Set in a post-nuclear war of the year 2024, the main character, Vic (Don Johnson) is an 18-year-old boy, born in and scavenging throughout the wasteland of the former southwestern United States. Vic is most concerned with food and sex; having lost both of his parents, he has no formal education and does not understand ethics or morality. He is accompanied by a well-read, misanthropic, telepathic dog named Blood who helps him locate women in return for food. Blood cannot forage for himself due to the same genetic engineering that granted him telepathy. The two steal for a living, evading bands of marauders, berserk androids, and mutants. Blood and Vic have an occasionally antagonistic relationship (Blood frequently annoys Vic by calling him “Albert” for reasons never made clear) though they realize they need each other. Blood wishes to find the legendary promised land of “Over the Hill” where above ground utopias are said to exist, though Vic believes that they must make the best of what they have.
Searching a bunker for a woman for Vic to rape, they find one, but she has already been severely mutilated and is on the verge of death. Vic displays no pity, and is merely angered by the “wastefulness” of such an act as well as disgusted by the thought of satisfying his urges with a woman in such a condition. They move on, only to find slavers excavating another bunker. Vic steals several cans of their food, later using them to barter for goods in a nearby shantytown settlement.
That evening, while watching old vintage stag films at a local outdoor movie house, Blood claims to smell a woman, and the pair track her to a large underground warehouse. There, they meet Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), a scheming and seductive teenage girl from “Down under”, a society located in a large underground vault. Unknown to the pair, Quilla June’s father, Lou Craddock (Jason Robards), had sent her above ground to “recruit” surface dwellers. Blood takes an instant dislike to her, but Vic ignores him. After Vic saves Quilla June from raiders and mutants, they have repeated sex. Eventually, though, she takes off secretly to return to her underground society. Vic, enticed by the thought of women and sex, follows her, despite Blood’s warnings. Blood remains at the portal on the surface.
Down under has an artificial biosphere, complete with forests and an underground city, which is named Topeka, after the ruins of the city it lies beneath. The entire city is ruled by a triumvirate known as “The Committee”, who have shaped Topeka into a bizarre caricature of pre-nuclear war America, with all residents wearing whiteface and clothes that harkens back to the rural United States prior to WWII. Vic is told that he has been brought to Topeka to help fertilize the female population and is elated to learn of his value as a “stud.” Then he is told that Topeka meets its need for exogamous reproduction by electro ejaculation and artificial insemination, which will not allow him to feel the pleasure or release that he seeks. Anybody who refuses to comply or otherwise defies the Committee is sent off to “the farm” and never seen again. Vic is then told that when his sperm has been used to impregnate 35 women, he will be sent to “the farm.”
Quilla June helps Vic escape because she wants him to kill the Committee members and destroy their android enforcer, Michael (Hal Baylor), so that she can usurp power. Vic has no interest in politics or remaining underground, only wishing to return to Blood and the wasteland, where he feels at home. The rebellion is quashed by Michael, who crushes the heads of Quilla June’s two co-conspirators before Vic disables him. She proclaims her “love” for Vic and decides to escape to the surface with him, realizing her rebellion has been undone.
On the surface, Vic and Quilla June discover Blood is starving and near death. She pleads with him to abandon Blood, forcing Vic to face his feelings. Vic decides that his loyalties lie with Blood. This results, off-camera, in her being killed and her flesh cooked, so that they can eat and survive. Blood thanks Vic for the food, and they both comment on Quilla June, with Vic stating it was her fault to follow him, and Blood joking that she didn’t have bad ‘taste’. The film ends with the boy and his dog walking off into the wasteland together.
The production and making of this movie is related in several interviews (with L.Q.Jones and Harlan Ellison) and articles written over the years from various sources.
L.Q. Jones is a two-man film production company established by supporting actors L. Q. Jones and Alvy Moore as an outlet for creative energies often untapped in their all but countless film and television roles. Working out of two rooms of disorganized clutter which serve as office, cutting room and miscellaneous storage area, the pair have recently completed their fourth feature film, A BOY AND HIS DOG, based on the award winning novella by science fiction’s most celebrated prodigy, Harlan Ellison.
