The Dogs of War (1981)

R | 105 mins | Drama, Adventure | 13 February 1981

Director:

John Irvin

Producer:

Larry DeWaay

Cinematographer:

Jack Cardiff

Editor:

Antony Gibbs

Production Designer:

Peter Mullins
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HISTORY

The film’s title is a reference from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, and the film opens with the full quote: “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip… the Dogs of War.”
       According to the 22 Jun 1980 LAT, John Woolf, who produced films of Frederick Forsyth’s first two books, also planned to adapt Forsyth’s novel, The Dogs of War, and hired Wendell Mayes to write the script. However, the script “failed to attract the right elements for a production.” The 17 Nov 1975 DV and the 7 Dec 1975 LAT reported that Norman Jewison planned to produce and direct the film. Jewison hired Abby Mann to write the screenplay and approached actor Steve McQueen to play the lead. Articles in the 26 Mar 1980 DV and the 22 Jun 1980 LAT reported that Jewison was unhappy with Mann’s screenplay and the project took so long that Jewison felt he had “already made the film in his head.” As noted in the 9 Dec 1980 HR, Jewison remained as a producer, but dropped out as director, and the picture was shelved for two years. The 23 May 1979 Var reported that George Malko was re-writing the screenplay for Jewison. The 14 Sep 1979 DV noted the project was “still very much alive,” and actors Clint Eastwood and Nick Nolte had expressed interest in the project. The 22 Jun 1980 LAT reported that Michael Cimino approached Jewison, and wanted to write and direct the film. However, before Cimino completed the ... More Less

