Five Paws Up For Stephen Best’s Dog Rescue Movie ‘Saving Dinah’


“Five legs up!”

Save Dinah

Directed by Stephen Best

With Amanda Langille, Craig Martin and Paul James Saunders.
90 minutes. $1.99 from Amazon Prime Video (rental) or $4.99 with purchase.
Produced by the Animal Alliance of Canada.

Reviewed by Merritt & Beth Clifton.

Bill Sikes, arch-villain of Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twistcould rightly be called one of Dickens’ immortal characters as well as most amoral characters.

According to Dickens, Sikes, at around 35, beat his girlfriend Nancy to death, attempted to drown his pit bull Bullseye, lest Bullseye bring the police back to him, and accidentally hanged himself.

Bill Sykes and pit bull

Bill Sikes and Bullseye.


But 150 years, numerous stage and screen reappearances and multiple gruesome deaths later, in London and New York, including falls, drownings, electrocutions and hangings, Bad Bill returned in Walt Disney’s 1988. Olivier & Company as a loan shark nearing 60, now spelling his name “Sykes”, and now bullying victims with a pair of Dobermans.

Sikes/Sykes died again, of course, only to be reincarnated briefly into their younger selves in 1997, 2005, and 2007, on stage and screen.

Sikes/Sykes in film 2021 Turn even passed for a dyke bull, but again ended up dead.

John Lunman as Bill Sykes.

John Lunman as Bill Sykes.

Back with a Newfie accent and a cricket bat

Yet here he is again in 2022, played by John Lunman, with a Newfoundland accent, beating his half-dead son Danny (played by Eric Christiani) with a cricket bat, between thefts of dogs and cats for sale at a university research laboratory. , and to be used as “bait” animals in a cartoonish version of a dogfighting ring, with no play money in sight.

Sykes’ resurrection is just one of many literary allusions in Save Dinaha 90-minute thriller drama produced by Stephen Best, copyrighted in 2016, filmed in 2018, but not actually released on Amazon Prime until 2022.

Supported by the Animal Alliance of Canada as a “movie with a message”, Save Dinah is surprisingly light on preaching until lead actress Amanda Langille’s closing speech.

(Merritt Clifton Collage)

Beats 101 Dalmatians Movies

Langille plays Caroline Sheppard, a local businesswoman who is running for mayor of a small Ontario town, but whose campaign is distracted and derailed when her dog Dinah is stolen from her car by Sykes and her son.

Sykes and his son aren’t quite as entertaining as Horace and Jasper, the Cockney dog-stealers whose ineptitude, combined with the suave, self-centered villainy of Cruella DeVil, is what spawned the original 1961 animated version of the classic. by Walt Disney. 101 Dalmatians.

And there’s no Cruella in Save Dinah. Other than that, however, Save Dinah compares quite favorably in many respects to the 101 Dalmatians series and sequels, including the critically acclaimed 1996 live-action remake starring Glenn Close as Cruella and the 2000 live-action 102 Dalmatianswhich added Gérard Depardieu to the cast, but suffered from heavy but scrambled messaging about animal rights and more.

Barry Kent Mackay

Barry Kent Mackay fires the heroine.

Barry Kent Mackay

The unnamed volunteer actors and actresses who populate Save Dinahto put it bluntly, acting convincingly revolves around most Dalmatians serial moldings.

From Save Dinah The supporting cast can be recognized occasionally ANIMALS 24-7 guest columnist Barry Kent Mackay, a longtime nature writer, animal advocate and wildlife artist, whose collaborations of various kinds with director Stephen Best and Animal Alliance of Canada President Liz White date back four decades.

A few words should also be said about the cinematography. Best manages to accomplish visually interesting scene after scene on a shoestring budget and with no special effects using something more elaborate than what could be purchased over the counter at Canada Tire, Canada’s leading hardware chain.

Mark Twain on a chair

Mark Twain on a chair.

Mark Twain in the shadows

The low-tech approach, necessitated by limited resources, puts the focus precisely where it needs to be: on the well-paced storyline, and character and scene development, with the message far enough in the background that even Mark Twain might have approved.

Twain prefaced his 1885 novel finn blueberry with the warning that “those who attempt to find motive in this story will be prosecuted; people who try to find a moral there will be banished; people who try to find land there will be shot.

