is meant to save a woman from making a bad decision, the dog’s final act of bravery, and the last scene in the movie, which I won’t give away other than to say that it involves one character convincing another of something unbelievable. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a good one, and quite enjoyable.

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