The two paired together in 1963, and with the slimmest of shoestring budgets, produced THE DEVIL’S BEDROOM, a melodramatic tale of a simple-minded youth accused of murder and hounded by an enraged posse. Jones, who wrote, directed, and acted in the film, admits that technically THE DEVIL’S BEDROOM is probably the worst picture ever, but over a period of time it earned enough to enable them to produce THE WITCHMAKER, a more polished horror shocker involving witchcraft in the Louisiana bayous and parapsychologist Alvy Moore’s attempts to unravel a series of bizarre murders. Then came THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, a film of critical as well as box office, success, in which both Jones and Moore played supporting roles to Strother Martin’s murderous warlock who masquerades as a genial country doctor.
Why did you and Alvy Moore decide to form the LQ/JAF production company?
LQ: I got tired of doing the crap that we did. No, that’s not true. I enjoyed doing it, but if you want to be creative, you have to do it yourself. And so Alvy Moore and I, we’d been friends for a hundred years it seemed like, so we formed our own company. And whenever things got bad and hideous from doing all those crappy lines you had to do, we’d go out and write some crappy lines of our own and make a picture. So we ended up doing four pictures totally on our own, and that’s why I got very lucky. Because you can work your fanny off, do a marvelous job, and on a scale of 1 to 100 you’ve accomplished about a minus three. Because you have to turn it over to the distributing arm, and it’s completely out of your hands from that point on. But I said, “To hell with that.” And when I was first making my pictures, I started going with them. I was one of the few people in our business that not only made pictures, but sold them. Even people like William Wyler didn’t do that. He made them for someone else. Of course, he had talent and a lot of money. But we’d make ours and then take them out. And we made four pictures, and it’s hard to say this — all four of them ended up on ’10 best films of the year’ lists. It’s amazing. One was The Witchmaker. One was The Devil’s Bedroom, which they booked it into houses where everybody wore raincoats. They thought it was gonna be a sexy to-do. But that was the name of a cave, and the story was about a man who loved the outdoors. And his brother didn’t care for him that much. The father had found oil on his property, and made some money. And when he died, he left it to the two sons. The one that John Lupton played just enjoyed hunting and the land for the land’s sake, and took care of it that way. His brother, played by Dick Jones, wanted the money. And so he and his wife connived and put John in the insane asylum, so that they could control the estate. And John escaped, and the brother and his wife are both killed under suspicious circumstances. John is blamed for it, hunted down and killed, burned alive in the cave. And then they found out a year or so later that he hadn’t killed them at all. He was just loose, and something happened to them. And The Devil’s Bedroom was what they had called the cave for years. It’s a true story. In Texas, there was that very funny thing of the law where if two people in a family swear up a deposition, you can be arrested for insanity. And I think it’s still on the books. They did it to protect something. I forgot what it was. Well, it backfired. And that’s what happened here. Dick Jones has John Lupton committed for lunacy, so he can sell and develop the oil on the land. The place nearby there was “The Devil’s Bedroom,” and that’s where he ends up being killed. And it’s one of the worst pictures God ever made, but I found out people liked it because they thought it was real. Their theory was, “No one can make this bad a picture that wasn’t real.” I mean, there had to be somebody who just went out with a camera and shot it. And so, they thought somebody was making real life. That is pure crap. But it was on a bunch of 10-bests of the year, and it was hideous. And then we made The Witchmaker, Come In, Children, and A Boy and his Dog.
LQ/JAF stands for “L.Q. Jones And Friends.” And we did it a lot to have fun. We just got lucky and things made money. And then it got to where, after doing A Boy and his Dog, I had a whole bunch of offers to direct, and more money than it cost to make the picture for chrissakes. But I couldn’t see working all that time and all that effort to make that. So I just kept saying, “No,” and I finally just said, “To hell with it,” and just stopped and went on with the acting. Because by then, I could pretty well pick and choose what I wanted to do. So, it was fun. It’s always been fun. But it was really fun for me, and the [company] was getting in the way. Although, we’re still distributing A Boy and his Dog 30 some-odd years after the fact. It played in a lot of places a long time. We played in one theater in Seattle for a year, which I thought was pretty good. But we really played in Paris, France in one theater for eight years. So, it’s a fun picture. It’s not made for everybody. I tell people, “I hope you like it when you see it. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna be hag-ridden. Because you can’t forget it. Every time you see a dog, it’ll kind of bring it up.” And so I said, “I really hope that you enjoy it when you see it. Otherwise, you’re gonna hate me.”
