Digby The Biggest Dog In The World (1973)

As unlikely as it may sound, Britain has produced its fair share of “giant monster on the loose” epics – The Giant Behemoth, Gorgo and Konga, to name but three. The reason why they don’t register on a public radar which managed to pick up American films like King Kong or even Japanese offerings like Godzilla is because they were uniformly awful.

The British public had to wait until Digby lumbered along before they could have a classic monster movie of their own to watch, and although it’s not in any way a genuine horror film, it’s ten times better than any of the three Brit offerings mentioned above. Once a mainstay of the Christmas television schedules, Digby hardly gets a sniff of the limelight these days, which is a shame. Okay, so the effects are slightly less than perfect, but it does feature Spike Milligan at the top of his game and Jim Dale proving that he could be quite an effective leading man, when not shackled with his Carry On idiot persona.

At a NATO research centre they have created a growth serum, Project X. When used on a cucumber it has impressive results – but a bit too impressive. “Gentlemen, you have created a vegetable Frankenstein!” shouts the Professor in charge (Milligan).

One of the workers there, Geoff Eldon (Dale) decides that Project X would do wonders for his roses, so steals it. But at the same time his neighbour, a young boy called Billy, has been told that he can’t keep his dog Digby in the house. Billy takes Digby round to his friend Geoff’s place, where the dog promptly drinks the serum.

As Digby begins to grow, he attracts the attention of a couple of criminal showmen, who steal the giant dog and put him to work in the circus. It’s down to Geoff and Billy to save the day but Geoff has problems of his own – he is being pursued by Milligan’s mad professor, who, because he always manages to miss catching sight of Digby, has become convinced that Geoff has serious psychological problems.

Geoff manages to sneak into the circus, but before he can rescue the now-huge dog, it breaks free and goes on the “rampage” – narrowly avoiding wrecking such nostalgia inducing technology as Concorde and an Inter-City train.

Digby The Biggest Dog In The World is brilliant – a daft little film that is far too good for the audience it’s aimed at. As well as Milligan and Dale enjoying themselves (look out for the scene where Dale has great fun with the chained-down condiments in a roadside café), eagle eyed viewers will also spot Benny Hill mainstays Henry McGee (“Next, karate for housewives”) and Bob Todd (“Next, I’m going to destroy Hammer’s final few shreds of dignity in one jaw-droppingly terrible scene”) hamming it up. Basically a re-working of King Kong, with a soupcon of 50s b-movie thrown in, Digby is a joy from beginning to end.

“He’s going to be tied down.”

“But so was King Kong, and look what happened to New York! If he lifts his leg, he’ll drown 50 kiddies!”

Director: Joseph McGrath; Writers: Charles Isaacs; Ted Key (novel "Hazel"); Michael Pertwee

Cast: Jim Dale - Jeff Eldon; Spike Milligan - Dr. Harz; Angela Douglas - Janine; John Bluthal - Jerry; Norman Rossington - Tom; Milo O'Shea - Dr. Jameson; Richard Beaumont - Billy White; Dinsdale Landen - Colonel Masters; Garfield Morgan - Rogerson; Victor Spinetti - Professor Ribart; Harry Towb - Ringmaster; Kenneth J. Warren - General Frank; Bob Todd - The Great Manzini; Margaret Stuart - Assistant; Molly Urquhart - Aunt Ina; Victor Maddern - Dog Home Manager; Frank Thornton - Estate Agent; Sandra Caron - General's Aide; Edward Underdown - Grandfather; Ben Aris - Army Captain; Sheila Steafel - Control Operator; Clovissa Newcombe - Bunny Girl; Rob Stewart - Train Driver; Maxine Casson - Telephone Operator; Henry McGee - TV Announcer; Maurice Dunster - Road Cafe Cook (uncredited).

Last updated: February 22, 2010

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