A Boy and His Dog
Dir. L.Q. Jones
Based on the Novella of the same name by Harlan Ellison
When I dive into work it becomes all consuming, and my viewing habits follow suit. The first time I shot a film on 35mm Black and White I watched around 40 modern and classic Black and White films in the span of 3 weeks, shot both film and digital stills on the format, and just immersed myself. Here will be no different.
For the first film in this marathon I chose A Boy and His Dog
. This was due mainly to the fact that ever since I fell in love with the genre its been touted as one of the "ones to watch" and I could never find a copy of it. Thanks to the internet and Netflix this has become easy.
The title of the film gives you all the information you may need going into the film. Its about a young man and a dog wandering the wastelands of a Post Nuclear crisis America. An opening text crawl tells us the World War IV lasted five days. Just long enough for America and the Soviet Union to have fired all their missiles. Now the world is filled with survivors, scavengers, Irradiated Mutants and a sentient dog named Blood.
Blood is the result of an experiment and he is psychically linked to Vic, our "boy". The two live on the fringe of a fringe society scavenging food, and trading canned goods for the chance to munch popcorn and watch scratchy 16mm black and white stag films. They survive and dream of a better existence "over the hill", though Vic mostly dreams of the next woman he can forcibly bed down with.
The film starts with a montage of negatively processed footage of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds before giving us the previously mentioned text scrawl history lesson. This is directly followed by a rape scene. This films gets underway quickly and establishes the world view in the sharp screams of the young woman. While the act isn't shown, the audio is enough to give you a brutal idea of what's going on off screen. And to make it worse, as the gang walks away from the crime a young boy is heard saying "Hey! Did you see her jerk when I cut her?
" I was floored by the brazen approach. Its such a shame that the rest of the film does little to live up to this moment until the very end. From here on out the film becomes a mixture of tones silly and dark, but never as chilling as this introduction.
The major problems I had with the film largely have to do with the era in which the film was made. It would have been dated only a few years after it was shot, and now, 36 years later its REALLY dated.
Much of A Boy and His Dog
feels like a gritty TV movie. The dialog and acting all belong on the small screen, but the sensibilities, use of nudity and language belong to the cinema. Case in point; After defending his new prize woman from marauders, Vic has an argument with Blood over her. Blood being sensible feels they should have given her to the gang of thieves. Vic out of frustration threatens to kick Blood's butt. He actually says "I'll kick you in the butt
". That might sound nitpicky, but only moments before he was cursing up a storm, why not say "ass" or why say something so silly at all.
My interest ultimately began to wain when they arrived in the underground realm of Topeka. The supposed Utopia run by Jason Robards (in his first but not last appearance in this marathon) is quickly deduced as the sham it really is. This is yet another oddball form of society. A twisted and deformed "Leave it to Beaver" world thats loud and abrasive from the moment we are introduced to it. The idea of Topeka is solid, its just handled very, very strangely. And they spend far too much time there for my liking.
I know I've been really harsh on this film. It was worth watching because the ending took my slow brain by complete surprise (its not a twist mind you). While it was happening I could feel the numbed muscle of my mind work its way out of the stupor Topeka had rendered it and when everything clicked into place I was stunned. Its a great, great moment and a fantastic way to end the film. It doesn't save the film entirely but enough that I can recommend it to fans of the genre.
Be back soon...