Cujo is a 1983 American horror film based on Stephen King's 1981 novel of the same name and directed by Lewis Teague. It was written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner (using the pen name Lauren Currier), and starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lewis Teague|
|Produced by||Robert Singer |
Daniel H. Blatt
|Screenplay by||Don Carlos Dunaway |
Barbara Turner (as Lauren Currier)
by Stephen King
|Music by||Charles Bernstein|
|Cinematography||Jan de Bont|
|Edited by||Neil Travis|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|August 12, 1983|
|Box office||$21.2 million|
The film follows a mother and her son who are trapped inside their car, while protecting themselves from a rabid St. Bernard.
Cujo, a friendly and easygoing St. Bernard, chases a wild rabbit and inserts his head into a cave, where a rabid bat bites him in the nose. Meanwhile, the Trenton family — advertising executive Vic (Daniel Hugh Kelly), housewife Donna (Dee Wallace) and their sensitive young son Tad (Danny Pintauro) — take their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber (Ed Lauter) for some repairs, where they meet Cujo, who is the Camber family's pet, and get along well with him.
Donna notices Cujo's bitten nose, but thinks little of it. Later, Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that Donna is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp (Christopher Stone), while Vic's advertising for a cereal commercial is failing. Charity (Kaiulani Lee) and Brett (Billy Jacoby), Joe's wife and son leave the house for a week to visit Charity's sister Holly. When the bite infection begins to set in, Cujo is able to refrain from threatening Brett, but soon succumbs and is driven mad. He kills their alcoholic neighbor, Gary Pervier (Mills Watson), and his owner Joe (who is attacked before he can call the authorities).
Vic goes out of town on a business trip, as Donna and Tad return to the Camber's house for more car repairs. Cujo attacks them, and they are forced to take shelter in their Ford Pinto. Donna tries to drive home, but the car's alternator dies and the two are trapped inside. The hot sun makes conditions nearly unbearable, and Donna realizes that she must do something before they both die from heatstroke or dehydration. However, attempts at escape are foiled by Cujo repeatedly attacking the car, breaking a window in the process, and even biting Donna. Vic returns home to rekindle his marriage, only to find Donna and Tad missing and his house vandalized by Kemp. He suspects the possessive Kemp of kidnapping, but the police realize his wife and son might be at the Camber's house.
The local sheriff, George Bannerman (Sandy Ward), arrives at the mechanics house and has a brief standoff; before he can draw his gun, Cujo kills him, knocking him off the catwalk in the barn and mauling him to death. Later, Donna takes advantage of a momentary distraction and hits Cujo with a baseball bat until it breaks, leaving only a jagged handle. Cujo jumps at her and is impaled in the stomach by the broken bat. Donna takes the sheriff's gun and retrieves Tad, who is dehydrated and overheated. After Donna revives Tad inside the kitchen, Cujo, now recovered, breaks through the kitchen window and tries to attack Donna. However, Donna shoots Cujo dead, before Vic arrives and reunites with his family.
- Dee Wallace as Donna Trenton
- Danny Pintauro as Tad Trenton
- Daniel Hugh-Kelly as Vic Trenton
- Christopher Stone as Steve Kemp
- Ed Lauter as Joe Camber
- Kaiulani Lee as Charity Camber
- Billy Jacoby as Brett Camber
- Mills Watson as Gary Pervier
- Jerry Hardin as Masen
- Sandy Ward as Sheriff George Bannerman
- Arthur Rosenberg as Roger Breakstone
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
The original director was Peter Medak, who left the project two days into filming, along with DOP Anthony B. Richmond. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively. Cujo was played by four St. Bernards, several mechanical dogs, and a black Labrador-Great Dane mix in a St. Bernard costume. In some shots, stuntman Gary Morgan played Cujo whilst wearing a large dog costume.
Cujo was a modest box office success for Warner Brothers. The film was released August 12, 1983, in the United States, opening in second place that weekend. It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically, making it the fourth-highest-grossing horror film of 1983 behind Jaws 3-D, Psycho II, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Reviews from critics were mixed. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote the film was "by no means a horror classic, but it's suspenseful and scary". Variety panned it as "a dull, uneventful entry in the horror genre, a film virtually devoid of surprises or any original suspense". Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four, calling it "one of the dumbest, flimsiest excuses for a movie I have ever seen". Roger Ebert called it "dreadful", and Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "no theater is air conditioned enough to justify watching this scary, gory and beastly movie".
Steve Jenkins of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that "for the most part Cujo works very effectively as a near reductio ad absurdum of the woman-in-peril-mode", but disliked that the film changed the ending from the book, thinking it made "absolutely no sense in terms of the film's logic". Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "genuinely frightening" also writing: "Builds slowly but surely to [its] terrifying (but not gory) climax". Despite the mixed reception, Stephen King called the film "terrific" and named it one of his favorite adaptations.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 63% approval rating based on 40 reviews, with the website's consensus stating: "Cujo is artless work punctuated with moments of high canine gore and one wild Dee Wallace performance". On Metacritic, the film holds a 57/100 based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced that it would develop another adaptation titled C.U.J.O., which stands for "Canine Unit Joint Operations". Nothing came of it after its announcement.
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section 3, p. 1
- Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1983). "The Dead Zone". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
- Gross, Linda (August 15, 1983). "Rabid Dog On The Rampage In 'Cujo'". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 4.
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- Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Clark, Mike; Edelman, Rob. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
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