Twain also infamously produced an anti-vivisection story, History of dogsin 1903, which was, and remains, so immersed in conscious pathos that it is virtually unreadable.

Heather Sessions as Heather Hodge.

Heather Sessions as Heather Hodge.

Warm humaniac

Best and co-writer Barbara Kyle manages to maintain an even-tempered Ontario reserve even in advocacy statements from humane society director Heather Hodge, played by Heather Sessions, who comes across as exactly the kind of humaniac warm as it is supposed to be,.

Using Caroline Sheppard’s search for Dinah the dog as a cover, Hodge infiltrates and photographs a university lab animal holding facility, managing to get herself and Sheppard arrested.

Hodge later takes in Sykes’ son, Danny, after Danny shoots Sykes’ pit bull to save the heroine, causing another cricket bat to be beaten for his trouble.

At first glance, probably 90% of ANIMALS 24-7 readers will appreciate Save Dinahmost of the others don’t like TV movies at all, and more importantly, probably everyone who enjoyed one of the 101 Dalmatians versions will love it, wondering why Disney Studios couldn’t do as well as a bunch of rural Ontario hobbyists.

Stephen Best

Stephane Best. (Collage Beth Clifton)

Stephen Best

Of course, these are not just any “amateurs”.

According to the Animal Alliance of Canada’s bio page, “Stephen Best’s involvement in the environmental and animal welfare movement began in the early 1970s after the founding of Song of the Seala documentary on the seal hunt in Canada that he made for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Best, not to be confused with American philosopher and animal rights activist Steven Best, went on to hold leadership positions with Care for the Wild and the Toronto Humane Society, co-founded the International Wildlife Coalition, and co-founded the Parti Animal Protection Canada.

White, after several years with the Toronto Humane Society, working alongside Best and Mackay, became founding director of the Animal Alliance of Canada. White was also a co-founder of the Animal Protection Party of Canada.

Amanda Langille

Amanda Langille as Caroline Sheppard.

Only one dog had to be stolen to advance the plot

With all the above said and acknowledged, Save Dinah unnecessarily repeats several longstanding animal rights saws that were never true and that the makers should have caught.

The first is that “millions” of pets are stolen each year, primarily for use in biomedical research. This assertion arose from an off-the-cuff remark by a spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States during a congressional hearing held five years before the 1966 passage of the Laboratory Animal Protection Act.

Record-keeping requirements instituted by the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act have demonstrated that the total use of randomly sourced dogs and cats in US laboratories peaked at less than 300,000 more than 40 years ago, and has taken for all intents and purposes when the National Institutes of Health stopped funding studies using dogs and cats from random sources in 2014.

(See NIH Halts Funding of “Random Source” Dog Studies.)

Many of the random source dogs and cats once used in US labs were imported from Canada, but the Pet Theft Act of 1990 put an end to this traffic, effective February 18, 1993, when the inspection service of USDA Animal and Plant Health used the investigative work of ANIMALS 24-7 to shut down the last US lab suppliers that were bringing in Canadian animals.

Save Dinah

(Scene from “Saving Dinah.”)

The myth of the “bait” animal

Save Dinah also repeats the myth of the “bait animal”, dog or cat, allegedly stolen for use by dog ​​hunters. Interestingly enough, this myth has been refuted many times not only by ANIMALS 24-7 but also by the Animal Farm Foundation, the longtime voice of pit bull advocacy.

Sure, there are sadistic punks who steal pets to throw at pit bulls for fun, but that’s not a common practice of professional dogfighters, which pit bulls don’t need. no “training” to start killing each other before they are even weaned.

puppy mill

(Collage Beth & Merritt Clifton)

(See How to tell a “bait dog” from a “click bait”.)

Finally, the term “puppy mill,” which specifically refers to a high-volume breeding operation, is misused to refer to a bulking operation. This completely loses the meaning of the metaphor, perhaps the oldest still used in animal advocacy.

(See Why We Can’t Embrace Our Way Out of Murder Undercover.)

Various other holes can be found in the high parts of Save Dinahin which several characters seem to leave their brains at home before attempting heroic or villainous actions.

Beth and Merritt

Merritt, Teddy and Beth Clifton.

The same, however, could also be said of the climactic parts of virtually all thrillers, and if every character always acted rationally, would action dramas even exist?

At $1.99 for 90 minutes of entertainment, Save Dinah is a business.

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