HE: I can often tell you how a story I wrote came into being. This is one I can’t. I’ll be damned if I can remember how or why I did this story. I think the whole thing came from the title. I really wanted to parody an Albert Payson Terhune dog story, and so I called it “A Boy and His Dog,” which is, you know, the gentlest kind of title possible. Actually, I was doing it mostly for my dog, Ahbhu: I used to read this story to him. That dog had an enormous influence on me. He was really the closest friend I’ve ever had, and his passing wiped me out for months. This story, I guess, was kind of my way of sharing something with him.
After the story won the Nebula, it got taken for a lot of college textbooks, and it was in the air, people knew it existed. The first call I got was from Warner Bros. and a producer there, whose name I can’t remember, offered me a lot of money. But then he let slip, he said: “Well, explain to me how we’re going to animate the mouth of the dog.” And I just reared back and realized that anybody who would even say that, who even thought of the story in that way, would just …I would have nothing but endless hours of aggravation I’d have to rewrite the script forty two times: eventually they’d bring in another writer on the thing: I’d be screwed out of my own production; and I said, “Thank you, anyhow,” and I motored. The next bid was about six months later, from Universal. And I don’t know who it was over there, either, but it was somebody up in the Tower. And he liked the story, but he wanted me to change the down-under section so that it was not so anti-middle class, patriotic, white America as it was: and I said no, I didn’t think I’d care to do that. But we had a number of meetings and we talked about it, and then he, too, said: “How are we going to do the dog?” I mean, he just didn’t understand about telepathy, at all. Then there was a French company, and they were talking about Antonioni to do it — which really excited me, except that the money was too low and they just seemed like they didn’t know what the hell they were doing. And there were a bunch of independents who wanted it off and on. This went on for about four years. Finally, one day I get a call from this dude, says: “Hi, there. My name is L. Q. Jones.” I recognized the name because I’m a movie buff and he was always the crazed redneck in some movie or other. He said: “You’ve got this story, ‘A Boy and His Dog,’ and I’d like to talk to you about doing it.”
LQ: We had just finished THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, and were looking for another. Normally, when I’m trying to find a property I’ll read twenty-five, thirty, forty scripts a week, if I can get them. But I couldn’t find anything that I liked. Of course, when you don’t have all the money in the world, that precludes, in a lot of cases, doing the thing you want. One day, my cameraman, Johnny Morrill, brought in “A Boy and His Dog” and gave it to Sheila, the secretary, and said: “I think L.Q. might like this. Have him read it. “I read it and I loved it. It was one of those things that by the time I was halfway through, I was holding my breath, because I knew the ass was going to fall off of it, it was too good. But it didn’t. Right down to the last stroke, it was right. But then I began to have negative feelings about it, because I was envisioning it as an X picture, and I didn’t want to do an X picture. “You don’t realize how dumb you are,” my secretary told me. She had read it before handing it over to me. “Go back and read it again,” she said. “It’s a love story, but a true love story having nothing to do with sex.” With that in mind, I read it again, and she was dead right. So we called Harlan.
HE: And I said: “Well, I’m not really interested in selling it, I’ll be very honest.” By that time I was sick and tired of going to moron meetings and being jerked around by a bunch of clowns. And he says: “Well, come on down. I’ll buy you lunch.” As it turned out, I bought the goddamned lunch. That was my first meeting with L.Q. and Alvy. And I liked them immediately. I mean, really, they are so crazed and they are so unlike people in the industry. See, I’ve been out here since ’62, and I’ve done real well, I make a lot of bread. But there are people I won’t work for. I mean, there’s not enough money in the universe that they could offer to get me to work for them because they fucked me over, they lied to me, or they butchered something I wrote. And so I avoid, pretty much, the whole industry. I don’t hang out with producers and I don’t go to clubs, and do that number. And these guys were just like that. But I wasn’t about to give them any damned movie until L.Q. said: “Well, come on, we’ll show you one of our films.” And he showed me COME IN, CHILDREN which came out as THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN. I was really impressed by the film. Some amazingly interesting stuff. It opens with a kid’s wind-up toy tank going across the grass and over a bunch of cars, and it turns into a real tank crushing real cars. It has nothing to do with the picture, but it’s a staggering image! And there was just a load of really good stuff in it. And they said, we want you to do the script, and I asked L.Q.: “How do you plan on doing the dog?” And he said, “We’re just going to do it with a voice-over.” And I smiled. I could have hugged him, because of course that’s the way you do it. And I knew that even if they didn’t bring it off, at least they would try it the right way.
