Movie News & Reviews

Big Awful Friday: 'Boy and His Dog' walks line of absorbing, offensive

Entertainment doesn't always go down as smooth as a glass of chocolate milk.

I rarely approve of the mayonnaise on the sandwiches I find behind the Subway, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying the subs themselves.

So yeah, 1975's A Boy and His Dog is filled with more objectionable material than a parking lot sandwich is with gravel. That's what keeps you on your toes.

It's 2024. Civilization has been annihilated by nuclear warfare. Young Don Johnson is a "rover" who hunts down women with the help of an intelligent telepathic dog (voiced by Tim McIntire). When Johnson saves Susanne Benton from an even worse group of rovers, she leads him to an underground society that preys on the bandits above them.

A Boy and His Dog is not what you'd call "appropriate."

"Rover" is quaint slang for "traveling rapist," meaning ... yeah. The guy we're usually supposed to root for passes the time committing one of the worst crimes there is. I mean, this isn't A Hitler and His Dog, Who is Also the Hitler of Dogs, but it isn't family fare, either.

But let's put aside the fact Johnson plays an animalistic young sociopath many civilized beings would like to rip to gory shreds and then toss those shreds in the air so they'll rain down as we're doing the "Die, You Scum" dance. We're just watching a movie here.

And it's a weird one. Based on the Harlan Ellison novella, it's full of dark humor and cranky, stabbing satire. Right, and Blood, the dog that only Johnson can understand, spends the entire movie making fun of his ignorance and base drives. The dog-acting is marvelous: sometimes Blood's gestures match his words perfectly; other times, he's supposed to be sniffing around but is clearly just lying there.

Though the world's desolate surface is interesting enough, director and cowriter L.Q. Jones spends too much time there. It's when A Boy and His Dog moves to the underground that it gets extra freaky. Beneath the ruins of Topeka, Kan., people in mime makeup and overalls enforce a perverted, Orwellian version of the 1950s, complete with parades and loudspeakers broadcasting wholesome recipes. Ah yes, and the casual execution of anyone who's disrespectful to their elders.

It's sometimes confusing, and the pacing could have used some work. Yet A Boy and His Dog exists at that perplexing intersection of the wildly offensive and the totally absorbing.

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com

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