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"A Boy and His Dog" Review: A Radical Animality Statement

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interests are science fiction and zombie movies. I also enjoy pessimistic and survival films a lot.

If there is a positive element to the legacy of A Boy and His Dog, it’s that it ended up being an important inspiration for the video game saga Fallout, a far superior cultural product that knew how to portray different aspects of humanity using a nuclear wasteland as a playground.

Original in its dystopic representation, A Boy and His Dog is the story of young Vic (Don Johnson) and his dog, Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire), who survive a nuclear holocaust by scavenging, stealing, killing raiders and raping women.

They work as a unit, combining their talents. Blood has a nose that detects human presence and location. Vic is a competent thief and fighter.

During their adventures in search of women and food, they find a gorgeous woman called Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), who, against Blood's wishes, eventually manages to attract Vic to the underground organized city of Topeka.

Undoubtedly, A Boy and His Dog has provocative and engaging ideas. This is the story of man's internal struggle, the battle between his animalistic side and his rational, molded-by-rules-and-society side.

The symbolism is easily accessible, sometimes a little too much. Vic is a man with no ethical grounding or moral compass—he simply follows his hungers and his sexual impulses and, in order to survive in this mode,he uses the company of his dog who--to further facilitate the motif--can communicate telepathically with him.

The city of Topeka, the other side of the tale, is a too-obvious caricature of a conservative 1930's America where all its citizens wear whiteface.

But in spite of its compelling core thesis, A Boy and His Dog has one unforgivable flaw: Its unvarnished and relentless misogyny. In order to highlight the story of Vic’s inner struggle between his animality and concessions, L. Q. Jones (following Harlan Ellison, the author of the original novel) reduces women to banal sexual objects.

Most of the time the women in this universe are simple pieces of meat waiting to be raped, abused and mangled. And when Quilla--the only female character who has more than two lines of dialogue--becomes part of the history, she is quickly portrayed as a manipulative, seductive, self-centered bitch.

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Nobody can say, though, that A Boy and His Dog isn't committed to its misogyny. In the end, when Vic chooses Blood over Quilla (because mendaciously he only has two options), he just doesn't reject her but ends up killing her, chopping her to bits and feeding the remains to his dog—the mayhem all off camera, of course, so our empathy for him remains intact.

The film closes with Vic and Blood walking towards the horizon, joking about the fact that she declared her love for Vic. "Certainly she had marvelous judgment, if not particularly good taste" says Blood, before laughing out loud on his way to the desert.

The absolute hatred of femininity is used here as a clever resource to move the plot forward. That is achieved, but A Boy and His Dog isn't a better movie (not even remotely) because of it.

Movie Details

Title: A Boy and His Dog

Release Year: 1975

Director(s): L.Q. Jones

Actors: Don Johnson, Jason Robards, Susanne Benton, a.o.

3 stars for A Boy and His Dog

© 2019 Sam Shepards


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