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Ian Bourn
Sick As a Dog (1989) features another low-lifer, Terry Childs. Here Bourn, nattily attired in red jacket and tie, standing in front of Walthamstow Stadium, talks to camera like a television sports commentator.

Terry is a dog-racing gentleman and is making a film about his research into the behaviour of winning greyhounds. 'Dear Viewer,' his tone is intimate, confident, as he introduces his Super-8mm 'research' footage and track-side video diary with the promise of passing on his winning tips. To the whirr of a projector we see grainy shots of dogs, then Terry himself at home projecting his movie, his living room a make-shift cinema-cum-location backdrop for the job in hand. He seems cocky but, despite the wads of money, the pouring over of form-books, his intriguing 'crap theory' (based on dogs' craps prior to a race) and his many aphorisms ('a bitch on heat can't be beat') Terry is clearly a small-timer, using dole money for stake. It's all bravura; his life is coming apart at the seams. To cap it, his girlfriend leaves him, interrupting his filming when she drops by to collect her things. She is scathing about Terry's lifestyle. As he hits rock bottom he carries out a one-sided conversation with an imagined father-figure, someone who, unlike Terry, is keen on self betterment. Terry tries to justify himself but his utter isolation, the absurdity of it all, saps his resolve: the film ends with his 'it's getting through to me tonight.'

Bourn kept a diary during the year preceding Sick as a Dog's production. It is the most textured of Bourn's films, interweaving S-8mm, video-diary footage and garish titles with his to-camera soliloquising. The films within the film also allow Bourn to extend his territory, to Walthamstow and Romford stadiums. Here, although 'real', the quality of the stretched S-8mm gives a dream-like or hyper-real effect, as if this were archive footage of a world now gone, only existing in memory. Visually, it is very seductive: the dogs, both parading prior to the race and belting round the track, the handlers, the bookies, the punters, the bars, the whole ambience of the stadium and its allure for a good night out. It seems a world away from the claustrophobia of Lenny's den and Terry's kitchen. Perhaps one clue lies in Terry's parting words: 'People from the track, they're all people I got educated to get away from. That's what you do…'

Still from Sick As A Dog by Ian Bourn, 1989
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