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The Dogs of War (film)

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The Dogs of War is a 1980 war film based upon the 1974 novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth Largely filmed in Belize, it was directed by John Irvin and starred Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger In it a small mercenary unit of soldiers is privately hired to depose the president of a fictional African country so that a British tycoon can gain access to a platinum deposit

The title is based on a phrase from William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar: "Cry, 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war"


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
  • 4 Home media
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Having escaped from Central America, mercenaries James Shannon, Drew, Derek, Michel, Terry and Richard, get an offer from a British businessman, Roy Endean He is interested in "certain resources" in the small African nation of Zangaro, which is run by the brutal dictator, General Kimba

Shannon goes on a reconnaissance mission to Zangaro's capital of Clarence and meets a British documentary filmmaker named North However, Shannon's activities arouse the suspicions of the police and he is arrested, severely beaten and imprisoned His wounds are treated by Dr Okoye, a physician who was formerly a moderate political leader North agitates for Shannon's release and he is deported after two days of torture

When Shannon tells Endean that there is no chance of an internal coup, Endean offers him $100,000 to overthrow Kimba by invading Zangaro with a mercenary army Endean intends to install a puppet government led by Colonel Bobi, Kimba's greedy former ally This would allow Endean to exploit the country's newly discovered platinum resources, an agreement guaranteed by Colonel Bobi Shannon refuses the offer and instead proposes to his estranged wife that they start a new life in America When she turns him down, he accepts Endean's offer on condition that he will have complete control of the operation

Provided with a million dollars for expenses, Shannon contacts some of his associates from Central America and they meet up to plan the coup The group illegally procures a supply of Uzi submachine guns, ammunition, rocket launchers, mines and other weapons from arms dealers North encounters Shannon by chance and suspects him of being a CIA agent Shannon asks Drew to scare North away without hurting him but instead North is killed by a hitman hired by Endean to follow Shannon and his crew A furious Shannon kills the assassin in turn and leaves his body at Endean's house during a dinner party held for Colonel Bobi

To transport the team to the coast of Zangaro, Shannon hires a small freighter and crew At sea, the team is joined by a group of Zangaron exiles trained as soldiers by a former mercenary colleague Once ashore, the mercenaries use their array of weapons to attack the military garrison where Kimba lives Drew enters a shack in the barracks' courtyard and is killed by a young woman with a baby who shoots him in the back with a pistol After the mercenaries storm the burning, bullet-scarred ruins of the garrison, Shannon blasts his way into Kimba's mansion There he finds the dictator stuffing bricks of bills into a briefcase and kills him

Endean arrives by helicopter with Colonel Bobi and they enter the presidential residence, where they find Shannon and Dr Okoye awaiting their overdue arrival Shannon introduces Dr Okoye as Zangaro's new president and silences Endean by shooting Bobi when he protests

Shannon, Derek and Michel load the body of Drew onto a Landrover in line with the toast they drank on planning the operation, "Everyone Comes Home" The scene finishes with the mercenaries driving through the deserted streets of Clarence


  • Christopher Walken as James Shannon
  • Tom Berenger as Drew Blakeley
  • Colin Blakely as Alan North
  • Hugh Millais as Roy Endean
  • Paul Freeman as Derek Godwin
  • Jean-Francois Stevenin as Michel Claude           
  • JoBeth Williams as Jessie Shannon
  • Robert Urquhart as Capt Lockhart
  • Winston Ntshona as Dr Okoye
  • Pedro Armendáriz Jr as The Captain
  • Ed O'Neill as Terry
  • Shane Rimmer as Dr Oaks
  • George Harris as Col Bobi
  • David Schofield as Endean's Man
  • Terence Rigby as Hackett
  • Olu Jacobs as Immigration officer


United Artists bought rights to the novel in 1974 Don Siegel was going to direct but did not like the screenplay Abbey Mann wrote a new screenplay Then Michael Cimino was bought in to buy a screenplay Norman Jewison became attached as producer-director and Gary Devore rewrote the script Jewison decided to produce, not direct, and John Irwin became director

The opening Central American scene was filmed at the Miami Glider Port southwest of Miami, Florida Later African country scenes were filmed in Belize City, Belize, and the surrounding area The manually-turned swinging bridge shown during the attack is one of the largest of its kind in the world The film features several weapons that were prominent in popular culture during the 1980s The Uzi submachine guns used in the film changed from the German Second World War vintage MP 40s of the novel were a mix of real Uzis and set-dressed Ingram Mac-10s Shannon's grenade launcher, depicted in the promotional poster, dubbed the "XM-18" in the film, is a Manville gun – a design later used by the MM-1 grenade launcher

This was only the second international feature for director John Irvin, who previously worked as documentary maker during the Vietnam War He went on to direct stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger Raw Deal, Don Cheadle Hamburger Hill and Michael Caine Shiner

Cinematographer Jack Cardiff had previously directed an account of mercenaries in Africa entitled Dark of the Sun Composer Geoffrey Burgon concludes the film with A E Housman's Epitaph for an Army of Mercenaries sung over the end titles

Home media

The Dogs of War was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on 20 November 2001 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and later on by Twilight Time under license from MGM as a multiregion widescreen Blu-ray DVD


  1. ^ "The Dogs of War 1980 Blu-ray Review: These Boots Are Made for Walken - Cinema Sentries" cinemasentriescom Retrieved 2017-09-12 
  2. ^ "The Dogs of War 1981 - Box Office Mojo" boxofficemojocom 
  3. ^ At the Movies: Forsyth plays percentages on 'Dogs of War' Buckley, Tom New York Times 1923–Current file 14 March 1980: C6
  4. ^ a b "Dogs of War, The – imfdb : guns in movies : movie guns : the internet movie firearms database" imfdb Retrieved 2 March 2012 

External links

  • The Dogs of War on IMDb
  • The Dogs of War at Internet Movie Firearms Database
  • The Dogs of War at Rotten Tomatoes

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