Yes this is a buddy movie between a boy and his dog, though not the type you’d might expect – rather it’s the complete opposite.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future (the year 2024, to be precise), Vic (Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog Blood (Tim McIntire) mostly rely on each other for survival in the harsh climate of the southwestern United States. Vic relies on Blood to find him women for sex, whilst Blood relies on Vic to find food for both of them. With the help of Blood, Vic meets Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), a woman from ‘downunder’ – an underground society located in a large vault. Some action ensues when they’re attacked by local pillagers, and after spending a lustful tonight together, Quilla returns back to her underground establishment. Enticed at the potential of more women and more sex, Vic follows Quilla, whilst Blood remains behind on the surface.
It’s here things turn strange as Vic discovers a bizarre township (known as ‘Topeka’) of people who are living in an alternate-type reality of pre-nuclear war America, complete with their own artificial biosphere for living purposes. Their goal – to find surface dwellers of a good creed to help impregnate their female population by way of artificial insemination. Once the town’s leaders (known as ‘The Committee’) have no further use for their ‘studs’, they send them off to ‘the farm’ – a place from which they never return. Once Vic has been used up, he and Quilla must figure out a way to escape their captors and Topeka, and return home to Blood.
The first half of A Boy and His Dog (pre-entry into the surreal underground world of Topeka) is where the film is at its best. While obviously a super-low-budget film, the production designers managed to build a believable, post-apocalyptic desert-like world, full of scavengers and scoundrels. There is a fair bit of humour in the film, and it all takes place in this part of the film. The interactions between Vic and Blood are quite humorous, in an antagonistic, odd-couple type of way. The film’s second half is a stark contrast between the first, as it’s devoid of humour and begins to turn a bit more disturbing than it already was, along with a bit more less-interesting. While we get to know and understand Vic and Blood, and their twisted escapades, we lose sight of all that when the two separate and the film’s tone and themes change. This change is obviously deliberate by the filmmakers, though it may take away from the audience’s overall enjoyment factor.
A Boy and His Dog is the type of film that they just don’t make anymore. It’s a classic exploitation film that will likely shock a lot of viewers that haven’t seen films of that particular sub-genre before. The film does not hold back in its lax coverage of taboo themes such as rape, nudity, violence and misogyny, which has become commonplace within the film’s landscape. It’s the type of stuff that can be seen as offensive by some, but is pretty standard when it comes to exploitation cinema. The film requires you to look past any politically correct beliefs you may have for entertainment purposes, in order to get engulfed into the deviate world the film’s protagonists are living in.
A Boy and His Dog might not appeal to everyone, but it is still considered a cult-classic for a reason, and therefore a must-see for all film-fans. And plus, George Miller has credited this film as being one of the main inspirations for his classic Mad Max 2 (1981) – so it’s worth seeing for that reason alone.
One of the reasons the film now enjoys cult status is because of its blackly comic last line. Ironically, Harlan Ellison (the original novel’s writer) hated this and actively campaigned to have it removed.
A Boy and His Dog is screening at the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) on 12 August 2017.
Book your tickets here!