August 8, 2018 | by James Greene, Jr.
For as long as people have been throwing around the term “rock star,” Alice Cooper’s been one. This is probably why he was hired to play a rock star in Claudio Fragasso’s 1984 film Monster Dog — few individuals define those two words so succinctly. In turn, one expects a character named Vincent Raven to bear passing (if not entire) resemblance to a guy like Alice Cooper. And so, it’s a wild shock to watch Monster Dog and witness Cooper stylized like Alan Thicke at the dizzying height of his sweater-clad paternity on “Growing Pains.” This Vincent Raven, in cable knit and puffy Lands End vest, looks like he got lost on his way to the ski lodge.
Apropos, then, that Monster Dog starts with a music video for “Identity Crisis,” a lower-tier Cooper tune in which the icon dares us to believe “Billy the Kid” can rhyme with “Jack the Ripper.” It’s an audacious move, but one the melody conquers; as I type I cannot free the “Identity Crisis” chorus from my brain. Damn your talent, Alice.
The plot of Monster Dog involves Vincent Raven traveling to his childhood home in California so he can shoot a video with a cadre of preppie dopes at least 10 years his junior. His parents are long dead, and when Vince et al arrive at the abode the resident caretaker is missing. Could this be connected to the gorgeous German Shepherd they hit with their van on the way in?
Believe it or not, there’s a bevy of canines in Monster Dog, all allegedly borrowed from a school for the differently abled near the film’s shooting locations in Spain. As not good as the humans are in this movie, the dogs are worse. Many of them look directly at the camera with surprised expressions — "Oh shit, are we in a fuckin’ movie?" The filmmakers, who appear to have been jerks, tried to improve the animal performances by not giving them food. Maybe they should have fed the dogs and starved the humans instead.
Truth be told, it is supremely difficult to accurately judge any human’s given performance in this turkey because all the dialogue is dubbed. Different actors were hired to give these people voice once filming wrapped, lending Monster Dog a gauzy, stoned quality. If you’re like me, you spent too much time in college watching retrospective bullshit on VH-1, most of which featured Alice Cooper rhapsodizing about Green Day or Gerald Ford or Ford Pintos. Cooper’s speaking voice is distinct and memorable (at least to a generation of early 2000s slackers). They wallpaper over that in Monster Dog with the comparatively bland touch of veteran English dub actor Ted Rusoff.
The cruelest part of the end product might be the monster dog itself, which is never really shown (even when it’s attacking our main character). The puppet (costume?) was a piece of junk from day one, so they compensate with quick cutting and copious fog. Claudio Fragasso may have blown his movie’s budget hiring Alice Cooper.
Monster Dog is a howling hell but it’s not cursed. Victoria Vega, who plays Vincent Raven’s girlfriend, acted just a few years later in José Luis Garci’s Oscar-nominated entry Asignatura aprobada (Approved Subject). Alice Cooper continued his cinematic career as well, moving on to classics like Wes Craven’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and Wayne’s World. There was some friction making the latter, in the sense that Wayne’s World star Mike Myers wanted Cooper to perform one of his classic hits in the concert sequence; Alice insisted on singing “Feed My Frankenstein.” Not a classic, but better than “Identity Crisis.”
More importantly, Wayne’s World let Alice Cooper dress like Alice Cooper.