Benji the Hunted
|Benji the Hunted|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Camp|
|Produced by||Ben Vaughn|
|Written by||Joe Camp|
|Music by||Betty Box|
|Edited by||Karen Thorndike|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$22.3 million|
Benji the Hunted is a 1987 children's drama film about a dog trying to survive in the wilderness. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures. This was the last Benji movie to star Benjean, daughter of Higgins, in the title role.
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In Oregon, Benji has gone missing while filming a movie on location. Benji’s trainer, Frank Inn, tells a television reporter named Mary Beth McLaulin that he and Benji had been on an open fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean when a storm came in, capsizing the vessel. Inn fears Benji is dead, but the movie producers plan to search the wilderness coastline with a helicopter.
The next day, Benji lies in the brush near the shoreline when the helicopter flies overhead, but he goes unnoticed. Benji wanders through the woods and comes across a female cougar perched atop a boulder. Just then, a hunter shoots the cougar. Benji tries to comfort the dying animal, but the hunter chases him away and carries the dead cougar away. When the helicopter flies overhead again, Benji runs after it, barking to no avail. Benji subsequently encounters four orphaned cougar cubs, belonging to the killed cougar, and he attempts to shield them from predation. While hunting, Benji comes face to face with a rabbit, but licks it twice, and leaves. Benji finds a cabin where a quail is being cooked over an open fire. When the hunter takes the cooked bird inside, Benji spies two additional dead quails hanging on a line nearby. He grabs one of the birds and drags its body back to the den for the cubs.
The next day, a fawn runs by and two ferrets play in a nearby creek while Benji collects rocks to make the den higher so the cubs cannot get out. Benji returns to the cabin to get the other dead quail, but the hunter catches him and ties him up. Reading Benji's collar, the hunter remembers there is a reward for the dog's rescue. When the hunter goes inside, Benji tugs at the rope, trying to break free. Just then, a black timber wolf growls at Benji. When the hunter comes outside, the wolf runs away. As Benji paces the area as far as the rope will allow, the wolf comes back and Benji makes a commotion. The hunter comes outside to see about the noise, scaring the wolf away. The hunter briefly unties Benji while trying to unravel his rope. Benji grabs the other dead quail in his mouth and runs back to the cubs.
Benji sees an adult female cougar with a single cub and barks, but she attacks him. Benji then moves the cubs to a new location, carrying each of them individually in his mouth. While doing this, the helicopter flies overhead and Benji sees his trainer in the window. By the time Benji has finished moving the cubs to the new den, another animal has eaten the quail. Benji searches for more food, barking at the cubs when they try to follow him. Meanwhile, the wolf begins to move in on the cubs, but the helicopter flies overhead, scaring him away.
The next day, Benji sees the cougar and the wolf nearby. The wolf begins to chase Benji, but the dog manages to elude him. Later, the four cubs follow Benji along the path. A large brown bear comes into the clearing. Benji and the cubs hide, but one of the cubs runs toward the bear, hissing at him. The bear growls, scaring the cub back to the hiding place. When the bear moves toward them, Benji barks and runs the opposite direction. The bear gives chase, but soon loses interest. However, the wolf appears again and chases Benji. They run a long distance over the mountain until Benji leads the wolf to the bear in order to get rid of him.
Later, the cougar drinks from the stream when one of the cubs approaches. Just then, the helicopter flies overhead, scaring the cougar and her cub away. When Benji spots the cougar again, he barks at the cubs to follow him across the stream. The helicopter lands nearby and Frank Inn gets out, calling for Benji. The dog looks between his master and the cubs playing and decides that he should help the cubs before he could reunite with his owner. Unaware Benji is nearby, Inn gets back into the helicopter and flies away. Later, an eagle swoops down, grabs one of the cubs in its talons and flies off. When the eagle later flies near the three remaining cubs, Benji barks to scare it away in time.
Benji spots the cougar and her cub following closely behind her. Benji barks at her repeatedly until she gives chase, but Benji loses her along the way. Although Benji almost falls into the deep ravine, he climbs to safety. From the top of the cliff, Benji sees the cubs below. Benji finds the cougar near the waterfall. Benji runs to get the cubs, but finds the wolf watching the cubs. Benji barks at the wolf, then bites at him. The cubs hide under a rock where the wolf cannot reach them. Benji jumps on the wolf’s back, then runs away. As the wolf gives chase, Benji tricks the wolf by hiding in the bushes that shields the cliff behind it and sends the wolf falling off the cliff to his death. Benji lures the cubs to come out from under the rock and carries one of the cubs up the side of the steep mountain in his mouth. At the top, Benji leaves the first cub, then goes back down the cliff to get the others. With all three cubs on the mountaintop, the mother appears. She sniffs the cubs and nuzzles them. The mother's cub sees its siblings and runs to join them. The cougar lies down and the four cubs nurse from their adoptive mother. Benji goes to rest in plain sight in the meadow just as the helicopter approaches.
- Benjean as Benji
- Frank Inn as himself, Benji's owner
- Red Steagall as the hunter
- Nancy Francis as Mary Beth McLaulin, a news reporter
- Joe Camp as the TV director (voice)
- Steve Zanolini as the producer (voice)
- Mike Francis as the TV cameraman
- Ben Vaughn as the engineer's hand
- Karen Thorndike countdown (voice)
- Guy Hovis as the balladeer
- Ben Morgan as himself
On Siskel & Ebert & The Movies, film critic Roger Ebert gave "Thumbs Up" rating for the film. Gene Siskel gave the film a "Thumbs Down", accusing Ebert of liking the film more than Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which was released the same year. In response, Ebert insisted that every film needs to be judged in its proper context.
It grossed $22,257,624 at the US box office.
- Scott, A. O. (June 25, 2015). "Review: In 'Max,' a Shellshocked Dog Reverts to His Heroic Self". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- Rotten Tomatoes, "Benji the Hunted (1987)". Accessed June 20, 2017.
- Box Office Mojo, "Benji the Hunted". Accessed June 21, 2017.