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  Boy and His Dog, A Man's Best Friend
Year: 1974
Director: L.Q. Jones
Stars: Don Johnson, Tim McIntire, Tiger, Susanne Benton, Jason Robards Jr, Alvy Moore, Helene Winston
Genre: Science Fiction, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: In the year 2024 A.D., the Earth is left desolate after a five day World War IV - finally politicians have solved the problem of urban blight. Vic (Don Johnson) and his dog Blood (played by Tiger and voiced by Tim McIntire) share a telepathic bond and live as scavengers, looking for food to eat and women to rape. Most dogs are now psychic and live in a symbiotic relationship with their masters, but Blood's connection to Vic is stronger than most of his kind as he tries his best to educate the boy, all the while aware that what Vic really wants is as much sexual intercourse as he can handle...

L.Q. Jones faithfully adapted Harlan Ellison's classic, award-winning novella for this low budget post-apocalypse film which set the benchmark look for such efforts to follow, with its desert landscapes and its makeshift vehicles and buildings (there's even a makeshift cinema). Watch just about any entry in this genre of the following decade where it truly took off and you will see a debt owed to A Boy and His Dog, most notably in George Miller's groundbreaking Mad Max 2, aka the Road Warrior which patently adopted much of Jones' makeshift design and applied it to an action movie format, something which echoes down this style of science fiction to this day.

Like the novella, the film has been accused of misogyny, chiefly because of the Quilla June character played by Susanne Benton and what ultimately happens to her, but truth be told, this fits in with the film's deeply cynical tone which tends to paint humanity as its own worst enemy and a slave to its baser desires. Quilla June is introduced as Blood picks up her scent in that cinema (where it seems no blockbusters have survived - Charlton Heston would be disappointed to see nobody had Woodstock to watch - and all is left are grotty exploitation films), though what neither he nor Vic realise is that they are playing into the hands of some sinister forces. But then, everyone is a sinister force in this landscape, and that includes those below it.

In fact, no one in it is entirely sympathetic in this story, the only reason Vic and Blood are our "heroes" is because we see their strong friendship as the closest we get to sentimentality is when we are asked to consider male friendship as the apex of existence. And if that's between a man and his pet then so much the better; there's nothing to indicate the filmmakers or even Ellison endorsed this view, it was more to depict the dreadful depths society will lapse into should the niceties of culture and community be allowed to slip away, and many have noted there was no chance of the nobly survivalist, self-sufficient man of action to be seen here. Essentially the citizens who endure are those who agree to bow to the rules of savagery and there's little to admire about any of that: the acknowledgement that civilisation can be wiped out without so much thought before or after Armageddon is the truly chilling part.

The cast is excellent, with Johnson and the dog forming a believable relationship above the surface as roaming gangs attempt to prove their dominance and tins of food are the main currency. Tim McIntire's vocal work (he did the music too) married to the reactions of Tiger created one of cinema's great canine characters - the story goes how director L.Q. Jones resisted studio pressure to have Blood speak like a pup in a Disney movie, and that was absolutely the correct choice. Once Vic follows Quilla June underground after being shocked as she seduced him, we end up in a society which is singular in post-apocalypses, led by a laconic Jason Robards Jr which is more farfetched and may not have every viewer going along with it, though how many other films can you see Don Johnson hooked up to a machine that is extracting his sperm? There's a rhetorical question for you. That last line continues to be controversial, but as an indicator that the whole film has been a sick joke it is difficult to argue with, though harder to like. Very much its own movie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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L.Q. Jones  (1927 - )

American movie bad guy, one of Sam Peckinpah's regulars, who teamed up with fellow actor Alvy Moore to make some low budget films. Their first, The Devil's Bedroom, had little impact, The Brotherhood of Satan made a few more ripples, but the Jones-directed A Boy and His Dog was an enduring cult success.

 
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