|Director: L.Q. Jones
Starring: Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Jason Robards, Tim McIntire, Helene Winston, Charles McGraw
LQ Jones takes on the work of prolific literary curmudgeon Harlan Ellison in his cinematic adaptation of the 1969 novella A Boy and His Dog. It took Jones almost five years to get the project off the ground and was a labour of love for the actor/director; however, it failed to become the commercial success he had hoped for. In the years that followed, it has garnered a significant cult following and has just been released as a special edition blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
After the fallout of World War IV, Vic (Don Johnson) and his dog, Blood (Tim McIntire) roam a desecrated and barren land in search of sustenance. The pair have developed a telekinetic ability to communicate with one another, and have settled upon a mutual agreement; Vic will help Blood find food if Blood finds women for Vic. Rape and physical abuse are plentiful in this dystopian landscape and the harshness of life in the sandy waste proves to be a daily challenge.
After kidnapping a young girl, Vic is lured underground, to an ostensibly idyllic subterranean community. Blood, sensing trouble, decides to wait on the surface, but as Vic is taken hostage and his virility used to his disadvantage, will he make it back to Blood before it’s too late?
A Boy and His Dog (1975) is an unusual, yet endearing example of 1970’s science fiction, in that it is in equal parts bleakly misanthropic, as it is flippantly irreverent. Johnson is smouldering with teenage sexual angst in a role which, despite portraying a boorish, violent narcissist, maintains an irresistible charm. It would be this performance which would propel Johnson into the national consciousness, resulting in several very lucrative decades of film and television work. The dog, voiced by Tim McIntire, who also provides the film’s music alongside Ray Manzerek of The Doors, is a wry and caustic character, who binds the film together. He clearly understands the precarious nature of the relationship, but is left with little other choice than to stick by Vic’s side.
The movie plays around with a number of central themes. Trust, loyalty and dependence are tackled by the rapport which exists between Vic and Blood. There is also an abundance of fear and mistrust, which is exuded towards anyone who may threaten to weaken their bond. When Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton) becomes a part of their group, Blood becomes suspicious and immediately encourages Vic to get rid of her. Thinking with his loins more than his brain, Vic allows her to tag along, almost getting himself killed in a gunfight as he attempts to keep her safe from a troupe of murderous wastrels. She persuades him to visit her home, deep underground, where she assures him a better life awaits. Blood refuses to have any part of it.
Upon initial inspection, Quilla’s home town seems somewhat quaint and comfortable; however, it does not take long before the Orwellian horrors of their twisted society become apparent. A deranged and pitiless community, they eradicate anyone who dares to step outside the boundaries of their dictatorship. They capture Vic and expose their intent; using him to impregnate the population (sterility being an unfortunate side effect of subterranean life). This would be every horny teenage boy’s dream, were it not for the fact that he’ll have his semen artificially extracted before being done away with by one of the clown faced cyborgs that patrol the grounds.
It will be quite apparent at this juncture that A Boy and His Dog takes its stance with its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek. Bypassing the sombre tone of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, for example, and creating instead a playful, exciting world in which the inhabitants of the dust-bowl have become raconteurs and hired guns; a new old west. They barter and squabble, watch porno and fight.
Jones proves himself a capable and interesting director, with a deserved nod being attributed to John Arthur Morrill’s superb cinematography. It’s fantastic to see a film which had fallen through the cracks for so long get such a loving restoration from Shout! Factory. Sitting somewhere between Mad Max and a Carry On film, A Boy and His Dog is a cinematic oddity with a Hell of a lot to offer.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this blu-ray release is consistent with other recent HD releases from Shout! Factory. Some restoration has obviously been done, but nothing is “restored” so as to loose the natural filmic look of the image. Film grain is present throughout, sometimes heavily, and there are occasional traces of specs and dirt. The image has not been excessively sharpened and retains a natural organic softness. Colors are mostly vibrant. In sum, this is a major upgrade from any previous home video release of this film. It may not be the most polished video presentation possible, but it does present the original elements truthfully, which is far preferable to some over-filtered restorations that take all the texture out of the image. Fans of this cult film should be pleased.
The DTS-HD Master Mono track sounds full and clear across the entire spectrum. Like the film’s image, this audio presentation sounds very truthful to its original source and does not sound artificially enhanced for the modern market. Dialog and music are very clear throughout.
The jewel in the crown of the extras is the incredible ‘LQ Jones and Harlan Ellison in conversation’ segment. The two gentlemen recount the many tales and events which surrounded the inception and development of the feature. Ellison’s highly publicized aversions to the misogynistic tone of certain elements are brought to the fore, as well as stories of him threatening to throw studio execs out of a seventh floor window. A full commentary featuring Jones and Morrill, as well as film critic Chares Chaplin is both enlightening and jovial, whilst original radio spots add a degree of contextualization as to how the film was marketed.
Essential dystopia lite for the open minded Sci Fi fan, this is an obscure beauty which will certainly find a new audience with this updated release.
~ By Colin McCracken