A Boy And His Dog–a review

Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog

A Boy And His Dog,

1969

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I often wonder what distributors are thinking about when they give films different titles to entice an audience into slapping down hard-earned cash. The above moniker was forced onto the 1975 film version of Harlan Ellison’s A Boy And His Dog for its second run. The film, starring Don Johnson, wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t exactly art.  It deserved some credit for originality and risk-taking. It certainly didn’t deserve to be called Psycho Boy and His Killer Dog.

Of course, in 1975, genre fans didn’t have room to complain. This was before the Syfy channel and cheap CGI. Most science fiction fare had low budgets and required the audience to not just suspend disbelief, but to put it in a lockbox somewhere. Fans born during the seventies  have no idea what it was like before Hollywood recognized that genre could be a large market. Thank you, George Lucas. Science fiction and fantasy shows like Star Trek, or genre films aimed at an mature audience,  weren’t just a rarity, they were hard to find drams of water in a bitter wasteland.

A Boy and His Dog is a Cold War sci-fi piece set in an alternative timeline where survivors of a nuclear holocaust are forced into cannibalism and foraging in a bleak landscape. Fortunately for the main character, Vic, an eighteen-year-old who lacks sophistication and acts on his most base impulses, he has been befriended by Blood, an intelligent, well-read, telepathic dog. Anyone who has read the novella or watched the film version will join me in begging Seth McFarland to take Brian and Stewie from The Family Guy and do to this book and film what he did to the Star Wars saga.

Most people encountering the story will encounter its film version. Is it any good? It doesn’t suck. And for fans heading to the midnight shows in the early seventies, that was saying something. If you can get past its sometimes slow pace and its horribly misogynistic tone, it has its moments. Okay, maybe that’s asking a lot from today’s audiences.

Without getting into spoilers, Vic, the main character,  is an unlikeable punk. Using Blood to sniff out women, he has only one thing on his mind. So there is some justice involved when one of the women being hunted turns the table on the boy and leads him into a trap where his seed will be used for repopulating the planet.

Vic is Don Johnson before the coolness of Miami Vice. He’s skinny, dark, and lacks subtlety as an actor. Fortunately, the role doesn’t require much subtlety. He is believable and at times, the audience may actually root for him. As for Blood, I don’t know who the voice actor is, but the dog is to-die-for cute.  Rent it on Netflix.

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