Benji (1974 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Camp|
|Produced by||Joe Camp|
|Written by||Joe Camp|
|Music by||Euel Box|
|Edited by||Leon Seith|
|Distributed by||Mulberry Square Releasing|
|Box office||$45 million|
Benji is the first film in a series of nine about the golden mixed breed dog named Benji. It was written and directed by Joe Camp and filmed in and around Denton, Texas. Released in 1974, it was a critical and box office smash, grossing $45 million on a tight budget of $500,000. The film also received an Academy Award nomination for the Best Original Song for the theme song "I Feel Love," by Euel Box.
Benji is a lovable stray dog who lives in a small Texas town where he has befriended many local people, each of whom calls him by a different name, but the people he likes best are two school-age children (Paul and Cindy) and their housekeeper, Mary. Paul and Cindy's father, however, doesn't want a dog around the place. One day Benji befriends a stray dog (presumably a Maltese) that Mary calls Tiffany, and the kids beg their father to allow them to keep her and Benji, but he refuses. Benji escorts Tiffany to his hide-out, an apparently abandoned house. Two people later break in and bring a kidnapped Paul and Cindy into the house. Benji rushes to "tell" George and Mary of the kids' whereabouts. After some difficulty in getting the humans to understand him, he leads the police to the old house. Paul and Cindy are rescued, and their father decides to let both Benji and Tiffany stay at their house for as long as they want.
The outdoor scenes were filmed primarily in McKinney, Texas and the house located at 1104 South Tennessee (now a bed and breakfast inn), Dowell House, served as the "haunted house" where the children were being held hostage.
The film, and the ensuing franchise, was created after Joe Camp expressed concern over the overabundance of family films released through the four wall distribution concept. He told Variety magazine in 1977: "It has become an industry-caused thing, but the G rated classification has to some degree become 'if it's G, it can't be for me'." Camp observed that four-wall companies had saturated the market for G-rated product; in response to the lowered-down quality of their films, he created Benji.
Benji has garnered both critical acclaim and box office success. Produced on a tight budget of only $500,000, it grossed $39,552,000 in the United States, making it the ninth highest grossing film of 1974. The film grossed a total of $45 million in worldwide receipts. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, earning an 86% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
- Higgins - Benji
- Patsy Garrett - Mary
- Cynthia Smith - Cindy Chapman
- Allen Fiuzat - Paul Chapman
- Peter Breck - Dr. Chapman
- Christopher Connelly - Henry
- Tom Lester - Riley
- Mark Slade - Mitch
- Deborah Walley - Linda
- Herb Vigran - Lt. Samuels
- Frances Bavier - Lady with Cat
- Edgar Buchanan - Bill
- Terry Carter - Officer Tuttle
- Larry Swartz - Floyd
- "Benji". TCM.
- Holmlund, Chris; Wyatt, Justin, eds. (2005). "1970s distribution and marketing strategies". Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream. Psychology Press. pp. 238–239. ISBN 0-415-25486-8. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- "Box Office Information for Benji". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
- "Benji, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 17, 2012.