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A Boy and His Dog

Dog Helps Man in Post-Apocalyptic Seventies Sci-Fi Flick • Muenzinger Auditorium

A Boy and His Dog

In 1975, Harlan Ellison's award-winning short story, "A Boy and His Dog" (featured in the 1969 collection called The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World) was adapted to film by actor L.Q. Jones, a relatively novice director at the time.

A low-budget production that nonetheless expertly forecast a post-apocalyptic vision quite similar to the one depicted in Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog proved to be an authentic triumph for Jones; in turns quirky, absurd, and in some surprising moments...even oddly heartwarming.

Generally well-received, A Boy and His Dog nabbed a Hugo for best dramatic production and was also nominated for several other awards, including ones from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

A Boy and His Dog stars a very, very young Don Johnson as Vic, an impulsive and callow scavenger living in a ruined, post-apocalyptic Arizona circa 2024 A.D. (following World War IV...which lasted five days). Vic is accompanied on his journeys by Blood (Tiger from The Brady Bunch...I'm not kidding...) a canine with whom the lad shares a most unusual telepathic link.

In other words, Blood and Vic talk to each other, and much of the film is actually a running dialogue between dog and man. In this case, the dog -- whose main purpose is to procure women for Vic and help the young man avoid the roving "Screamers" -- is by far the smarter and more experienced of the two beings. But Vic doesn't always listen to the dog, and that causes problems.

Case in point: Vic really, really wants to get laid. At a local showing of an old porno film in an open air venue, Blood informs Vic that he smells a lone female in the audience of homeless, pitiable people. Vic tracks her down, and this is how he first encounters Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), a beautiful (and willing...) woman from the unseen world "down under." No, not Australia, but a civilization beneath the surface of the desert called Topeka. It's a creepy kind of 1950s Ozzie and Harriet "nightmare" civilization.

Topeka has big plans for Vic. They plan to make use of "the fruit" of his "loins." The women there can no longer get pregnant by the male citizenry. Vic thinks this is a dream assignment -- obviously -- until the exact details are made clear. There will be no intercourse (this is a prudish, repressive, 1950s patriarchy, remember?). So instead, he's attached to a painful looking sperm extraction device.

Quilla helps Vic escape. Vic can't wait to get back to his dog, to his life on the surface. "I gotta get back in the dirt...so I feel clean," he quips. Back on the surface, a dying (but loyal...) Blood awaits.

A Boy and His Dog is both surreal and disturbing, but it's also (let's face it...) a truly funny movie. A blunt cynicism runs throughout the picture, from Vic's no-holds barred complaining ("I'm hungry and I want to get laid"), to Blood's retort when he and Vic encounter a brutal local warlord, and Vic asks why people follow him. "Probably just charisma," says Blood, deadpan.

It's more than just a whip-smart genre film, it's highly skilled in the ways it establishes and develops the characters. Within twenty minutes, for instance, you won't even think it odd that Don Johnson is arguing with a canine. The entire film represents a sort of twisted genius (on a low budget). You'll never see another film like this, believe me.

In terms of theme, A Boy and His Dog is probably an equal opportunity offender. I saw the film's message as essentially libertarian: Vic was better off roaming the surface of a devastated earth with his dog than dealing with a so-called "society" like Topeka, one with layers of bizarre bureaucracy and twisted social mores. Better to be hungry, poor and battling Screamers than dealing with backstabbers and two-timers.

— John Kenneth Muir

A Boy and His Dog

Wed February 11, 2009, 7:00 & 9:00, Muenzinger Auditorium

USA, 1975, English, Color, 91 min, R, 35mm (2.35:1)

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