October 1, 2010

Justify My Netflix: A Boy and His Dog

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

A Boy and His Dog

Today's movie: A Boy and His Dog, 1974 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this 1974 post-apocalyptic drama/comedy (screenplay by Harlan Ellison, adapted from his own story) is considered by many science-fiction fans to be a lost countercultural classic, the story of a radioactive future where bands of semi-feral teenage boys travel with their much smarter psychic dog companions across the wasted countryside, looking for enough food to keep them alive for one more day, and what happens when one of these boys (a ridiculously young Don Johnson, in his Hollywood debut) stumbles into one of the vast underground neo-Victorian cities that the middle-class built to keep them safe from the scarred surface.

The reality: Oh, so disappointing. And that's because this storied underground production turns out to have been so cheaply made, it's nearly unwatchable -- both the film and audio quality are atrocious, with sets that look exactly like the stacks of spare trash into forgotten alleys that they actually were, and spastic acting from the many unpaid manic hippies making up the majority of the cast, the whole thing set to a ludicrously irrelevant country-rock soundtrack, songs of which don't match up in any way at all in mood or tone with the actions on the screen at any given moment. And I have to agree with what fellow SF enthusiast Mark Brand had to say, when we were discussing our mutual disappointment of this movie over at Facebook a few weeks ago -- that this comes from two guys who are avowed fans of the fellow cheap ridiculous post-apocalyptic film Zardoz from those same years, which means that it's not just the low budget that turned us off or the silliness of the script, but that these elements spin more towards the insufferable side than the charming one with A Boy and His Dog, a movie you desperately want to embrace as a cult classic but just literally cannot sit through (even more disappointing in this case because of the story it's based on containing the usual sly Ellison brilliance). It's the very definition of an older film desperately calling for a decent modern remake, and here's hoping that some smart young filmmaker does exactly that sometime soon.

Strangest piece of trivia: Tim McIntire, who provided the voice of the dog, also sang the main title song.

Worth your time? Not even at midnight when you're wasted

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:22 AM, October 1, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |