Nah-ah! A Boy and his Dog is not that kind of movie!
No, there is no suburban, Leave it to Beaver cuteness here. Instead, what we get in this film (alternately entitled "Psycho Boy and his Killer Dog") is a post-apocalyptic, Dystopian nightmare about a mid-twenties Don Johnson and his telepathic (not talkative) dog named Blood (played by Tiger and voiced by Tim McIntire) attempting to survive, get food and get laid in the aftermath of World War IV!
So, yes, it's about a boy and his dog... but not in the "See Pug Run. Run Pug Run." kind of way!
The fact that this film was based on a short story by Harlan Ellison should tell you that there's very little that could be considered "cutesy" about this futuristic tale. The additional fact that the screenplay was actually written by Ellison himself with completion and re-writes added by producer Alvy Moore, collaborator Wayne Cruseturner and director L.Q. Jones should hammer that point right on home for you!!! That's right! Hardened Western Star and mustachioed tough guy L.Q. Jones co-wrote and directed this Future fight fest. Forget your BMX and reach for your ICBM and MX, man, because it's ON!!!
It's also worth noting that this world of the future is as harsh as hell! If the words "World War IV" don't give you at least a little chill, the desperate lives of the survivors will certainly make you a bit hot under the collar. Imagine a desperate population of young men trading canned food as currency and targeting any known female for sex... which all too often means rape.
Blood, the awesome dog, is in the survival game for the food part. Johnson's young Vic is much more interested in the sex than anything else! How much different is he from the rest of the Porn-watching, can-trading, wife-coveting future lost boys? I mean, he is our hero, right? Well, that remains to be seen, especially as he's about to meet a mysterious female named Quilla June Holmes (an occasionally nude Susanne Benton)!
The mystery of just how Vic and Blood communicate so effectively (and often humorously) is a big element in the film that is commented on often, but ultimately dismissed with a "Just Because" style answer. The question of whom Vic might choose if it came down to the Dog versus the Girl... well, that one's not so easily done away with! In truth, there are mysteries all around, in what the future of the future holds and in what is really going on right before our eyes (and ears). Who is Quilla Jane, really and where did she come from? What, are there, like Morlocks hanging around with pretty faces and nice bodies? Or... might they actually be just a bunch of clowns?
Opinions of this film are wide and divergent, to say the least. Is this a misogynistic study of a bunch of jackasses in the future or a genius portrayal of post-apocalyptic life on two sides of a very bleak coin? Even Harlan Ellison himself has mixed opinions of the final product... as do I.
On one hand, it's great how L.Q. Jones manages to create something as good as this is on the low budget he had. As an actor in a number of Westerns he builds his first half with a very Western style feel to it, evoking some trippy echoes of such contemporary films as El Topo, Zachariah and The Outlaw Josey Wales. On the other hand Jones' directing minimizes some things that are clearly meant to be vital to the plot and focuses a great deal on the trivial to the point that when the final reel rolls one has to think back to put the pieces together... and not in a really good way.
Further, while the low budget is overcome by the intelligent shooting choices and locations to boot (not to mention some cool music by Ray Manzarek, Jaime Mendoza Nava and McIntire himself), there is very little question that the budget was lower than low. To this end Jones and Moore seem to make further choices to amplify the Dark Comedy of the show to the point that it occasionally borders on shock value of questionable and even bad taste! Those who have seen the entire film will get what I mean... whether they agree with me or not.
That said, A Boy and his Dog is a bit of a murky film, but is also compelling and interesting from play to pause to stop... Mixed bag, though it may be, it's worth somewhere around Three Stars out of Five! This may be about a cool young guy with his cute dog, but this is far from a kids film. Nudity, violence and black comedy are all over this film and in spite of the burn of the desert sun in most every reel, this can be one very, very cold film. In short, to paraphrase Blood in this film, L.Q. Jones has a modicum of good judgment... if not particularly good taste!
See you dystopia survivors in the next reel!!!
Whether you watched this with you dog or not...
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Yeah, I watched this with Jack. Got hosed by my family again... chilling all alone!
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