Hopefully, we’re nowhere near the dystopia wasteland that is 2024 that is the setting for A Boy and his Dog. World War IV has happened and both America and the Soviet Union has launched all nuclear missile from the silos and not much is left of human civilization, at least in America. Some humans still linger around a deserted wasteland searching for food and trying to survive. Others have created creepy communities underground.
Vic (Don Johnson) was born in 2006 and like most teenage boys he only has one thing on his mind – having sex. He is traveling with a dog named Blood who he talks with by telepathy. Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire) is supposed to be a mix breed between a border collie and west highland terrier. He seems to be the smarter one of the duo, even though he often calls Vic “Albert.” Vic seems to be more intelligent and knowledgable than Vic and for plot exposition explains that World War III occured between 1950-1983 and then a treaty was called before the fourth one.
Filmed in 1974 and released in 1975, the movie was written and directed by L.Q. Jones, based on the novel by the same name by Harlan Ellison. Jones had to personal finance the movie after getting no help from major studios or production companies. He raised about $400,000 through family and business associates. All filming was done in California in the Coyote Dry Lake of the Mojave Desert as well as around Barstow, Calif. Scenes were also filmed in Ocean Park and Venice.
Jones, who passed away last week at 94, was mostly known for his work in westerns, such as The Wild Bunch and Pat Garret and Billy the Kid. That makes him an odd choice to write a sci-fi black comedy, but it works. Ellison had reportedly tried to write the screenplay but couldn’t due to writer’s block.
Vic and Blood are walking though what used to be the southern plains as Topeka is constantly referenced. It’s become a desert now. Unbeknownst to Vic, he’s been observed by three people from Downunder who send the young Quilla June Holmes (Susane Benton) to entice Vic. And he’s more interested in having his way with her. But some other marauders and a dog also discover her and a battle ensues where Vic kills some and drives others away, but Blood is left injured. And Quilla goes back to Downunder where Vic travels leaving Blood behind. However, Blood can’t forage for himself as telephathy has done away with his natural instincts.
In Downunder where the elders refer to it as Topeka, it’s become more of a nightmare than on the surface. It’s an artificial biosphere community, but it’s more in a Norman Rockwell meets David Lynch parody of middle-class life where three middle-aged people control everything through strict authoritarian rule. The leader is Lou Craddock (Jason Robards) along with Dr. Moore (Alvy Moore) and Mez Smith (Helene Winston). Everyone wears clownish powdery white make-up on their faces complete with red spots on their cheeks. There’s no sunlight so it’s perpetual night sky, even though there is grass and trees. My guess is they use hydroponics and Vitamin D pills.
This is why Quilla June has been sent to entice Vic. Lack of sunlight and living underground has left all the men impotent. And Vic is meant to be a sperm donor before he is executed or as they say, “The Farm” where a human cyborg, Michael (Hal Baylor) will most likely kill him. It’s a strange idea but it shows you what extent a society will go to. They can’t have too many children who are offsprings of Vic’s. How long have they been doing this? Who knows?
There’s a lot of backstory information that would’ve made the movie a little better. Considering that Vic is only interested in having sex and finding supplies, there’s probably not much to do. Men sit around and watch old stag movies for entertainment. And try to survive another day. But you wonder how everyone in Downunder was able to construct buildings underground. My guess was that originally it was planned as a fallout shelter community or that there were more people but a power struggle divided some and they decided to take their chances on Earth’s surface.
The deserted wasteland look reportedly influenced George Miller when he was working on the Mad Max movies, especially in the later movies, such as The Road Warrior, where humans have pieced together scrap materials to make vehlices. Ellison’s works also influenced the first Terminator movie and you can see elements such as a cyborg that can kill easily as well as the future is a desolate wasteland. But then again, isn’t that like a lot of movies about the future?
A Boy and His Dog got mixed reviews and didn’t perform well at the box office. However, it became a cult status over the years thanks in part to its influence. Jones continued to act in many movies, such as Lone Wolf McQuade, Casino and The Edge. His last role was in A Prairie Home Companion released in 2006. He never directed another movie and is only credited as a director for a 1980 epsiode of The Incredible Hulk TV series.
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