Don Johnson Vic
Susanne Benton Quilla June
Tiger the Dog Blood
Charles McGraw Preacher
Jason Robards Jr. Mr. Craddock
Alvy Moore Helene Winston Committee Members
Tim McIntire Voice of Blood

Directed by L.Q. Jones. Written by L.Q. Jones (based on the novella by Harlan Ellison). 1975. Running time: 87 minutes.

Definition of cult movies: movies outside the mainstream which audiences "get" or simply don't. There are no in-betweens, no "it wasn't too bad" or something like that. 2001 - A Space Odyssey is a good example. With its almost universal critical adoration you'd think that everybody likes this movie: they don't. You either get it, or you don't . . .

A Boy and His Dog is such a movie.

The movie is an early example of independent filmmaking, long before Sundance. It is based on a novella of the same name by cantankerous sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. (You need to be told who Ellison is? Okay, besides writing some of the best sci-fi/fantasy short stories there is, an old Outer Limits episode he also wrote provided the inspiration for The Terminator. He also served as script advisor on the Babylon 5 TV series.)

It's about a young guy named Vic (played by a stubble-less pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog (named Blood) roaming a post-apocalyptic landscape that seems to be populated by viscous gangs primarily intent on finding food and women to rape in their spare time. Vic and Blood also partake in this particular pastime. It shouldn't come as a surprise that director George Miller admitted that A Boy and His Dog served as his main inspiration for his Mad Max (1979) and Road Warrior (1981) movies. You might not have guessed it from the above scenario, but A Boy and his Dog is actually a black humored affair. The film derives most of its humour from the repartee between Vic and his dog (the dog is more intelligent than he is).

Along the way the movie scores makes some salient points on human nature. But the film's best pay-off isn't until the very last few minutes of its running time. If you shut off your VCR before the end, it'd be like missing the punch line of a joke. Although Ellison didn't write the screenplay himself, the movie is apparently very faithful to his novella although he didn't write the last lines of dialogue. However, Ellison apparently (uncharacteristically) approved of the movie.

A Boy and his Dog is everything good sci-fi is about. It is a provocative tale - but one that many people simply won't get. What count most against the movie are its poor production values. The movie was made on an obviously low budget and even for a post-apocalyptic scenario, the sets and costumes look cheap. The sound is also not of very good quality either and some scenes seems jumbled because of poor editing. Also, some night scenes are very underlit so that it is difficult to follow the action. Some scenes towards the end are simply bizarre.

However, if you're a serious SF buff, then you'll probably look past the film's weaknesses and "get" what made the movie the definite cult classic it is. You'd be willing to pay much than R10 to own a copy of it . . . (If you don't "get it", then it'd be difficult to explain what it was you didn't get.)

(Useless trivia: Blood is played by Tiger the Dog, which happen to be the dog owned by TV's original Brady Bunch. There's something very ironic about that  . . .)


Copyright © April 2000  James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page




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