A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Forty-six years ago today, the film A Boy and his Dog premiered at the Los Angeles Filmex festival. It has become a cult classic over the years and is available on YouTube for free. You should watch it.

Title: A Boy and his Dog
Directed by: L. Q. Jones
Produced by: Alvy Moore
Screenplay by: L. Q. Jones
Based on: A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
Starring: Don Johnson, Susanne Benton, Alvy Moore, Jason Robards
Music by: Tim McIntire, Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Cinematography: John Arthur Morrill
Edited by: Scott Conrad
Production Company: LQ/Jaf Productions
Distributed by: LQ/Jaf Productions
Release date: March 15, 1975 (Filmex Festival, Los Angeles)
Running time: 93 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English

In the post-nuclear war America of 2024, Vic (Don Johnson) is an 18-year-old boy, born in and scavenging throughout the wasteland of the former southwestern United States. Vic is most concerned with food and sex; having lost both of his parents, he has no formal education and does not understand ethics or morality. He is accompanied by a well-read, misanthropic, telepathic dog named Blood, who helps him locate women to rape in exchange for food. Blood cannot forage for himself due to the same genetic engineering that granted him telepathy. The two steal for a living, evading bands of marauders, berserk military androids, and mutants. Blood and Vic have an occasionally antagonistic relationship (Blood frequently annoys Vic by calling him “Albert” for reasons never made clear), though they realize that they need each other to survive. Blood wishes to find the legendary promised land of “Over the Hill” where above-ground utopias are said to exist, though Vic believes that they must make the best of what they have.

Searching a bunker for a woman for Vic to rape, they find one, but she has already been severely mutilated and is on the verge of death. Vic displays no pity, and is merely angered by the “wastefulness” of such an act, as well as disgusted by the thought of satisfying his urges with a woman in such a condition. They move on, only to find slavers excavating another bunker. Vic steals several cans of their food, later using them to barter for goods in a nearby shantytown settlement.

That evening, while watching old vintage stag films at a local outdoor “cinema”, Blood claims to smell a woman, and the pair track her to a large underground warehouse. There, they meet Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), a scheming and seductive teenage girl from “Downunder”, a society located in a large underground settlement. Unknown to the pair, Quilla June’s father, Lou Craddock (Jason Robards), had sent her above ground to “recruit” surface dwellers. Blood takes an instant dislike to her, but Vic ignores him. After Vic saves Quilla June from raiders and mutants, they have repeated sex. Eventually, though, she takes off secretly to return to her underground society. Vic, enticed by the thought of more women and sex, follows her, despite Blood’s warnings. Blood remains on the surface at Downunder’s portal.

Downunder has an artificial biosphere, complete with forests and a city, which is named Topeka after the ruins of the destroyed city that it lies beneath. The entire city is ruled by a triumvirate known as “the Committee”, who have shaped Topeka into a bizarre caricature of pre-nuclear war America, with all residents wearing whiteface and clothes that harken back to the rural United States prior to World War II. When Vic is told that he has been brought to Topeka to help fertilize the female population, he is elated to learn of his “stud” value. His joy is short-lived, when he is informed that Topeka meets its need for exogamous reproduction by electroejaculation and artificial insemination, which will deny him the pleasure of sex that he seeks. Anybody who refuses to comply with or otherwise defies the Committee is sent off to a mysterious place called “the farm” and never seen again. Vic is informed that when his semen has been used to impregnate 35 women, he, too, will be sent to “the farm.”

Quilla June helps Vic escape only because she wants him to kill the Committee members and destroy their android enforcer, Michael (Hal Baylor), so that she can usurp their power. However, Vic has no interest in politics or remaining underground. He only wants to return to Blood and the wasteland, his home. The rebellion is quashed by Michael, who crushes the heads of Quilla June’s three co-conspirators before Vic disables him. She proclaims her “love” for Vic and wants to escape to the surface with him, now that her rebellion has been quashed and that the Committee has decreed that she will be sent to “the farm”.

On the surface, Vic and Quilla June discover that Blood is starving and near death. She pleads with Vic to abandon Blood, forcing him to face his true feelings. Vic decides that his loyalties lie with his dog. (Off-camera, Quilla June is killed and her flesh cooked so that Blood can eat and therefore survive.) Blood thanks Vic for the food, and they both comment on Quilla June. Vic says that it was her fault that she followed him, while Blood wryly jokes that she had marvelous judgement, but did not have particularly good “taste.” The boy and his dog continue to talk as they walk off together into the wasteland.

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