Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Ever wonder what happened to Tiger after he
disappeared from the Brady Bunch?

The year is 2024, and Phoenix, Arizona has become even more uninhabitable, thanks to a nuclear apocalypse. Roaming this sand-blasted hellscape is a "solo" named Vic (pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson, trading his white suit and loafers for some tattered rags) and his trusty dog Blood. What makes this interesting is that Blood has a telepathic link with Vic, mainly used to provide withering sarcasm. I approve. At first I thought Blood was some sort of robot dog because this mutt is hella smart. I'm sure if my dog could talk it would be something along the lines of "Got any foooood? Got any more foooood?" but this dog knows all about world history and has all the US Presidents memorised ("Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy"). He's definitely the brains of the outfit, while Vic provides the opposable thumbs.

Aside from his intelligence, Blood has another useful ability. He can use his special dog radar to detect nearby human beings. Vic generally uses this ability to ferret out women to rape. After a daring act of thievery, Vic and Blood manage to gather up enough canned goods to buy themselves a night at the movies, a shabby desert camp where a lonely people sit around and watch scratched up copies of sex films. During their night on the town, Blood detects a female in their midst.

Following her back to her underground hiding place, Vic watches her strip down to her bra and granny panties (two luxuries I wouldn't think would be available post-apocalypse) before springing on her. Of course he ends up being charmed by her, but is interrupted when the gang who normally inhabit this underground lair return home. They fight it out, Blood is wounded and they are forced to hole up underground and wait it out. Between bouts of passionate lovemaking (ie fucking), Quilla tries to convince Vic to come with her to Down Under, the underground village where she lives (not Australia). Vic refuses, since he would have to leave Blood behind, so Quilla knocks him unconscious and run away.

When Vic awakes he is driven to follow her and while Blood is unhappy with his decision he agrees to wait at the entrance to the underground complex. The subterranean village is called Topeka, a bizarre parody of small town America, where white-faced people have picnics and preserve contests while loudspeakers blare conformist propaganda all day long. Topeka is run by the Committee, a group of individuals who are more than happy to "farm" anyone who fails to conform to their utopia. Aiding them is their Enforcer, a monstrous cyborg whose face is contorted into a permanent rictus.

Vic is quickly captured, and it is revealed that he was lured down here intentionally in order to act as a "stud" to refresh their gene pool. This doesn't sound too bad to Vic, but unfortunately it entails being strapped to a milking machine, his baby batter collected into vials and distributed to newlyweds right after their wedding ceremony. Eventually Vic is rescued by Quilla, who wants to use him to overthrow the Committee so she can take their place. Vic refuses and escapes, with Quilla in hot pursuit, but as he reaches the desert surface, he finds that his loyal dog has been waiting at the entrance the whole time and is now on the brink of starvation. Vic finds a rather creative solution.

As you might have guessed, despite the title this film isn't for kids. In order to lessen the confusion they added the subtitle "A rather kinky tale of survival", which makes the film seem like a cheesy sex comedy, which it is certainly not. Based on a Harlan Ellison short story, it's a very bleak and nihilistic black comedy. At one point Vic comes across the body of a woman who'd been slashed to ribbons, he's upset because she "could have been used a few more times." And he's the good guy. The only woman they trust ends up betraying them more than once, and in the end Vic chooses his loyal dog over female companionship. This is a moral wasteland as well as a physical one, quite misogynistic, but notions of gender equality go out the window once the bombs hit.

Another thing that makes this film work is the chemistry between Vic and Blood. Blood is voiced by Tim McIntire with the right amount of wry intelligence, and the animal is directed with enough care to make him as believable as any of the human cast. Contrasted with Vic's impulsive and sex-driven actions, it becomes apparent that he needs Blood just as much (if not more) than Blood needs him. I liked the team so much I wish I could see the continued adventures of Vic and Blood. Apparently there are some graphic novels that do just that, so I might try to track them down.

This is a post-apocalyptic film but this is no action-adventure flick filmed with bearded Italians in a disused quarry. There are no muscle-cars, mutants or mohawked punks. George Eastman doesn't appear anywhere in the cast. Instead it's a great piece of pre-Star-Wars sci-fi (back when genre fiction could actually be intelligent and thought-provoking) and essential piece of viewing for anyone who is into 70s cult films.

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