A Boy and His Dog (1975)
CHIVALRY REALLY IS DEAD
What do you get when you cross a raunchy teen comedy with post-apocalyptic sci-fi? Most likely the first thing to pop up on your Netflix queue will be A Boy and His Dog (1975), directed by L.Q. Jones. Vic (Don Johnson, of dwindling Miami Vice fame) is a young man in a barren wasteland of scavengers and scarcity. His sole traveling companion is Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire), a telepathic dog.
No wait! Come back. Just go with it. Their deal is simple enough: Vic finds food for he and Blood, while Blood uses his powerful nose to sniff out females, apparently an increasing rarity in this future, so Vic can get laid.
Right. It’s never sufficiently explained why getting laid is of equal importance to basic survival, but Vic, like most guys, can’t think about much else. Blood is thus forced to help him on his quest, while adding darkly comic observations in the process (ex: After Vic discovers a disfigured (and possibly dead?) woman, he laments “Aw, they didn’t have to cut her up,” to which Blood deadpans “Well, war is hell.”).
The film takes place a few years after World War IV, something I’ve never seen in post-apocalyptic or any other fiction. That’s right! In this history, World War III took place between 1950 and 1983. The list of presidents Blood tries to teach Vic (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy) provides a delightful tongue-in-cheek 1975 vision of the future. The remnants of civilization, if you can call it that, are forced to wander somewhat aimlessly through a never-ending expanse of desert.
Blatantly sexual and misogynistic in the way only 70s films can be, A Boy and His Dog never quite finds its moral center. After capturing a woman named Quilla June Holmes (Suzanne Benton) and preparing to forcibly have sex with her (for some reason, rape doesn’t seem to be an issue of conscience in the future), Vic defends her from another gang hell-bent on defilement, which naturally leads to her throwing herself on him, repeatedly (Blood adding a wryly uttered “Once more unto the breach, dear friend”).
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert on women, but as far as I know, protecting a lady from unspeakable brutality does not somehow counteract one’s own intention to commit said brutality oneself. More than this, the issue of her choice is never once considered. She is first an unwilling participant in something that will inevitably happen and then a willing participant. Chivalry really is dead.
But by that point, even if you’re dismayed and you’re thinking “could there possibly be more Male Gaze in this movie (both literally and figuratively)?” you’re sort of stuck, because you really want to find out if any movie, even one made in the 70s, could be so deliberately sexist. And what’s really interesting is that A Boy and His Dog manages to pull you in both by how easy it is to laugh at and laugh with. It’s both mockingly bad and genuinely funny.
Inevitably, Quilla escapes and Vic follows her “down under,” to an underground society of plentiful food and plentiful women more fascist than friendly (fans of Watership Down, take note) and he must fight for his blah blah blah whatever you get the idea.
If you watch the film at all, you have to finish it, if only for the jaw-dropping ending. I highly suggest you take the time (it’s only 90 minutes). Sure the fights are cheesy, the acting is neither here nor there, and the film leans much more misogynistic than even the most cynical reading of The Taming of the Shrew.
If anything, it’s interesting to see the influence this film has clearly had on the Fallout video game series, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and a dearth of forthcoming apocalyptic-centered films (including The Book of Eli, and a adaptation of the aforementioned McCarthy book). Post-apocalyptic is the new black, and this boy and his dog started the trend.