Cujo is a film directed by Lewis Teague based upon the Stephen King novel by the same name about a St. Bernard that contracts a case of rabies that heightens his aggression. The film was shot on a relatively low budget and managed to earn back over double that, even so the film has received rather negative reviews, criticized for its thin plot and dull first half.
Bow Wow Motherf@#$r
Cujo is a friendly and happy St. Bernard, however whilst chasing a rabbit through the fields he is bitten by a bat upon the nose which eventually develops into rabies. Donna Trenton, a rather dissatisfied mother and wife, has an affair with her husband's best friend, however the two are discovered when her husband Vic sees the two outside their house. Before the two can work out what will happen between them and attempt to recover from the incident, Vic is called away on business when a media scandal goes wrong with one his advertising company. Before he goes Donna asks if they are going to stay together, to which Vic replies that he doesn't know and then drives off. Donna does not reveal any of this to her son Tad, a small boy with a fear of monsters, as she does not want to worry him or put any unnecessary stress on the child.
Meanwhile the Chamber family who live in an isolated country house and are the owners of Cujo, who is unknown to them is slowly developing rabies, discover that they have won the lottery. Mrs. Chamber pleads to her husband to let her and their son go visit her sister after buying him a present that will help with his car repair business which he operates from their country house. He agrees thinking that while she is gone he will be able to drink beer all day with his closest friend, however the next day after his wife and child leave he is killed by Cujo, fueled with aggression from his rabies.
Where the hell is my din dins!
Donna takes Tad in their second car which is in need of repairs to the Chamber residence who they had used to fix their other car recently. The car breaks down as they pull up at the house and before she gets out of the car, Cujo suddenly slams into it, trying to get his head in through the cracked window much to Tad's horror. She is able to wind all the windows up, however unable to start the car back up, she finds herself trapped by the dog who seems relentless in killing them both. Isolated from any possible help and finding herself stuck in a hot car without any water, Donna is running out of time to escape, and soon Tad begins to start suffering from dehydration but Cujo is only getting angrier with every passing hour.
Cujo the Dog
Soon to become a fury battle dog of death.
Most of the film was shot utilizing actual dogs, however both an animatronic head and full body Cujo puppet were created for certain scenes in the film. There were five St. Bernard's that were trained for the film so as to not tire the dogs out and for some scenes a Rottweiller was used to make Cujo appear more threatening. Whilst some animal groups were worried that the dogs may have been hurt on the film, none of the dogs suffered any harm or were put in dangerous situations.
The director would have troubles with the dogs tails wagging happily because they were enjoying themselves on set, however this did not fit with the rabid Cujo image so they sometimes would have their tails taped down. Other problems involved the dogs licking off their makeup which was applied to them to make them look like rabid dog zombies. The makeup consisted of egg whites and sugars, which the dogs found delicious.
The animal trainers would put the dogs favorite toys in the car to encourage the dogs would try and get to them. A mouse sprained with a special pheromone was also reportedly used to make the dogs go wild and want to get at it. At one point a stunt woman was inside the car holding one of the toys to encourage one of the St. Bernards to try and get through he window, however when the massive dog put its paws down on the slightly opened window it was pushed down through the car door and dog inadvertently bit the woman's nose. She was not seriously hurt however rumors persisted in the local newspaper that she was in fact bitten by a rabid dog.
Book and the Film
*WARNING* The following section contains spoilers from both the film and the book
There are numerous slight differences between the Stephen King novel and film adaptation of Cujo, however the most stand out difference is the ending. Whilst in the film Donna is able to revive Tad who has stopped breathing after suffering from extreme sunstroke, in the novel Donna is unsuccessful in her attempts and the child dies. After the film was released Stephen King has said that having Tad die was the biggest mistake he had made in the novel and wished that he could go back and change it.
The way in which Cujo is killed also varies between the film and book. In the film Donna kills the dog, largely off screen by shooting it in the head with a revolver. The novel makes it much more clear that over time Cujo is slowly rotting away from his case of rabies which is slowly eating his flesh away. His skull is also cracked from continuously ramming the car and from getting its head slammed in the car door by Donna who eventually attacks the dog with a wooden baseball bat.
OH MY GOD ITS CAR RIDE TIME!
By the time Donna confronts Cujo with the baseball bat the dog has degenerated into a much weaker though still dangerous state. Donna bashes the dog ferociously with the bat which eventually snaps. Cujo than leaps at Donna but is impaled by the snapped baseball bat, which is driven through his eye and into his brain. Donna then continues to bash the dog into a bloody pulp despite the dog being obviously dead. Whilst Donna also attacks Cujo with a bat in the film the fight is not as ferocious and dog is stabbed in the chest but not killed. This may be because of her sons death and also that at this point she too is suffering from rabies which she contracted from Cujo's bite earlier on, another development which did not occur in the film.
In the Stephen King novel it is sometimes suggested that Cujo is actually possessed by Frank Dodd, the villain from The Dead Zone who sometimes haunts Tad in the novel. Whilst both these Stephen King novels were being adapted into films at the same time, they were produced by separate studios and these references were removed from the film version. In the film Tad is scared at nights by just the average Boogymen and not by the ghost of Dodd.