A Boy and His Dog

a_boy_and_his_dogDirector: L. Q. Jones. Starring: Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Tim McIntire (voice), Jason Robards, Alvy Moore. USA, 1975. Budget: $400,000. IMDb: 6.6. My rating: 3.5/4. Eccentric post-nuclear black comedy.

– Civilization lies smother and decaying under an ocean of mud, belonging to anyone who’s strong enough to kick and fight and take it for their own. God, that’s dramatic, I like it.
(Blood the Dog)

– Now let run through the modern presidents.
God, what good’s all this history crap gonna do me?
– Just do the presidents.
(a dialogue between Vic and Blood the Dog)

– You’re still constantly overreacting. I’ve absolutely no idea how I managed to keep you alive so long.
(Blood The Dog is commenting Vic’s actions)

According to the pet ownership statistics from 2012, 36.5% of American households (43,346,000) own an average of 1.6 dogs. That means 69,926,000 dogs living with families in the United States.

It would be impossible to write about “A Boy and His Dog”, remaining a refined and delicate narrator, so let’s set it straight – we have a nuclear holocaust movie about the survival of a female-obsessed illiterate teen Vic who scavenges for food and his misanthropic telepathic dog Blood with a highly developed intellect and odd sense of humour. It’s also a story about friendship, love and helping each other (yeah, I am still talking about the same movie). The combination of both makes it an unusual and touching experience.

I really liked this film. It feels different and odd compared the most of the 70-s sci-fi (which I often find cheesy) and stood well the test of time. The film was also a huge inspiration for lots of cult stuff like ”Fallout” game series and ”Mad Max”. George Miller once said, ”to make Road Warrior, I took a Boy and His Dog and went commercial.”

”A Boy and His Dog”, with all its oddness and decay never feels too commercial or action-driven (nor too brainy/artsy) and you’ll actually see little gore – mostly, only reverberations and repercussions of the nuclear war.

”I like to talk to the audience for two or three minutes before showing the movie. I say, ‘I hope you like the movie. If you don’t, you’re screwed, because you’re never going to be able to forget it.”
(L. Q. Jones, the director)

The production. The film is based on the stories by Harlan Ellison who received numerous proposals for the film adaptation, but there was one problem – everybody wanted to animate the dog’s mouth. Ellison couldn’t accept this oversimplification, as in his novel the dog didn’t TALK. Blood was TELEPATHIC. Ellison was well known for his hot temper and finally just stopped responding to the film adaptation offers… when L. Q. Jones suddenly approached him.

LQ_Jones_Harlan_Ellison

Harlan Ellison, 1985 (left). L. Q. Jones in ”Hang ‘Em High”, 1968 (right).

Suddenly? Well, L. Q. Jones (born in 1927) wasn’t really a director in first place: ”I’ve been in the business 54 years. I’ve done 115 movies and between 500-600 TV shoes”. Jones starred in about 6 Sam Peckinpah movies. He has ever directed only two movies – ”The Devil’s Bedroom” (1964), which currently has 9 (!) votes on IMDb and ”The Boy and His Dog”. So it was kinda personal project for him, since he wanted to accomplish something different rather than continuing his work as an actor.

”That’s because you’re not a nice person, Albert. You’re not a nice person at all. And do I gawk at you when you’re working?” – the dog said.
”Fine, dog-meat. And stop calling me Albert,” – replied Vic.

L. Q. Jones contacted Ellison and the first thing that the writer asked him was whether he intended to animate the dog’s mouth – obviously! Jones said that he’d never commit such a blasphemy and the deal was done.

The movie was shot in Coyote Dry Lake (it’s a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County, California).

The plot. I couldn’t have said it better than just quote Blood the Dog…
”WW3, hot and cold, lasted from June 1950 till March 1983. When the Vatican armistice was signed between Eastern and Western blocs, a total of 33 years. Is it too fast for you?” Blood said.
”No, I’m right with you”, Vic replied.
”Oh, good. Now World War IV lasted 5 days. Just long enough for the final missiles to leave their silos on both sides. What’s left here were once homes with warm hearts… now, only desolation, civilization lies smother and decaying under an ocean of mud, belonging to anyone who’s strong enough to kick and fight and take it for their own. God, that’s dramatic, I like it.”

”You’re so funny when you’re sexually frustrated.”

What I liked. The film three strongest points are its minimalism, the atmosphere and Blood the Dog. Since the budget was minimal (about $400,000), there weren’t enough funds to show everything, but it actually saved the movie from looking obsolete and more atmospheric. The gore, the cyborgs, the mutants – you don’t really see them in the movie, rather feel their presence, voices or shades.

As for Blood… It was of course sink or swim situation that could easily ruin the film. But Tim McIntire’s distant emotionless voice was just perfect for the tone set by the story. Blood the dog holds the film together, giving a sardonic comment on everything around. But isn’t a misanthrope, he loves people. Sometimes in a caustic and mordant way. His lines were cut from Ellison’s novel, as almost all of the dialogues (with occasional edits since Ellison had a writer’s block and couldn’t produce the script by himself). In fact the movie sags a little in the episode when Blood’s commentary is missing.

Worth watching? Absolutely! One of the few 70-s sci-fi movies that doesn’t feel dated at all. Bizarre, ironic and often misanthropic, but build on what was “once homes with warm hearts”, as Blood the Dog said describing the current state of the world. Ah, and it has one of the best ending lines ever. Trust me. Harlan Ellison claimed that it ruins the movie, but it was just perfect to end everything on a high note. I also enjoyed it much more than Mad Max I & II that I find pretty dated now.

8 text

There’s a curious story about Ellison and L. Q. Jones. Jones called the writer for the movie screening but knowing Ellison’s hot temper he decided to not invite anyone else. Ellison watched the movie without any single word. Then he rushed to L. Q. Jones (who was expecting a good punch in the face), all he heard was: “that’s the story i wrote!”. Then he left the room.

3.5/4

Here you can read a cool interview with the director L. Q. Jones. Good info here and here too. Several reviews here and here.

4 thoughts on “A Boy and His Dog

  1. Really good review. I had no idea that the director was an actor and was in several movies. He does look familiar. Yeah I agree that this doesn’t look dated much, except in that underground city, but not really that much

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! The underground city… that was the part that left me most doubtful. Logically I saw it being shot with a certain originality (the white faces were inspired by 19th century’s jabots, the suits, the smiling killer robot), but with my heart I definitely felt something was missing. It felt a little bit artificial, that part. And as it often happens, when something is that elaborated, then sooner or later it will look dated.

      Like

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