Retro Review – A Boy & His Dog (1975)


I love a good post-apocalyptic tale. Whenever I see a blighted wasteland, burnt out cars and gangs of scavengers shooting at each other in the decimated crumbling ruins of civilisation I know I’m in for a good time.  So I’m naturally very excited about The Book of Eli “¦ which I probably can’t find someone to go with me to watch until the exam season ends. Bummer.

So, in lieu of a review of the hottest new post-apocalyptic film since The Road came out last week, I’ve been playing lots of Fallout 3 ““ and I found and watched this little ’70s gem from the mind of master science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

A Boy and His Dog is the story of young Vic, a frankly horrible young man, and his telepathic relationship with his business partner, a dry and sarcastic dog named Blood. As they scour the wasteland scavenging, Vic keeps Blood fed while Blood educates him in history and grammar and sniffs out what Vic is primarily after. Being a horny 18-year old boy, Vic is primarily after women.

Don’t be fooled by the wisecracking dog, this is no family film. The unfortunate reality of the film is it is pretty damned misogynist.  Obviously it was made in the 70’s when feminism was on the rise rather than the norm, but approaching the film with a 2010 mindset leaves you somewhere between horrified and amused at its rather quaint attitude towards women. It’s implied that in the harsh wasteland women are considered to be property, as much a currency as food, and Vic is hardly looking for companionship from them. He’s rude, crude, abrasive and spends nearly the whole story thinking with his trousers rather than with his head.  The film and most of its characters are preoccupied with sex almost to the point of obsession. The main female character is a manipulative woman who uses her body and Vic’s attraction to her to get what she wants, and parts of the film are fairly sordid.

Vic and Blood, on the hunt for food and lurve.

The latter half or so finds Vic falling in with a subterranean society run by a sinister committee. The pacing starts to flag a bit here though the revelation of why they need Vic and how they intend to use him does provide a certain amount of amusement.  The ending also raises a chuckle as Vic is faced with a choice that frankly I didn’t find difficult at all. He does exactly what I’d have done in that situation, too, which probably means I’m a sociopath ““ but hey, what can I say? I’d do anything to save MY dog.

For the most part, the film’s an enjoyable if slow-burning portrayal of the plight of post-apocalyptia. Harsh environment, scarce food, nothing to watch in the junktown cinema but a porn film. The highlight of the whole film, though, is the relationship between uncouth and scruffy Vic and worldweary Blood.  They rely on each other to survive much more than they’d care to admit and at times it’s quite touching to watch.  This doesn’t help you like Vic any more, but then I’m not sure you’re meant to.

The future is grim, folks.  Start hoarding those bottlecaps, go get yourself a canine companion and start stocking up on tinned goods. Then you’ll get a good head start.

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