Cast & Crew
L. Q. Jones
A boy who is living in a post-apocalyptic world communicates telepathically with his dog. As they scavenge for food and sex, they accidentally discover a society under the ground that is preserving the former society of the world. The daughter of one of the leaders of this community seduces the boy and gets him to join them. What the boy does not realize is that he is being used for impregnation purposes only by the sterile group and will be discarded once he fulfills this task.
L. Q. Jones
Jason Robards Jr.
A Boy and His Dog on Blu-ray
Jones establishes the sheer barbarity of the marauder culture with roving gangs dressed in mismatched (and often flamboyant) clothes travelling the wasteland like rogue platoons or feudal lords (one scruffy leader is pulled on a coach as if he were an Egyptian king). George Miller surely took a cue from Jones for The Road Warrior. There's no future in sight, no new community trying to rebuild or even farm, and no women, at least not out in the open. This is not just a man's world, it is male brutality and misogyny at its worst, and women are treated like salvage to be used and discarded.
Vic (Don Johnson), a dim, feral kid running on attitude and impulse, survives this world because he's teamed up with Blood, an erudite telepathic dog (the voice of Tim McIntire out of a mutt that looks like Benji on the skids) bred for war. Johnson was in his mid-twenties at the time but looks younger and he plays Vic as an uncivilized creature of pure testosterone and adolescent impulse, an idiot child who has survival skills without the smarts or the instinct. He'd likely be dead without the cynical, sarcastic Blood, whose job is to sniff out females for Vic but is also the brains of the partnership. The wisecracking from Blood at times borders on arrogant and disdainful, which is what makes the relationship so vivid. They are a true bickering couple who, like it or not, need each other.
If the surface is a savage arena, the so-called civilization underneath is a tyrannical dictatorship under the front of a malignant fantasy. The underground recreation of "the good old days" is an impotent culture frozen in false values and enforced with blithe finality by soft-speaking despots in clown-white make-up, like the court of Louis the XIV recreated in the guise of turn-of-the-20th-Century small town Americana. Quilla June (Susanne Benton), however, is mix of modern young woman and would-be farm girl. Vic thinks he's the one doing the stalking when he spots her on the surface and chases her like a dog in heat (and Vic is nothing if not perpetually horny), but nothing in his survivalist handbook has prepared him for her, and she knows it. She plays into Vic's fantasy of the unprotected innocent turned compliant sexual partner, and against the better judgment of Blood, Vic follows her into the underground.
It's been almost forty years since A Boy and his Dog debuted and it is still the most faithful screen adaptation of Harlan Ellison's work. It's expanded and a few details are changed for more effective visual storytelling, but it creatively preserves the tone and attitude of the original, which is all the more remarkable in that Ellison did not script the film, though he was contracted to. Gripped in a stasis of writer's block and creative exhaustion, Ellison bowed out and Jones penned the screen adaptation himself.
As in the best low budget efforts, less is more in the visualization of a war-decimated world populated by wandering scavengers. Jones is better with the world above ground than the cartoonish satire below, which looks like a Kansas small town built in giant warehouse painted black from floor to ceiling. Most of that is surely budgetary constraints but he makes it work and even tops Ellison as he reimagines the reseeding of the population as a sham marriage and an antiseptic medical procedure. The barbarian seed may be necessary, but that doesn't mean they will let their flowers of womanhood get trampled by their donors.
Vic is no hero but he's far less predatory than these evil clowns (led by Jason Robards, who we realize picked out Vic right from the start) in their artificial world. That puts us on Vic's side right from the start, which is pure Ellison, as is the relationship between man and canine at the heart of the film. The famously caustic and critical Ellison has always praised Jones' adaptation, but criticized the black-humored joke that Blood cracks in the film's final scene. Yet even if you object to the line, Jones makes that final scene sad, horrific, unsettling, and touching, all with an understatement that lets the audience slowly come to terms with an uncompromising act of love and devotion.
The independently-made A Boy and his Dog was not a financial success right away, but it was well reviewed and embraced by science fiction fans and it became regularly revived and even re-released in different territories over the years. Its treatment in home video, however, has not been very good. Previous DVD releases were poorly mastered with an indifferent image. Shout Factory's Blu-ray+DVD Combo features a newly-restored high-definition transfer. It's good-looking disc of film that made a virtue of the down and dirty look of a windblown desert apocalypse. There are minor scuffs and scratches but is a great improvement in detail and sharpness over previous DVD releases.
