Gunther’s Millions review – like a Eurotrash documentary about a filthy-rich dog and his sex cult

This tale of a multi-millionaire German shepherd and the super-rich excess lived in his name is full of people with unplaceable accents and dubious morals. It’s all a bit … empty

There’s a question hanging over the opening episode of the four-part documentary series Gunther’s Millions – but not a very compelling one. To paraphrase Mrs Merton: “What first attracted you to the millionaire dog Gunther?” This is Netflix’s latest attempt to generate a viral hit to match Making a Murderer in 2015 or Tiger King in 2020. It’s the story of how a German shepherd became “the richest animal in the world” after inheriting an $80m fortune from his doting owner, the late Countess Karlotta Liebenstein.

These days Gunther’s millions afford him a Miami mansion once owned by Madonna, a villa in Tuscany, a yacht and a staff of 27, including the private chef who whips up his gold-leaf-adorned steak dinners. All this luxury is also appreciated – dare we say more appreciated – by the human handlers who take Gunther on his walkies, pat him on the head and call him a “good boy”. As one exceptionally guileless member of the Gunther entourage puts it: “I wanted to be a tick on that dog’s butt for the rest of my life.” No big mystery there, then.

There’s also no mystery behind the commissioning of a documentary that combines so many flavours of tried-and-tested audience bait. There’s shameless super-rich excess, heart-tugging animal welfare scandals and – in the section when Gunther pivots to become a pop impresario – buxom bikini babes aplenty. There are even hints at a shadowy sex cult, operating out of Gunther’s many mansions. Gunther, you dirty dog!

Gunther and Maurizio Mian
Gunther and Maurizio Mian. Photograph: Netflix

If you’re reading all this, thinking, “Hmmm … Sounds like an elaborate tax scam to me,” then you’re way ahead of director Aurelien Leturgie. It takes him and his team hours of soft-ball questioning and circuitous storytelling to reach the same, fairly obvious, conclusion. The real perpetuator of this supercharged shaggy dog story is Maurizio Mian, pharmaceutical heir, CEO of the Gunther Corporation and one of several high-net-worth individuals named in the 2008 Liechtenstein Papers scandal. It’s not the dog who wants to drive a yellow Lamborghini, or own a nightclub, or employ female attendants with “jaunty buttocks” now, is it?

What we have here – once again – is a slim story needlessly strung out over multiple episodes. At least there’s an opportunity to get acquainted with some characters along the way – the people with unplaceable accents and dubious morals who have been sadly missed from our screens since Eurotrash was last on air.

There’s a pouty PR woman, affably willing to spin any old line for cash (is she from southern California, Schleswig-Holstein, or Huddersfield? It’s impossible to say!). There’s the strapping founder of a male escort agency, who claims his dreams of a modelling career in Italy faltered because he was simply too well built. And then there’s the indoor-shades-wearing, part-time paparazzo, a man so demonic he seems to arrive on a cloud of sulphur.

Attempts are made to extract cheap laughs at these interviewees’ expense, by including supposedly off-mic asides, awkward seat shuffles and toupee adjustments in the final edit. Ultimately, though, they emerge with their dignity intact. Because, hey, it’s a living. Plus, any of them would have made a more interesting subject than Mian himself.

Watch a trailer for Gunther’s Millions.

Far too long is spent indulging this lonely little rich boy’s half-baked philosophies and spurious spending justifications – from “science” to honouring the wishes of a dead friend – while his murkier motivations are never investigated. What possesses him to pass off his own desires as canine caprice? Is it an addiction to publicity? A deep-seated guilt over unearned wealth? Or languishing in the shadow of his high-achieving mother?

Admittedly, Mian’s sheer commitment to the bit can be amusing. At one point he laments the failure of Gunther’s short-lived music career, a 1990 album of house music and barks, by saying, “To be honest, the record was not a commercial success.” This will come as a surprise to precisely no one. It is impressive, however, that Mian manages to keep a straight face for the next bit: “If it had been, perhaps the world would be a better place,” he muses. Perhaps. As it is, the world remains the same, terminally disappointing place, where money can’t buy you happiness and yet rich people still won’t pay their taxes.


Ellen E Jones

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Children of the Taliban review – this beautiful documentary is an absolute must-watch
There are too many moving scenes to count as we follow four youngsters living in Kabul. This is thought-provoking TV that’s full of hopes, dreams – and the necessity of education

Rebecca Nicholson

15, Dec, 2022 @12:10 AM

Article image
The Confession review – you’ll study every gesture in this true-crime documentary
Keith Hall confessed his wife’s murder to an officer wearing a wire – and was found innocent. This programme will leave you scrutinising his every second on screen to make your mind up about him

Jack Seale

25, Nov, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Inside Our Autistic Minds review – this beautiful documentary will make you see the world differently
Chris Packham gives autistic people the chance to make a film about their life, and the results are deeply moving. It’s a charming, powerful watch that’s hugely intimate

Jack Seale

14, Feb, 2023 @10:00 PM

Article image
Oti Mabuse: My South Africa review – proof that TV has the power to educate like no other medium
The Strictly star returns to the township near Pretoria where she grew up, bringing a light and upbeat touch to issues of racial injustice that occasionally leave a chill in the air

Jack Seale

17, Nov, 2022 @10:00 PM

Article image
Prue and Danny’s Death Road Trip review – the lovely tale of a Bake Off judge and her son’s debate about dying
Prue Leith and her Tory MP son hold profoundly opposing views on legalised euthanasia. They tackle them in a sensitive, fascinating show that’s full of nuance and respect

Rebecca Nicholson

16, Feb, 2023 @10:00 PM

Article image
Wild Isles review – David Attenborough’s last hurrah makes for unmissable TV
The broadcasting legend takes a lovely, unparalleled look at the majestic wildlife of the UK and Ireland. If anyone can stop its terrifying destruction, it’s him

Rebecca Nicholson

12, Mar, 2023 @8:00 PM

Article image
Right Here, Right Now review – Fatboy Slim’s beach concert will make you flinch with anxiety
They expected 60,000 attenders, but 250,000 showed up. Staff quit, police had to flee and – as this documentary shows – tragedy loomed. Or it would’ve, if not for the loved-up ravers…

Jack Seale

03, Feb, 2023 @11:50 PM

Article image
Ukraine from Above: Secrets from the Frontline review – the startling tale of how a child destroyed Russian tanks
This documentary’s drone-based perspective on the war is like little else – from amateurs talking about stopping tanks with homemade equipment to aerial footage of dropped grenades

Jack Seale

19, Feb, 2023 @11:00 PM

Article image
The Gold: The Inside Story review – follow that smelter in the Rolls-Royce!
As a companion to the superb drama, this documentary confirms, and occasionally corrects, the astonishing details of the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery. But there are just too many nuggets to fit in

Jack Seale

20, Mar, 2023 @10:00 PM

Article image
Branson review – makes you wonder if Sir Richard’s risk-taking is really worth celebrating
This four-part documentary series profiles an existence in which the Virgin boss has repeatedly gambled his financial security – and even his life. But is it worth celebrating?

Jack Seale

04, Dec, 2022 @10:10 PM