LQ: And so we made the deal. Harlan was to write it, and he said he could write it in three weeks because it was his favorite story and he’d written it a hundred times in his head. I was going to be gone for three weeks on a picture, so I figured after about ten days I’d have half the script sent to me and I could read it while I was working on the other film. When I didn’t get anything after about two weeks, I called Alvy and asked him why he wasn’t sending me the script, and he said he wasn’t sending it to me because it didn’t exist. When I got back, Harlan still didn’t have an inch written. Three months later we still hadn’t gotten any script. Four months- same thing. Finally, I called him up, and I said: ‘I’ve got the ultimate threat, Harlan, if you don’t do the fucking script, I’m going to write it!” Well, that spurred him into unbelievable action, and I’II bet it wasn’t three days and he showed up with eighteen pages. And then we waited around another two months or so. Finally, I wrote the script. Whipped it out in only a year.
HE: I had been writing for something like 15 years without a vacation. I’d never had a day off, and I’d written every day of that fifteen years. And what I did not know was that I was just coming to a point where the machine was starting to freeze up. It was going to seize up on me, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I started to write the script, and I got about fourteen pages into it, and I couldn’t get any further. I couldn’t write another word. I couldn’t write anything! I was going crazy. It’s a terrifying thing, man. I write, that’s what I do. No matter what I’m doing, getting laid, going to a movie, having dinner. I know that where I should be is behind that typewriter. It’s a terrible cross, man. It’s like being doomed. If you go away on vacation, you can take off and go. I can’t go without a typewriter. I carry a portable with me everywhere I go. And to one day realize that you can’t write is really crushing. I love writing. It’s hard, there’s nothing easy about it. You know, that self-indulgent thing: “It’s a lonely, proud life to be a writer,” it’s true: it really is. You’re there absolutely all by yourself in front of a machine, and you’re locked inside your own head. And after a while, the people you’re writing about start to be more real to you than the people you hang out with: and the people that you meet are always so much shallower and less interesting than the people you’ve dreamed up: and you say, “What do I want to hang out with these people for when I can go back and be with those?” It’s a very strange life to be a writer or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m weird.
Well, you know, L.Q. has a budget operation. Mine was the only project he was working on, and I was running the poor son of a bitch into the poorhouse, because all of the money that should have been going into getting the production started he was wasting, waiting for me to get off my ass. And I messed him around for almost six or eight months. Which was terrible! And I kept telling him: “I’m doing it, I’m doing it,” lied left and right. And I was getting more and more frantic because I didn’t know what was happening. Finally, when I was able to admit to myself that I just could not write for a while, everything started to ease up. But it took me almost a year to get back to writing. It was the only block I’ve ever had, the only period in twenty years of writing when I couldn’t do any work. Well, L.Q. went ahead and did the script. You can imagine my horror. But he did a good script. He took it literally and directly right out of the book. The dialog is the same, almost virtually line for line; and the situations are the same, altered only in the respect that certain things were too expensive to film. And the ways in which he altered them are staggeringly, incredibly intelligent I mean, they really were. He’s a consummate filmmaker.
LQ: I love to write, but God, it’s brutal. If I wasn’t doing a picture or something else, I’d start working at 10 o’clock in the morning and I’d finish the next morning at 2 or 3 o’clock. Just hanging over a typewriter and banging it out. I rewrote the entire script maybe thirty-five or forty times; and I read his story maybe twenty five times a day. Even now, if I’ve got forty-five minutes, I’ll pull it off the shelf and read it again. To begin with, it’s a fascinating story, and gorgeously written, not a wasted word in it. And I find that each time I read it again, there’s one word which I’ve missed in context and it’ll shed light on what he tried to say about the other things. The picture is a picture of sensation.