The film’s title is a reference from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, and the film opens with the full quote: “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip… the Dogs of War.”
       According to the 22 Jun 1980 LAT, John Woolf, who produced films of Frederick Forsyth’s first two books, also planned to adapt Forsyth’s novel, The Dogs of War, and hired Wendell Mayes to write the script. However, the script “failed to attract the right elements for a production.” The 17 Nov 1975 DV and the 7 Dec 1975 LAT reported that Norman Jewison planned to produce and direct the film. Jewison hired Abby Mann to write the screenplay and approached actor Steve McQueen to play the lead. Articles in the 26 Mar 1980 DV and the 22 Jun 1980 LAT reported that Jewison was unhappy with Mann’s screenplay and the project took so long that Jewison felt he had “already made the film in his head.” As noted in the 9 Dec 1980 HR, Jewison remained as a producer, but dropped out as director, and the picture was shelved for two years. The 23 May 1979 Var reported that George Malko was re-writing the screenplay for Jewison. The 14 Sep 1979 DV noted the project was “still very much alive,” and actors Clint Eastwood and Nick Nolte had expressed interest in the project. The 22 Jun 1980 LAT reported that Michael Cimino approached Jewison, and wanted to write and direct the film. However, before Cimino completed the screenplay, he made a deal to make Heaven’s Gate (1981, see entry) and dropped out of The Dogs of War. Jewison brought in John Irvin, a documentarian and English television director, who would be making his feature film directorial debut on The Dogs of War. Irvin spent almost a year working on the film before shooting got underway. The script “updated” the book’s story to reflect more current conflicts and changed the lead mercenaries from British to American. The final script is credited to Gary Devore and George Malko.
       The 7 May 1980 Var stated the film was budgeted at $8 million, and the 9 Dec 1980 HR reported a cost of $9 million. A 4 Apr 1980 HR article noted that the book was set in Africa, but Irvin felt the political climate in Africa made it too difficult and risky to film there. Irvin reported that he and Larry DeWaay, making his feature producing debut, scouted various countries in Central America to find an alternative, and chose Belize. A production chart in the 7 Mar 1980 DV announced principal photography began 18 Feb 1980 and locations included London, England, New York, Miami, FL, and Belize. According to an article in the 9 Dec 1980 HR, producer Larry DeWaay stated principal photography was just three days over schedule and went “only a few thousand dollars over budget.”
       The film was originally planned for an Easter 1981 release. However, United Artists (UA) wanted to “turn the tide” after the disastrous release of Heaven’s Gate, and focused their attention on The Dogs of War. The film was primarily considered a British production, and UA chose to release the film as a “major Christmas and New Year holiday attraction” in the United Kingdom prior to its U.S. release. The 22 Jan 1981 HR noted the film’s world premiere was at the Odeon Leicester Square Theatre in London on 17 Dec 1980. The following day it was released at nineteen theaters in England, Australia, Hong Kong, Portugal, Sweden, and Kenya. The 4 Feb 1981 Var announced the film’s release on 13 Feb 1981 in 280 theaters in the United States and Canada.
       End credits include the following statement: “Filmed on location and at Lee International Film Studios, London, England.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1975.
---
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1979.
---
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1980.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1980
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1980
Section T, p 30.
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1981
p. 16.
New York Times
13 Feb 1981
p. 10.
Variety
23 May 1979.
---
Variety
7 May 1980.
---
Variety
10 Dec 1980
p. 32, 34.
Variety
4 Feb 1981.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
as Drew
as North
as Endean
as Derek
as Capt. Lockhart
[and]
as Dr. Okoye
Featuring by country, Central America:
as The Captain
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
as Drew
as North
as Endean
as Derek
as Capt. Lockhart
[and]
as Dr. Okoye
Featuring by country, Central America:
as The Captain
[and]
Harlan Cary Poe
as Richard
New York:
as Terry
as Warner
as The Black Boy
as Dr. Oaks
[and]
as Shop Manager
London:
as Col. Bobi
as Endean's Man
as Hackett
as Bank Vice President
[and]
as Party Guest
Paris:
as Benny Lambert
[and]
as Baker
Belgium:
as Boucher
as Policeman
[and]
as Policeman
Spain:
as Customs Officer
[and]
as Spanish Officer
Africa:
as Gabrielle
as Zangaron Officer
as Customs Officer
as Jinja
as Film Crew
as Film Crew
as Priest
as Nun
As Godmother
as Poker Player
as Poker Player
as Poker Player
as Hotel Clerk
as Dinner Party Guest
as Dinner Party Guest
as Dinner Party Guest
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr (N.Y.)
1st asst dir (N.Y.)
1st asst dir (Miami)
2d asst dir (N.Y.)
2d asst dir (Miami)
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Dir of photog (N.Y.)
Dir of photog (Miami)
Cam op (N.Y.)
Addl photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Stills photog
Cam grip
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Post prod completed at
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
Const mgr
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward master
MUSIC
End title song sung by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Chief dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, U.S.A.
Casting, U.S.A.
Casting, Europe
Prod supv
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Prod accountant
Unit pub
Loc casting
Prod's asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Armaments supplied by
X.M.18 supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt coord, Europe
Stunt coord, Africa
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth (London, 1974).
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 February 1981
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 17 December 1980
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 February 1981
Production Date:
began 18 February 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Juniper Films
Copyright Date:
25 March 1981
Copyright Number:
PA97616
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo®
Color
Lenses
Lenses & Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1980 war-torn Central America, Jamie Shannon and his team of mercenaries force their way onto an evacuation plane and leave the area as bombs drop. Later, in New York, Jamie Shannon is approached by a man named Endean, who represents a corporation planning to invest in the West African country of Zangaro. However, the corporation wants to learn more about the stability of President Kimba’s regime, and Endean hires Shannon for reconnaissance. Shannon poses as “Keith Brown,” an ornithologist photographing Zangaro for a nature magazine. As he is driven to his oceanfront hotel, Shannon notes the military regime’s strong presence. Outside, a guide waits to drive him into the jungle to photograph birds. The guide tries to lead him deep into the bush, but Shannon outwits him. They return to the hotel, and Shannon learns the guide was not provided by the hotel concierge. Military police lead an English filmmaker named North and his documentary crew into the hotel and order them to stay there. North declares they cannot make a film about Zangaro from the hotel lobby, and storms into the hotel bar. As Shannon joins them, the lead soldier demands everyone toast President Kimba. He turns to Shannon and states that President Kimba is also interested in birds, but does not have time to research their scientific names. The officer quizzes Shannon, who provides the correct information, and the soldier leaves. Gabrielle Dexter, a beautiful Zangaran, enters the bar and offers to give Shannon a tour of the city the following morning. After she leaves, Shannon questions North about Zangaro. He ... +


