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Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980)

Brando’s Pick of the Month

If I didn’t know any better, Brando and I tuned in to watch Fletch 3. But then again Chevy Chase never starred in a third adventure of Gregory McDonald’s literary creation. Not to mention this film from director Joe Camp was released five years prior to Chevy landing one of his more iconic roles in his first go around as Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher.

Chevy stars here as an England based P.I. who finds himself in troubled waters shortly after meeting his leading lady in the opening scenes played by the stunning Jane Seymour. It’s a brief encounter but one that leaves an impression on our would be hero. Shortly thereafter screen legend Omar Sharif wanders in to Chevy’s office and hires him to bodyguard for a woman in possible danger. In a matter of moments we’ll soon see that Chevy has been set up. He’ll arrive at her apartment to find his charge murdered on the kitchen floor and he’ll soon be joining her. A mysterious figure appears and sends Chevy to the promised land.

Well, not quite.

The film takes on a Heaven Can Wait flavor when Chevy meets Stuart Germain in the next world decked out in cloudy white. Turns out Chevy’s ultimate destination hasn’t yet been decided upon. Could be north, could be south. To help the process along he’s being sent back to Earth to solve his own murder and free the man currently being accused of the double homicide. This leads him in his heavenly whites over to see Susan Kellermann who takes a carnal liking to Chevy which only prompts him to accept his new body without too much of an argument. Just plenty of snide comic remarks.

Enter the second “actor” with above the title billing second to only to Chevy, it’s everyone’s favorite little dog of the era, Benji, in his third big screen adventure.

This is where my Fletch reference comes in. Chevy takes on the task of narrating his thoughts coming from the big brown eyes of the little furry canine. Not quite Noir here but like Fletch, Chase is essentially in disguise from here on it as he hunts down his own killer by piecing the mystery together and doing his best to stir up some laughs with his offhanded remarks. Quite often with a sexual underlying twist to them. Especially when he finds himself teaming with Miss Seymour who has been assigned by her publisher, guest star Robert Morley, to look into the killings and write a book on the case which clearly puts her in harm’s way.

“He’s the Devil you know.”

Sharif will come back to our story as Jane and Benji go about their research and digging into the victims background. Sharif is beginning to believe the mutt is unlike any other. Not only does the dog continually find a way into his presence, but Omar has witnessed him dial a rotary phone, reading papers on his desk and steal mail from his personal PO Box. I guess it’s rather simple for us first time viewers, either Omar is our man or he’s making a darned good red herring.

And maybe he is at that when a politician with an eye on the role of Prime Minister comes into the story played by John Stride.

The astounding smarts of Benji the dog combined with Chevy’s continual remarks make this a fun time killer. It’s all rather harmless and aside from the light sexual content, it’s family friendly. Just put your hands over the kiddies eyes when Benji/Chevy get an eyeful of Jane peeling off her clothing as she enters the bathroom. Now is Chevy really a “dog”. You bet! In more ways than one as he decides to jump into the bath with his new handler to get up close and personal. I had to tell Brando to look away so he didn’t get any ideas with the Mrs. and get me in trouble for giving him ideas.

Director Joe Camp clearly has a love for the Benji franchise. He has thirteen directing credits to his name and all but 2 are associated with our furry friend. He also served as producer here and the majority of his other titles. For trivia’s sake, Hawmps and The Double McGuffin are the only two non Benji credits on his directing resume. Both films squarely aimed at the same youthful audience.

Over at the IMDB, this line is in the trivia section, ” Chevy Chase told Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne that he has never seen this film, which he considers his worst. ” Chevy should let us be the judge of that because I found this a whole lot more enjoyable than some of his other big screen outings. Like what you say? Not to pick on anything in particular, but I’d easily watch this Heavenly Dog a dozen times before ever being subjected to Nothing But Trouble once again. Apologies extended to fans of this Dan Aykroyd abomination that you won’t see me reviewing here at Mike’s Take where I try to keep it positive.

Are dogs heavenly? They are to those of us who can’t live without them and Brando is willing to back that up with his new look after watching this tale of life after death. I’ll close with this, if my name was Limpet, I’d wish to be a dog long before I ever aimed at becoming a fish.

Come on Brando, let’s get back into training for the next wiener dog race. We need to work on your timing out of the gate.

5 Comments »

    • I had never actually seen it till now and yes it would have been a big hit with me had I seen it in the early days of VHS. Not sure how I missed it along the way but thanks to Brando in the house, it’s been accomplished.

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