Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Boy and His Dog (review) 70's Sci-Fi Week

Love it.

Well, that's it folks. 70's Sci-Fi Week is over. I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed watching and reviewing. For our last review we have a recommendation from my good friend Evan. Whereas yesterday's Zardoz is incredibly enjoyable but in a way not everyone might be able to appreciate, I think A Boy and His Dog is probably the most enjoyable film I've reviewed this week which should be accessible to most everyone. It's also the only film this week that's truly character-driven, making it for me the closest to, you know, an actual movie (sorry plot-driven movies, I hope we can still be friends).That's not to say there's no action, it's just balanced really well with character development and exposition. If you see none of the other movies I review this week, see A Boy and His Dog.

The story follows Vic (played by 25 year old Don Johnson) and his dog Blood (voiced by character actor Tim McIntire) as they travel the wasteland that Arizona has become. A Boy and His Dog presents a post-apocalyptic future (well, 2024, so just barely still the future) where the cold war went hot leading to World War III and eventually precipitated a World War IV in which everybody launched their nukes. Some of humanity decided to move underground, but those who couldn't or wouldn't, like Vic and Blood, wander the resulting wasteland scavenging for food and women.

Eventually Vic meets June, a woman unlike all the others in that she actually wants to be with him. Vic falls for her charms until she runs off and he realizes she's from the underground. Despite Blood's protests and refusal to accompany him, Vic decides to go into the underground after her. In the underground, however, Vic realizes he's been set up: June was on a mission to lure him down there so they can harvest his semen. Apparently living underground too long (inbreeding, anyone?) has caused genetic deficiencies and every decade or so they have to bring in new blood. June breaks Vic out hoping he'll help her take over the underground, but Vic just wants to return to the wasteland above. After witnessing the horrors of her underground society, June decides to come with Vic and the two reunite with Blood who is suffering from starvation having waited too long and the three have to decide what to do. The ending is so unbelievably phenomenal.

Vic and Blood.

There's so much to love about this movie. The camaraderie between Vic and Blood is touching especially considering Don Johnson is acting next to a dog whose lines are delivered in voiceover. The character development works really well and the scene where they part so Vic can go into the underground is really heart-wrenching (even the second time watching when you know they get back together in the end). The pacing also works really well with the first two-thirds of the film occurring in the wasteland on the surface and the last third down in the underground with the final reunion at the end. A Boy and His Dog is also just incredibly stylish. Not only are the atmosphere, set design, and costumes well developed and well contrasted between both worlds, but there's also just so much depth to the two worlds from the ominous heard-but-never-seen Screamers and Blood's history lessons above ground to the "helpful hints for living from the Committee Almanac" below.

Like most movies, A Boy and His Dog does have its problems. The film presents a pretty stereotypical misogynist structure of two guys who are torn apart by the devious female. June brings Vic to the underground for her own manipulative purposes, making him think she's in love with him in order to get her way with the Committee. She almost gets Blood killed since he can't go into the underground and almost starves waiting for Vic to come back. There's no point in the narrative where June is a truly relatable character. She is constantly thinking of herself and how to create a world with only her own interests in mind. While this makes for a great antagonist (again, the ending is so wonderful for this reason), as the only developed female character alongside only male protagonists it doesn't present a very positive vision of femininity.

Vic in the underground.

A Boy and His Dog also offers within it a sort of counter-critique to this position, however. Not only is a large proportion of the misogyny coming directly from Vic as a character rather than from the movie itself, but perhaps more importantly the movie exposes the reality of Vic's fantasy. Vic spends a large majority of the movie looking for women to have sex with, which functions as his driving fantasy (whereas Blood wants to find "over the hill", a place where everything's not to desolate). Then, when he's taken to the underground he's hooked up to a machine which milks him for his semen. This betrays the seedy (sorry, bad pun) underside, the Lacanian Real of Vic's fantasy of having sex all the time. The irony here is played for laughs (as Blood notes, "You know if they'd just let you have your own way with the blushing brides instead of hooking you up to a machine you'd probably never come back up."), but at the same time Vic's hesitation and resistance to talking about the situation reveals that perhaps A Boy and His Dog is a little more conscious of what it's doing than its critics realize.




Alright, fine, here's a freaking ranking for those of you who stuck with me this whole week. You've earned it. This is basically in order of how much I want to watch them again/have them in my collection.

1. A Boy and His Dog (1975)
2. Zardoz (1974)
3. Soylent Green (1973)
4. The Black Hole (1979)
5. Logan's Run (1975)
6. Dark Star (1974)
7. The Omega Man (1971)

2 comments:

  1. I think it should be law to have semen harvested, but not by a machine. I'd go absolutely crazy if you had to go down to your local GP and have a pretty young female nurse harvest my semen. I just think it would be a good idea - a great idea. I'm wondering if this movie is prophetic - when is this harvesting going to be set up? Maybe, instead of inbreeding, the real problem will be radiation and sterilisation. A good porn movie could have semen harvesting before a nuclear fallout, or if you're more discreet, you could write a scifi story on the matter. In fact, I believe that's what I'll do right now. Thanks.

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    1. Interesting idea, Dan. definitely not something I'd thought of, but you're definitely right. At the end of movies where there are like four people left alive on earth and it's supposed to be a happy ending I always find myself thinking, "So, what, they're going to have a bunch of incest to repopulate the planet? Great."

      As for the writing, definitely keep it up. I look forward to reading more of your work!

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