A Boy and His Dog, 1975.
Directed by L.Q. Jones.
Starring Don Johnson, Jason Robards, Susanne Benton, Charles McGraw, and Alvy Moore.
In a dystopian future, a young man and his telepathic dog roam the wastelands looking for women and food.
In the dark and distant future of 2024, the world has seen the devastation of World War IV – a war that lasted only five days – and the survivors now roam the radioactive wastelands. 18-year-old Vic (Don Johnson) is one such survivor who, along with his dog Blood, searches for food and women, because Vic hasn’t had sex for a long time and Blood still gets to eat so this isn’t fair. We know this because Vic and Blood have a telepathic connection and communicate with each other, otherwise watching Don Johnson wander about with a dog for 90 minutes would be quite dull.
However, during the screening of an adult film Blood detects the presence of a woman by her scent so he and Vic hunt her down. It turns out that Quilla June (Susanne Benton), for it is she, is a honey trap for the sexually frustrated Vic, who follows her below ground to Topeka, where he is lured in so he can populate a new generation of inhabitants, because all the men in Topeka are impotent, but you know what it’s like when you eventually get what you wish for and Vic plans his escape.
Despite having a B-movie plot, A Boy and His Dog does have plenty of nuance within in its storytelling to lift it above the silliness that having a telepathic dog implies. Based on a 1969 novella, there is a lot of black humour and jaunty music to offset the more serious nature of what Vic must do, and the first act of the movie is the strongest as we get to spend time with Vic and Blood. They have a slightly antagonistic relationship but there is an affection there as each character needs the other to survive, and during the final act is where this point comes to fruition.
However, once the idea of a telepathic dog doesn’t sound quite so silly and Vic goes underground to Topeka the movie takes a hard swing towards the weird as we are presented with the inhabitants of the city, who all wear clown make-up and seem to exist in a bizarre caricature of pre-World War IV American life (not too sure what WWIII did to the country so we’ll have to assume it wasn’t as bad), and for the longest time we are subjected to what is meant to be a pastiche on certain ways of American life but it is executed in that dry 1970s way that leaves you cold, which could also be said of the misogynistic nature of the overall story.
Had the characters other than Vic and Blood been more appealing – and that appeal only comes from the performances, not the script – that tone may not have been quite so abrasive, but the combination of a horny young man thinking he is entitled to have sex and a cult-like society looking to extract his seed – to be fair, you can see why Vic didn’t want to partake as he wouldn’t actually be having sex with anybody – just doesn’t gel into a narrative that makes for a fun time when you break it down.
A Boy and His Dog will appeal to a certain demographic who like their dystopian sci-fi a little different from the crowd-pleasing car chases and violence of Mad Max or the social commentary of the lighter-in-tone Death Race 2000, but once the movie veers from the idea of scavengers just trying to survive in a kill-or-be-killed environment – or when Vic and Blood get separated, if you wish to pinpoint the exact moment – it loses cohesion and just gets too wacky to make any sense, and given that Vic isn’t exactly a ‘hero’ in the conventional sense the movie doesn’t really have anywhere to go except for the obvious comment about the relationship between a boy and his dog (do you see?).
Overall, interesting on a certain level but ultimately, A Boy and His Dog is just too weird for its own good.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★