Cujo (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Teague
Screenplay byDon Carlos Dunaway
Barbara Turner (as Lauren Currier)
Based onCujo
by Stephen King
Produced byRobert Singer
Daniel H. Blatt[1]
CinematographyJan de Bont
Edited byNeil Travis
Music byCharles Bernstein
Distributed byWarner Bros.
(North America)
Producers Sales Organization
Release date
  • August 12, 1983 (1983-08-12)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[2]
Box office$21.2 million[3]

Cujo is a 1983 American horror film based on Stephen King's 1981 novel of the same name and directed by Lewis Teague. It was written by Don Carlos Dunaway and Barbara Turner (using the pen name Lauren Currier),[4][5] and starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh Kelly and Danny Pintauro.

The film follows a mother and her son who are trapped inside their car, while protecting themselves from a rabid St. Bernard.

Despite mixed reviews and modest box office receipts during its theatrical release, the film has gathered a cult following in the years since its release. It was released four months before Christine, another Stephen King story released theatrically the same year.[6]


Cujo, a friendly and easygoing St. Bernard, chases a wild rabbit and inserts his head into a cave, where a rabid bat bites him on the nose. The Trenton family—advertising executive Vic, housewife Donna, and young son Tad—take their car to the rural home of abusive mechanic Joe Camber for repairs, where they meet Cujo, the Camber family's pet, and get along well with him.

Vic and Donna's marriage is tested when Vic learns that Donna has been having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, Steve Kemp. The early signs of Cujo's infection start to appear, though no one notices. Joe's wife Charity and his son Brett decide to leave for a week to visit Charity's sister. The furious stage of Cujo's infection sets in. Cujo refrains from attacking Brett but goes completely mad and kills the Cambers' alcoholic neighbor Gary. He then mauls Joe to death.

Vic goes out of town on a business trip as Donna and Tad return to the Cambers' house for more car repairs. Cujo tries to attack them, and they are forced to take shelter in their Ford Pinto. Donna tries to drive home, but the car's alternator dies and the two are trapped inside. The hot sun makes conditions unbearable, and Donna realizes that she must do something before they both die from heatstroke or dehydration.

Attempts at escape are foiled by Cujo repeatedly attacking the car, breaking a window, and biting Donna. Vic returns and finds Donna and Tad missing and his house vandalized by Kemp. Police realize his wife and son might be at the Cambers'. Local sheriff George Bannerman goes but Cujo mauls him to death.

Donna attempts to get to the house to bring an overheated Tad water; she fights Cujo with a baseball bat until it breaks. Cujo jumps and is impaled in the stomach by the broken bat. Donna takes the sheriff's gun and contemplates shooting the dog, but decides saving Tad is more important. Cujo tries again to attack Donna but she manages to kill him before Vic arrives and reunites with his family.



The original director was Peter Medak, who left the project two days into filming, along with DOP Anthony B. Richmond. They were replaced by Lewis Teague and Jan de Bont respectively.[8] Cujo was played by four St. Bernards, several mechanical dogs, and a black Labrador–Great Dane mix in a St. Bernard costume.[9] In some shots, stuntman Gary Morgan played Cujo while wearing a large dog costume.[10] Karl Miller was the trainer for the dogs in Cujo.[11]


Box office[edit]

Cujo was a modest box office success for Warner Brothers. The film was released on August 12, 1983, in the United States, opening in second place that weekend.[12] It grossed a total of $21,156,152 domestically,[3] making it the fourth-highest-grossing horror film of 1983 behind Jaws 3-D, Psycho II, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.[13]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews from critics were mixed. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote the film was "by no means a horror classic, but it's suspenseful and scary".[14] Variety panned it as "a dull, uneventful entry in the horror genre, a film virtually devoid of surprises or any original suspense".[15] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four, calling it "one of the dumbest, flimsiest excuses for a movie I have ever seen".[16] Roger Ebert called it "dreadful",[17] and Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "no theater is air conditioned enough to justify watching this scary, gory and beastly movie".[18]

Steve Jenkins of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that "for the most part Cujo works very effectively as a near reductio ad absurdum of the woman-in-peril-mode", but disliked that the film changed the ending from the book, thinking it made "absolutely no sense in terms of the film's logic".[19] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "genuinely frightening", and also writing: "Builds slowly but surely to [its] terrifying (but not gory) climax".[20] Despite the mixed reception, Stephen King called the film "terrific" and named it one of his favorite adaptations.[21]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 59% approval rating based on 46 reviews, with the website's consensus stating: "Cujo is artless work punctuated with moments of high canine gore and one wild Dee Wallace performance".[22] On Metacritic, the film holds a 57 out of 100 based on reviews from 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23]

Possible second adaptation[edit]

In 2015, Sunn Classic Pictures announced that it would develop another adaptation titled C.U.J.O., which stands for "Canine Unit Joint Operations".[24] Nothing came of it after its announcement.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blu-Ray Art and Details: Near Dark, Cujo, and Frailty". May 22, 2012.
  2. ^ "Cujo (1983)". AFI.
  3. ^ a b "Cujo (1983)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  4. ^ Gingold, Michael (April 6, 2016). "RIP "Cujo" scripter Barbara Turner". Fangoria. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  5. ^ "Cujo - Cast & Crew". AllRovi. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  6. ^ "Cujo - reviewing the cult classic through modern eyes, 35 years on". Archived from the original on June 22, 2022. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  7. ^ "Barking For A Living". The Bark. December 1, 2010. Archived from the original on May 11, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  8. ^ Garris, Mick. Mick Garris on Cujo. Trailers from Hell
  9. ^ London, Michael (August 19, 1983). "A Pack Of Bogus Bernards Helps Give 'Cujo' Its Bite". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1.
  10. ^ Miska, Brad (March 14, 2017). "Stephen King's 'Cujo': Never-before-seen Photos From the Set! (Exclusive)". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  11. ^ "Roll over, Beethoven, for the Real 'Saints' : Dogs: Owners and trainers say the film canine gave their pets an unruly reputation. But, they admit, they are more popular then ever". Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1992.
  12. ^ "Weekend Box Office August 12-14, 1983". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  13. ^ "Domestic Box Office For 1983". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 13, 1983). "Film: 'Cujo,' Good Dog Gone Wrong". The New York Times: 13.
  15. ^ "Cujo". Variety: 23. August 17, 1983.
  16. ^ Siskel, Gene (August 12, 1983). "Trashy 'Cujo' shouldn't happen to a dog". Chicago Tribune. section 3, p. 1
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1983). "The Dead Zone". Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  18. ^ Gross, Linda (August 15, 1983). "Rabid Dog On The Rampage In 'Cujo'". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 4.
  19. ^ "Cujo". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 60 (598): 302. November 1983.
  20. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Clark, Mike; Edelman, Rob (2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  21. ^ Greene, Andy (October 31, 2014). "Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview, Rolling Stone Issue 1221, November 6, 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  22. ^ "Cujo (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  23. ^ "Cujo", Metacritic, CBS Interactive, retrieved October 24, 2019
  24. ^ Miska, Brad (July 6, 2015). "Stephen King's 'Cujo' Remake Title Gets Rabies: 'C.U.J.O.'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved July 7, 2015.

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