A Boy and His Dog 1975 poster

A Boy and His Dog Film Review

Why I took it off the list:

I’d never heard of this cult post-apocalypse comedy/thriller until I was reading an article about the new Fallout TV show, and it mentioned this was a major influence on the Fallout franchise. Intrigued, I looked it up.

Although a bit put off by the synopsis (the titular boy uses the also titular telepathic dog to track down and find women to rape), I was intrigued by the fact that it’s set in 2024 (a far-off future in 1975). And that the poster hilariously proclaims: ‘A future you may live to see!”.

After reading more about it and the book it’s based on, I decided to give it a look despite the fact that the supposed comedy and gender politics in the film sounded very dated. So, let’s dig in.

Review of A Boy and His Dog (1975)

The titular boy in this film (a VERY young Don Jonhson) is not a very nice person. He’s raised himself in the apocalyptic wasteland that was once America, before several nuclear wars decimated the land and society. He has no parents or role models and his only mentor is a telepathic dog who is also not a very nice person (dog? well, it has a personality, and it’s a pretty misanthropic one).

When we first meet this unlikely pair, the boy, as promised in the synopsis, uses the dog’s super scent to track down females to satisfy his base desires. The dog doesn’t like having to do this, and tells the boy so. It seems that the film is setting up a conflict and moral redemption. But that doesn’t really happen.

The fact that there’s no moral to the story is one of this film’s biggest flaws. The fact that the boy’s libidinous activity is treated like a big joke is another. And the fact that the two prominent female characters are drawn as either impossibly naive or villainous (or both) is another.

Taking all this into account, A Boy and His Dog does have some positives.

The most successful elements are undoubtedly the film’s production design and cinematography. The wasteland of the surface world is believably rough and rusty, all dusty expanses, scrap metal, and tattered rags.

Interesting Vision of the Apocalypse Despite the Dated Comedy

The influence on Fallout is clear in the second half of the film when the boy decides to venture into the ‘Down Under’ in pursuit of a girl. This vast underground bunker is home to a bizarre society that seems to be stuck in a warped version of small-town America circa 1950.

And the bizarrely cheerful occupants are decked out in garb and make-up that wouldn’t be out of place in the Hunger Games‘ Capitol.

The production team made the creative decision to shoot these scenes largely outdoors at night (and apart from the occasional gust of wind apparent on the trees and actor’s hair, it convinces as a bunker).

The space gives off an off-kilter, surreal vibe that’s only enhanced by the sight of marching bands and carnival attractions operating against the darkness.

In another positive, Tim McIntire is quite effective as the voice of the misanthropic dog. Jason Robards (Magnolia) also deserves props for his commendably wacky turn as the bunker’s leader.

However, any goodwill towards the film is sucked out by the ending, which undoes much of any arc the characters had going on, and was lambasted by the author of the original novella as grossly chauvinistic.

It also just kind of stops, and feels like only half of a story has been told (possible, as the film was slated for a sequel, which didn’t happen after it failed to make a box-office impact).

Final score: 5.5/10

A Boy and His Dog (1975): Worth Watching?

It depends. A Boy and His Dog‘s quirky approach to the apocalypse, production design, and surreal touches are still impressive, but its non-story and heavy misogyny don’t stand up so well. Still, its influence on later media makes it a unique curiosity that’s worth a watch if you can ignore the dated elements.

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