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|
|Running time||85 minutes|
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 the housekeeper, Mary. Paul and Cindy's father doesn't want a dog around the place and Mary one day has to hide him. She later says "He would have fired me on the spot if he'd seen him." One day Benji befriends a stray (which is presumably) a Maltese which Mary calls Tiffany and the kids beg their father to allow them to keep her and Benji, but he refuses. Benji escorts her to his hide-out where they spend the night, returning to Paul and Cindy for their breakfast, but when they return to their hide-out, two humans break in and later return with the kids and Benji rushes home to "tell" George and Mary, but is shooed out. Next attempt, he takes the ransom note, in an attempt to lead the police to the criminals but it is taken from him and Benji seems at a loss as to what to do next. He follows two policemen into the station, but gets locked in until he accidentally turns on the P.A system and is heard and released by one of the police and he runs back to where the children and kidnappers are and gets the ransom note. Unfortunately, he gets grabbed by one of the kidnappers. Tiffany runs out and bites him, but gets a vicious kick in return (she is not killed, but apparently injured) and Benji goes back to George and Mary, where Linda-Sue has been sent to retrieve the note, but Mary reads it and finally realizes what is going on. Benji escorts the police to the other kidnappers, who are arrested and George decides to let the two dogs stay at their house for as long as they want to, much to the delight of both the kids and dogs
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.