In 1980 war-torn Central America, Jamie Shannon and his team of mercenaries force their way onto an evacuation plane and leave the area as bombs drop. Later, in New York, Jamie Shannon is approached by a man named Endean, who represents a corporation planning to invest in the West African country of Zangaro. However, the corporation wants to learn more about the stability of President Kimba’s regime, and Endean hires Shannon for reconnaissance. Shannon poses as “Keith Brown,” an ornithologist photographing Zangaro for a nature magazine. As he is driven to his oceanfront hotel, Shannon notes the military regime’s strong presence. Outside, a guide waits to drive him into the jungle to photograph birds. The guide tries to lead him deep into the bush, but Shannon outwits him. They return to the hotel, and Shannon learns the guide was not provided by the hotel concierge. Military police lead an English filmmaker named North and his documentary crew into the hotel and order them to stay there. North declares they cannot make a film about Zangaro from the hotel lobby, and storms into the hotel bar. As Shannon joins them, the lead soldier demands everyone toast President Kimba. He turns to Shannon and states that President Kimba is also interested in birds, but does not have time to research their scientific names. The officer quizzes Shannon, who provides the correct information, and the soldier leaves. Gabrielle Dexter, a beautiful Zangaran, enters the bar and offers to give Shannon a tour of the city the following morning. After she leaves, Shannon questions North about Zangaro. He learns that when the country recently won its independence, three candidates for president emerged: General Kimba, Colonel Bobi, and a physician, Dr. Okoye. After Kimba won, he exiled Bobi and incarcerated Dr. Okoye. North is furious that Kimba slaughters his own citizens and the outside world does not care, but he hopes his documentary will make a difference. North is sure that “Keith Brown” is not a photographer and assumes Shannon is with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). When Gabrielle tours Shannon around the city, he learns that Kimba has moved from the presidential residence to the garrison, where he is surrounded by his soldiers. She takes him inside a church tower overlooking the garrison, but when Shannon starts photographing, she stops him and insists pictures of the compound are not allowed. As they pass the front of the garrison, Shannon photographs her in front of the gates, claiming it is for his scrapbook. He invites Gabrielle to dinner, but the curfew sirens sound and she declines. Later, Shannon camouflages himself, sneaks outside, and observes the garrison entrance from the beach. A soldier confronts him, but Shannon knocks the soldier out. In the middle of the night, soldiers burst into Shannon’s room. He is taken to prison, where he is severely beaten and interrogated about his picture of Gabrielle at the garrison. Eventually, Shannon is dragged to a jail cell and Dr. Okoye is sent to treat his wounds. Dr. Okoye reveals Gabrielle is one of Kimba’s mistresses, and the president was probably furious that Shannon spent time with her. North protests “Keith Brown’s” arrest and lodges a complaint with the Swiss consulate, so Kimba has Jamie Shannon deported. As Shannon is lead through the Zangaran airport, the documentary crew films the action and North surreptitiously slips Shannon a film canister. In New York, Shannon reports to Endean, insisting Kimba is a crazy dictator, who does not trust his army and rations their bullets. Endean’s people refuse to deal with a mad man and wonder if a well-trained, well-equipped mercenary army could succeed at replacing Kimba. He asks how long Shannon would need to train such a team, but Shannon refuses the job. Shannon visits his ex-wife, Jessie, for the first time in two years. He admits he still loves her and wants to move to Colorado with her to start a “regular” life. She claims she cannot leave her father alone, but Shannon insists her father is an alcoholic and she needs to live her own life. She is angry that he expects her to drop everything. Shannon kisses Jessie and asks her to join him. They make love, and she sneaks away before he awakens. Shannon tells Endean he will accept his proposition and assembles his team, including long-time associates Drew, Derek, and Michel. They meet in England to formulate their plan, then split up and travel around Europe to acquire the necessary people, arms, and a freighter. North spots “Keith Brown” on the street and Shannon has a drink with him. North’s documentary aired on the BBC, but attracted little notice. Endean’s man watches them from a corner of the bar as Shannon shares his real name and denies working for the CIA. Later, as Shannon leaves for a meeting with Colonel Bobi, he asks Drew to discourage North from investigating their actions. However, as Drew approaches North, Endean’s man speeds toward them. Drew dives out of the way, but North is killed. Endean’s man crashes nearby, and Drew yanks him from the wreck. Endean introduces Shannon to Colonel Bobi, who insists that he is not like President Kimba. Bobi claims Kimba wants to be God, but Bobi just wants to be rich. Endean wants details on the planned attack, but Shannon will only tell him to arrive at the garrison at five o’clock in the morning on the twenty-fifth. If they are one minute late, Shannon will turn the country back to Kimba. As Shannon leaves, Bobi worries about his attitude, but Endean claims Shannon is expendable. Shannon and Drew interrogate Endean’s man and learn he was hired by Endean to keep track of their operation. Later, Endean discovers his operative’s body in his office when he answers a telephone call from his boss. Endean states Bobi has signed over exclusive mining and mineral rights for Zangaro to their corporation, and does not realize how much platinum is at stake. The mercenary team assembles on a freighter and sets sail. During the night, they rendezvous with their compatriot Jinja, who has trained a team of local soldiers. The mercenaries sneak ashore under cover of darkness. Shannon takes a position in the church tower, while others surround the garrison. When Shannon fires a projectile into the compound, his team gains entry to the garrison and launches their attack. Drew rushes into a building, but steps back when he sees a woman with several children. As he turns to leave, the woman shoots Drew in the back, killing him. Shannon bursts into the main building and finds Kimba packing a case with money. Kimba offers a bribe, but Shannon kills him. As the sun rises, Endean and Bobi arrive by helicopter. They go to the president’s office where Shannon waits with Dr. Okoye. Shannon yells that Endean is late and introduces “President Okoye.” Endean orders Shannon to get rid of Okoye, claiming the country is already bought and paid for. Bobi loudly declares that he is the president, but Shannon shoots him and tells Endean to buy the country again. Shannon, Michel, and Derek take possession of Drew’s body and drive away from Zangaro. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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