• A Boy And His Dog



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 6, 2013.
    Director: L.Q. Jones
    Cast: Don Johnson, Jason Robards, Susanne Benton
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Based on the story by Harlan Ellison and directed by Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones, the atypical 1975 post-apocalyptic science fiction film, A Boy And His Dog, stars a young Don Johnson as Vic, a man who wanders the nuclear bomb ravaged landscape of the Arizona of 2024 A.D. looking for something to eat and someone to screw. Vic isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s got a telepathic connection with his rather intelligent dog, Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire). Together they’re able to survive and fend off the different gangs and thugs that roam what’s left of the country.

    Things get interesting when Vic meets a girl named Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton) who is not only far better looking than pretty much anyone Vic has come into contact with, but also quite obviously in what he has to offer. She lives in an underground community called Topeka that still purports to try to live life like they were able to before things go as bad as they are. She talks him into joining her, despite the fact that this will harm his relationship with Blood, and he obliges. Once Vic and Blood arrive underground, however, they find that the community is actually ruled over by Doctor Moore (Alvy Moore, yes, the guy from Green Acres – he also produced), Mez Smith (Helene Winston) and Quilla’s dad, Lou Craddock (Jason Robards). These three have a strange obsession with the fifties era culture of middle-America and parade around in ridiculous clown makeup. There’s a reason that they wanted Vic down here though, and there’s more to it than just Quilla’s want of companionship – they want Vic to help sire the offspring of the community, the male inhabitants having gone sterile from such a long period underground. This sounds like a great idea at first, but when they hook up him to a machine, he starts to have second thoughts. And the only one who can help him? That’d be Blood, whose ever move is watched by an incredibly efficient robot keeper named Michael (Hal Baylor).

    Very clever and blackly humorous in a wildly satirical way, A Boy And His Dog (which also live another life as a pretty great comic book version illustrated by Richard Corben – it was technically called Vic & Blood – The Chronicles Of A Boy And His Dog and it’s good stuff!) holds up remarkably well even if it is very obviously a product of the mid-seventies in terms of its look, its tone and most appreciably, it’s anti-establishment roots and origins (this was made as an independent picture). Much of the picture’s success goes to how likeable the filmmakers were able to make Blood. Had this not been done properly, it’s safe to say that the film would have sunk into parody or goofy comedy but because we’re able to understand, appreciate and genuinely like a telepathic dog, we wind up caring what happens to him which make the exploits of Vic and Blood all the more interesting.

    Don Johnson does a fine job here. He’s not playing a rocket scientist, he’s playing a young man who is obviously a product of the environment in which he lives. As such, sex and sustenance are what matter to him – which is interesting, when you contrast what a dog typically wants out of life compared to a human. There’s some clever role reversal at work here. The film also twists typical morality in strange ways, making you think as the movie plays out about not only who the good guys and bad guys are, but more specifically about the humanity (or lack thereof) of the central characters. Robards’ character is just plain bizarre and he, Moore and Winston are great as the trifecta in charge of the underground ‘utopia’ to which Vic and Blood as whisked away. Each of the three actors gets some choice dialogue here, the kind that Ellison excels at and with just enough vitriol in spots to sting. Former Playboy Playmate Susanne Benton is also great here. She’s everything Vic could want – she’s hot and she’s horny and she likes him. It’s no wonder he’s taken in the way he is. She doesn’t need to be smart to snare him, she just needs to make him think with his pants.

    It’s a darkly imaginative picture, a zany film with some fantastic production design and solid acting. It’s played completely straight and all the better for it and it features some great camerawork. Though there are times where the picture’s modest budget is readily apparent, the end result is a film that was simultaneously ahead of its time and very much a product of its time. The movie spends a bit too much time in Topeka for it to play flawlessly, as these scenes do get a bit repetitive towards the finish, but overall, this is a picture that is still a creative and really enjoyably twisted work of cinema.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    A Boy And His Dog is presented in 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that offers a nice upgrade over previous DVD releases, even if it is a fairly grainy, gritty looking movie (as it should be). Generally speaking, detail is strong in close ups, less impressive in medium and long distance shots though still far and above what DVD can offer. Colors are reproduced quite nicely here and shadow detail is definitely better than it has been in the past. Blacks are good and shadow detail is decent as well. There are no obvious issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement to note nor is there any obvious banding. Skin tones look natural, texture is strong and all in all, fans of the film should be pleased as this is a pretty nice looking disc overall. Past DVD versions seem to have all come from the old laserdisc release and left a lot of room for improvement. This release bridges that gap very nicely.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono mix, but it’s a good one. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the levels properly balanced. There are no issues with hiss or distortion to note and the score sounds genuinely good throughout most of the movie. Understandably, given the events that take place in the movie and how sound is used in those scenes, we have some parts with more depth and activity to note than others, but even the more subdued moments that occur between Vic and Blood offer some interesting ambient and background sounds to take note of.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from director L.Q. Jones, director of photography John Arthur Morrill and film critic Charles Champlin. This extra isn’t new, it’s been carried over from previous releases, but it’s an invaluable inclusion on the disc. Those involved in the discussion do a fine job of talking about what works in the movie but also share a whole lot about what went wrong and the various problems that were encountered during the production. Jones has the most to say but Morrill gets his thoughts in on the look and scope of certain scenes while Champlin more or less keeps the discussion going and nicely paced.

    Additionally, the disc includes a fifty one minute long featurette entitled In Conversation: Harlan Ellison And L.Q. Jones. As the title implies, this is a conversation between the film’s writer and director as they sit together at a table and discuss the movie and its merits. Both of these guys are interesting on their own, put them together and you wind up with a pretty fascinating talk. Jones discusses the amount of work that he put into the picture, what he was going for with it, and how the story was brilliant in its simplicity, while Ellison tells him that he’s much too kind. There’s a lot of great back and forth between the two men here as they sit around and debate the history and merit of the movie. Ellison literally calls ‘bullshit’ on the major studios and what it’s like working with them, and he talks about how the story was a personal one to him – how Blood represents his ‘smart’ voice and Vic represents his ‘dumb’ voice. There’s a fantastic amount of information here and this is an excellent addition to the package and one that is completely worth taking the time to enjoy and appreciate.

    The film’s theatrical trailer and a collection of radio spots are also included. Menus and chapter selection are also included and as this is a combo pack release, there is a DVD version of the movie with identical extra features included. All of the extras on the Blu-ray disc are presented in high definition.

    The Final Word:

    A bizarre and sex obsessed tale of a post-apocalyptic future, A Boy And His Dog is deserving of its cult classic status. It’s as occasionally clever as it is consistently bizarre but it makes some interesting observations about human nature in addition to raising some valid ‘what if’ questions as to what might happen if the bombs really were to drop. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray improves on past DVD presentations in a pretty big way and it offers up the movie in very nice shape and with some decent extras too. An impressive package and one that would seem to have been long overdue.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

























    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Gav M's Avatar
      Gav M -
      Great review Ian, and I agree it certainly looks a hell of a lot better than the old DVD release which is great news. Glad to see that the commentary is being ported over too. Looking forward to this even more! :D
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I can't beleive I've never seen this movie. Added to my list!
    1. Quot's Avatar
      Quot -
      Finally. I am all over this, not only for the blu upgrade, but the Ellison/Jones extra. Thanks for the insight, Ian.
    1. Will_Bernardara_Jr's Avatar
      Will_Bernardara_Jr -
      One of my all-time favorite films. Love this movie.