What’s it like to be really dirty? What’s it like to be really lonely? You’ve got to learn to hate, and you’ve got to learn to love a little bit, and you’ve got to learn to fight all this is built into it. It’s the way he wrote it. Harlan writes more visually than he does with words. So what I was trying to do was find out what he meant, or what he saw, and then translate it into something. That’s why it took me a year to write it. I’d like to go back and work another year on it. The story is really brilliant. I wish I could say it was mine. But there are a number of things I found dead wrong in the book. His whole down under is wrong. And Harlan will now admit it to a few people, not many. He’ll even admit it to me every now and then. Now, mine could have been better, but I’m closer to the truth than he is. For example, there’s no way they’re going to bring Vic down under, with the lack of regard they have for him, and put him in with their girls. It’d be like taking the Methodist preacher’s daughter and putting her in a cage with an ape. It’s the same thing, Vic’s an animal. So they’re not going to allow that. The second thing is the green metal robot sentry, which of course, in the film, is Michael. Here are people who are agrarian. They would not tolerate a machine that was superior to them that looked like a machine. Small thing, but I think they would not allow it. Third, he tells me in the book that a boy who has barely managed to stay alive and free, and who gets laid once every six months, is put in the midst of all these females and all this food, and at the end of a week, he’s bored? You might tell me he’s wrung out, but you’re not going to tell me he’s bored. But that’s what he put forth in his story and I didn’t believe that. The big, big flaw in it, besides the thing about putting him in with the girls is… do you realize that once he goes below, he never thinks of Blood once? Now, that’s dead wrong. No matter what. Because it is a love story, even from Harlan’s point of view. You do not ignore that goddamned dog and that’s what he did, because he is never mentioned down below. Nor referred to. And that’s wrong. Then I thought it was wrong the way he had people chasing them. That society wouldn’t do that. They didn’t care. You know, “Let Michael take care of them, or let the green metal box take care of them we don’t do it! “I changed those things just slightly, and Harlan tends to agree and disagree.
Though early treatments of Jones’ screenplay retained the bombed out urban locale of Ellison’s novella, a switch was made as production options jelled. With limited funds at their disposal, LQ/Jaf was in no position to construct such a setting. Pacific Ocean Park, a condemned amusement park in the process of being torn down, captured something of the feeling they sought, with the only other prospect being some urban ruins in Yugoslavia, unrestored since World War II. However, in poring over research theses and reports on atomic warfare, Jones came across theoretical indications that a massive and simultaneous discharge of nuclear firepower could literally halt the rotation of the earth on its axis for a fraction of a second, but long enough for momentum to sweep the oceans of the planet over the great land masses, engulfing everything in mountains of mud. Jones decided to pursue this option and as scripted, the bulk of the film takes place over the post-holocaust remains of Phoenix, Arizona. Art director Ray Boyle designed a section of old Phoenix as it would appear from the surface if buried under twenty feet of mud. Then he and Alvy Moore drove out to a dry lake bed twenty miles outside Barstow, California, and staked out the streets and locations for the buildings.
Every board, nail, tool, and drop of water had to be brought in by truck, and a fleet of heavy construction equipment was assembled from around Southern California. One hundred and sixty three holes, ranging from ten to fifty feet across, were gouged into the lake bed. More than forty million pounds of earth were moved. Parts of houses and other buildings were built, covered with dirt, and flooded: then covered again, and re-flooded. A condemned hospital was dismantled and its lumber foundation, roofs, floors, and hardware were used. House trailers were ripped apart and fitted into the city underground. Automobiles were driven or towed in, then buried. Tops of telephone poles and television antennae were wrestled into the ground. Neon signs, furniture and appliances, statues, traffic lights, tree trunks, benches, and thousands of other items were trucked in and strategically positioned. Above ground, six hundred tires were used to construct a Spartan dwelling of the future. An open air theatre, providing personal services of all kinds, was completely encircled by a ten-foot mound of junk 480 feet long. In all, four and a half square miles of the lake bed were covered with sets.
