A Boy and His Dog

Starring: Don Johnson, Jason Robards
Director: L.Q. Jones
Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Format: Color, Widescreen
Not for sale to persons under age 18.

DVD Features: Commentary by director LQ Jones, Trailer gallery, Widescreen anamorphic format



The year is 2024. World War IV lasted a few days what with nuclear weapons and all that, and what is left of humanity has to eke a Road Warrior-like living in a world in which law and order no longer exists. The "boy" of the title is Vic, played a very young Don Johnson (yes, him of Miami Vice fame). His dog is named Blood, and is played by Tiger, ironically the dog of the original Brady Bunch.

Ironic because, yes, the movie's title is ironic and A Boy and His Dog isn't exactly family viewing. Unless you sent the wife and kids to bed beforehand, that is . . .

Vic scours this post-apocalyptic world for food and women to rape, and not particularly in that order either. Not only can he communicate telepathically with Blood, but Blood can also use his abilities to scan for enemies - handy. Also, the dog is cleverer than Vic (bit of a dim bulb actually) and probably the only likeable character in a movie filled with unpleasant types.

Made in 1975, A Boy and His Dog had feminists (and all other sorts) up in arms for the movie's nihilistic sentiments, derived no doubt from sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison's novella of the same name.

One of my favourite 'Seventies sci-fi movies, A Boy and His Dog is based on a pure science fiction premise and ultimately proved to be a huge influence on the Mad Max movies. With its caustic dialogue and pessimistic world view, it is the ideological opposite of modern escapist fare like Lord of the Rings and shows just how much movies had changed since the 1970s - back then movies had something to say.

THE DISC: This is the first time that A Boy and His Dog is available on DVD. It has been available on laserdisc previously, and apparently it doesn't make much sense to upgrade if you already own the laserdisc since this DVD doesn't much differ much from it.

However, if you own the film on pan 'n' scan VHS, then this DVD is a HUGE upgrade. I've said it before and I'll say it again: pan 'n' scan is the work of Satan!

For the uninitiated: Pan 'n' scan is the practice of cutting off the sides of a movie's picture to fit the image on your standard TV screen - often sold as being so-called full screen versions as opposed to wide screen, which has black bars at the top and bottom of your TV screen.

People often complain about these bars, but I seldom hear them complain about half the image being cut off. In a movie about Jesus' life you'd find that Jesus would only have eight disciples because the others have been cut off at the sides. Imagine your surprise when a disciple you've never seen throughout the entire movie suddenly betrays Him to the Romans!

Anyway, after receiving my DVD screener copy from First Run Features, I ritualistically burned my old VHS tape of A Boy and His Dog. OK, so my wife complained about the smoke in the living room, but the wide screen DVD really is such a huge improvement!

We're not just talking improved image quality here, but being able to see the whole picture for a change!

Anyway, besides being in the correct aspect ratio, the image quality in A Boy and His Dog is quite good. I was particularly surprised by how well the movie's many night scenes translated to the DVD format.

It looks good, but the DVD's biggest problem is the original film print used. It could have done with a cleanup from scratch beforehand because some bits have all kinds of scratches, etc. typical of an old cinema print. Some room for improvement there.

Like the laserdisc the DVD also has the same audio commentary by director L.Q. Jones, cameraman John Morrill, and critic Charles Champlin. I found the commentary informative and lively and director Jones with his constant exaggerations reminded me a bit of the geriatric hucksters in Mau Mau Sex Sex.

This was the only feature film to have been directed by L.Q. Jones - actually a regular bit actor in Peckinpah westerns. Later on he apparently only did some TV directing work, namely episodes of the old Hulk show. The commentary never touches upon why this would be.

In addition there are some trailers for other films by First Run Features, mostly documentaries. Two trailers for Boy and His Dog are also included, one for its original 1975 release (which plays like a trailer for A Clockwork Orange instead) and its 1980s re-release (which plays like an ad for an "art movie" release).

The sound is not too good at patches. However, still a huge improvement on VHS.

WORTH IT? Heck, yes. Definitely worthy of its cult classic status, A Boy and His Dog ranks along with other genre favourites of the decade such as A Clockwork Orange, Dark Star, Silent Running, Soylent Green and so forth. If your cinematic tastes runs to more polished (and dull) fare such as Hollywood's latest special effects blockbuster such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines you'd want to avoid A Boy and His Dog.

RECOMMENDATION: If you're into hard sci-fi such as Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, and so forth you need to check this movie out immediately.

If you already own this movie on video tape, I have only one thing to say for your old VHS copy: burn, baby, burn!



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