Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Boy and His Dog (1975)

In 1975, someone decided to anticipate The Road Warrior with Don Johnson (nine years pre-Miami Vice) as a really horny Mel Gibson (which, honestly, I guess he is) and a telepathic sheepdog named Blood standing in for Max’s “Dog.”

Yes. It’s a movie about Don Johnson and a talking dog wandering around the desert looking for sex. And popcorn. Based on a story by Harlan Ellison. And everything you can anticipate about this, good and bad, is probably true. With a premise like this, I almost don’t need to write a review.

This is bad filmmaking at its finest; the kind that really needs to be seen to be believed, and yet is also highly entertaining. The plot meanders, the acting lags, many of the concepts and plot points are unseen, unexplained, or inexplicable (there is a society of people living underground in “Topeka” who march around with a band and wear face paint all day) but there is so much unexpected weirdness that it makes up for everything else. And it’s got just about the best ending you can hope for.

In the end, what’s wrong with this film isn’t so much its budget, or Don Johnson, or talking dogs. I can’t even say that the filmmakers wussed out. They don’t pull their punches, it’s true; but they don’t aim at enough for me to consider this film truly brilliant. This wasteland could have been filled with absurdist satire, rather than sprinkled on top of a rather bland post-nuke landscape; a line like “We could have used her three more times!” needs to be followed up with something more than half an hour of “I’m hungry/horny.” At the same time, though…

There’s a talking dog. And Don Johnson.

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