New to the release is a new video conversation with director L.Q. Jones and author Harlan Ellison, a fascinating meeting of creators who bounce between respectful admiration and competitive challenge, with Ellison keeping it firmly R-rated with comments laced with liberal (and often creative) swearing. It is clear they like and respect one another as they showboat through the conversation as tag-team raconteurs, with Ellison taking top honors with entertaining exaggeration (and bonus points for quoting Galaxy Quest).
The disc also features the commentary by director L.Q. Jones with cinematographer John Morrill and film critic Charles Champlain that was recorded decades ago for its initial laserdisc release, and it offers a thoroughly frank and eye-opening discussion of filmmaking on a budget, the evolution of a novella to a film, and an actor's insight to casting and direction actors, plus the original trailer and radio spots.
By Sean Axmaker
A Boy and His Dog on Blu-ray
A Boy and His Dog
When Ellison found himself with a case of writer's block and unable to finish the script in 1970, Jones took over due to money limitations and avowed to stick as close to the source material as possible. Virtually all of the source material's dialogue made it into the film, with a young Don Johnson (in only his fifth film role) turning in a pitch perfect performance as Vic and Tiger, the beloved family canine from TV's The Brady Bunch, embodying the sardonic Blood to an unnerving degree.
While self-termed misanthrope Ellison was extremely pleased with the adaptation of his film, he openly objected to what he perceived as excessive misogyny in Jones' dialogue between Vic and particularly Blood. Much of that material was changed (including references to its manipulative lead female character, Quilla June, as a "sow"), but Jones retained his own final line of dialogue for the unforgettable twist ending, much to Ellison's chagrin. The two eventually came to terms over that pesky line during a conversation recorded for the film's Blu-ray reissue, and as anyone who has seen the film with a few other people in attendance can attest, it's still extremely effective.
While Tiger played Blood in front of the camera, his distinctive voice was provided by multitalented Tim McIntire, a composer and musician also responsible for the jaunty title song. McIntire was chosen after Jones scoured through a tremendous number of possibilities (even considering James Cagney at one point), and even when he recorded the voice of Blood at the age of 31, he had amassed a tremendous amount of acting and songwriting credits. Tragically, his personal demons would soon claim him in 1986.
At the time of its release, the most familiar name attached to this film was Jason Robards, the formidable actor who came to prominence in A Thousand Clowns (1965). He and Jones had appeared together in two Sam Peckinpah films, The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), and Robards' star was about to rise even further soon after this film when he won back-to-back Academy Awards for Supporting Actor in All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977).
Cast with Robards as another notable resident of the sinister Downunder (a grim facsimile of conformist 1950s American suburbia) was Alvy Moore, a busy TV actor usually known for his comic roles in series like Green Acres. However, his film career had a decidedly darker slant; he and Jones both served as producers on the cult horror films The Witchmaker (1969) and The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) for their production company, LQ/JAF. In fact, A Boy and His Dog (1975) would be the third and final LQ/JAF production, and like its two predecessors, it was shot in scope to provide a more expansive visual sense than its meager budget would normally allow.
Independently released in 1975, A Boy and His Dog received mixed reviews and indifferent box office receipts in America; abroad it was often shown under variations of the title Apocalypse 2024 and gradually amassed a cult following, particularly thanks to college campus screenings. In 1983, an ambitious theatrical rerelease was mounted in the United States sporting the now familiar key art of a smiley face inside a mushroom cloud; inspired by the nuclear anxiety of the time over the made-for-TV film The Day After (1983), the ploy worked and garnered the film a larger audience. Subsequent cable TV airings for many years kept the fan flame alive, and with numerous home video reissues, it became entrenched as one of the most respected science fiction films of the 1970s. Since we can hope the real 2024 won't turn out like this, it's strangely comforting to know that this quirky cult gem will most likely continue to play long past the timestamp embedded in its gritty, flickering opening frames.
By Nathaniel Thompson
A Boy and His Dog
We coulda used her three more times!- Vic
Ah, war is hell.- Blood
A cautous young fellow named Lodge / Had seatbelts installed in his Dodge. / When his date was strapped in / He committed a sin / Without even leaving the garage. That's clever, isn't it?- Blood
If my gun picks up one rust spot you're gonna wake up with a crowd around 'ya.- Vic/Albert (to sentry)
Lack of respect, wrong attitude, failure to obey authority.- Lou
The screenplay was started by Harlan Ellison, who wrote the novella on which it is based. Ellison encountered writer's block, and so producer Alvy Moore and L.Q. Jones took over and wrote the script. Ellison saw nothing of the film until the premiere, at which he was sitting next to Moore. Ellison praised the film, to the relief of Moore, but there are rumours that Ellison later condemned the film.
Tim McIntire (who did the voice of "Blood") sang the main title song, "A Boy And His Dog."
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon) March 13-26, 1975.)