Authorities at a nearby Army base gave the company access to their gymnasium to film the gun battle between Vic and Blood and a rover pack set upon abducting Quilla June. To make it appear as though the facility had been converted to an emergency hospital during the brief world war, three hundred bunk beds and two hundred mat – tresses were hauled in, and medical records from the condemned hospital were strewn about. Five tons of mud and several gallons of spider web material completed the setting. Two weeks later, not a trace remained, and GIs were once again playing basketball on the courts.
LQ: We literally had to lease the land for mining: then some government people showed up. and said: “What are you doing?” We told them we were making a picture, and they said: “You can’t do that. You leased it for mining, and you’ve got to dig holes.” So we said: “Look at all the holes!” But every time we saw a plume of dust coming twenty miles away. we were a little bit worried that they were coming to shut us down.
Then we had some difficulties with our director a director whom I respect very much, and who’s very big in television, and reasonably so in pictures. And yet, we got down to a few weeks, and he had a weak fluttering of the heart. He and I, we had a little caravan of three or four cars were running around looking at locations. And he says: “I’ve got to talk to you.” Okay. We stopped, right in the middle of this dumb camp in the desert, and we got out of the car and walked over thirty-five or forty feet, and he stood there and shuffled his feet for a few minutes and looked down at the ground, and said: ‘I have an overpowering sense of doom” that was his opening line. Something about it just scared him to death. Probably a combination of everything, not all the money in the world; trying to work on an hellacious set… He just didn’t believe it could be pulled together. Now, from there, I can’t go very many places. So I said: “I think what you’d better do is go gome and get a hold of yourself. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” After he left. Alvy and I conversed. and I said: “I don’t think we have much choice we’re going to have to replace him. With that attitude, I don’t want him to be a burden to the picture.” Any my three crew chiefs came by, one at a time and none of the three knew the others were coming to see me and each one of them said: “We will not do the picture if he is to be the director. The only way we’ll do it is if you’ll direct it. ” Which was quite a vote of confidence for me. And at that stage of the game, I said: “Well, I don’t really have any choice. I can’t bring another director in, because it would take too long to try and have him understand what we’re trying to do.” So there I was. But I’m kind of tickled that it worked out the way it did, because I’m glad I got to direct it I never would have otherwise. And I know I’d have chewed my heart out, standing back figuring out how I would have done a shot. But his experience would have been very valuable and very welcomed, because my inexperience hurt us. I was not that good at writing scripts, and I left things in that I did not need and would not use, but couldn’t recognize at any given moment. So, I wasted time and money, unfortunately.
More than five hundred young actors and actresses had been screened for the lead roles before Don Johnson and Susanne Benton were selected to play Vic and Quilla June. Jason Robards was signed to portray Lew, the most prominent of the three Committee chieftains. Alvy Moore had to fight for his part, since Jones, who recalled having to read for his part in THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, insisted he did not have Moore in mind for the role of his namesake, Doctor Moore. Selection of the Committee triumvirate was completed with Helene Winston as Mez. Providing admirable support at least when he wasn’t busy stealing scenes was a shaggy veteran of THE BRADY BUNCH television series, named Tiger.
James Cagney’s voice was considered as the voice of Blood, but was dropped because it would have been too recognizable and prove to be a distraction. Eventually, after going through approximately six hundred auditions, they settled on Tim McIntire, a veteran voice actor.
LQ: I was expecting to look at every dog in town. Now, how many that would be, I don’t know, but it’s got to be two or three hundred. And the second dog they brought in was Tiger. And it was one of those funny things. Tiger didn’t come in like the rest of the dogs and sit on the floor. He came in and jumped up on the chair and sat down. I took Alvy and Tiger in the other office, and I put two of the chairs side by side and we went through the theatre scene. And when it came time for him to say, “There’s a female in here.” he turned and put his muzzle right in Alvy’s ear. Then it was just a question of signing the papers, because there was no doubt that he was the animal for the part. Joe Hornak, his trainer, worked with him, I guess off and on, about six months maybe longer. He had the script that we had then and he had the book. Then, about three weeks before we started shooting, we took Tiger, Don Johnson, and Joe, and went out to Magnolia Park, and they spent like four or five hours every day –and Joe transferred the commands to the boy. You can almost always spot a movie dog. because he’s looking for his handler, but by the time we did the picture, Tiger was taking his commands from Don rather than from the handler. And that’s tough to do.
When I start talking about the dog, the superlatives just come I can’t stop. To me, it is the finest performance ever put on film by an animal just one of those little bits of magic that worked. With one dog. What if he steps on a nail? Or what if he gets sick? That’s the only animal we had, and he did it all. And it would be difficult to match him. For one thing, he’s got two different color eyes. And he walks funny. To me, he walks like Jimmy Stewart talks in groups. He had distemper when he was a pup and almost died, and it did something to his bone structure, so he walks with a funny gait. The dog was treated with unbelievable respect. It got to the point where everything on the set revolved around the dog. We had to set up a very special schedule for him, and he had to be handled a certain way. Otherwise, like any person with a short attention span, he’d begin to wander. So, we’d do all our work first, and then bring him in right at the last, and we’d just turn it over to Joe, and he’d work with him, and when Tiger was ready, we’d start shooting. It didn’t take him very long to understand what you wanted. And he’d do it time and time again. In fact, it got to the point where I accused Joe of reading the script to the dog at night and having him understand it. It was really phenomenal. After a couple of days, I completely forget he was an animal. And when I was on the set, I’d say: “Now, Don, on that walkthrough you’re taking, it’s about ten percent too slow – you’ve got to pick it up. Tiger, you stay a little bit to his left, and don’t lag too far behind.” And nobody’s laughing. You can’t train a dog to do what he did. He began to feel what was going on in any given scene. Look at the farewell scene outside the drop shaft. There’s no way in the world you could teach that dog to do what he did. The look in his face I swear he’s crying. I’ll sit here and take an oath the damned dog’s crying. And you just can’t do that with an animal. So, somewhere along the line, he felt what was going on, and he did it.
We must have recorded seven hundred people for the voice of the dog. We recorded people who make in excess of a million dollars a year with their voices. One guy did forty or fifty some odd voices for us. We did them like John Wayne: we had them doing it like Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. We tried everything in the world. I was looking for a quality. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get there. I wanted a touch of the professor in him; I wanted a touch of the father in him: I wanted a touch of the scientist in him. It finally came down to the time when we just had to choose a voice, and it turned out the one I liked most was Tim McIntire. I had met him once. We did a KUNG FU together. And really, he is an unbelievably talented man. He writes fantastic music, is a good actor, and a great person all around. Of course, I didn’t know that when I first worked with him, since all I had to do was shoot him in the back. So Tim came in, and we worked through God knows how many voices trying to get the right one that had everything we wanted in it. When we finally decided, he and I sat down at the Moviola and went over it and over it and over it and over it, we rewrote all the stuff for the dog, because I wanted to play off the expressions and situations to bring it up to date. And boy, that’s brutal. If you’re really good at it, really experienced, I’m sure it would be a little easier, but for us it was like pulling teeth.
How did you cast Don Johnson?
LQ: I thought it would take forever to find the dog, but I found the dog quickly. But for the boy, we did over 600 tests with men for the part, before we found Don. It was a tough role—as an actor you don’t want to get into a scene with a child or a dog. He had to act with a dog that talked that was smarter than him. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s the best thing he ever did and he ever will do.
How old was Don Johnson in the movie?
LQ: At that point in time — he looks like, does he not, 17, 18? — he was twenty-seven, I think. He’s one of those people that looks very young. It’s the best thing Don has ever done. And I’ve told him that.
What was his career like before A Boy and His Dog?
LQ: He did three big pictures, each one of them worse than the previous one. People probably don’t know it, but he had tried to do six or seven pilots that he couldn’t get. After he started doing A Boy and His Dog, he got eleven pilot offers. And the only good one was Miami Vice. So it got him Miami Vice; the dog was responsible for it. And Don’s smart enough to know that. He wouldn’t tell it to you or anybody else but me, and I’m not even sure he’d tell it to me, but the dog forced him to be a hell of an actor.
How did casting Tiger the dog as Blood affect Don Johnson’s performance?
LQ: Don did a marvelous job. I mean, folks, don’t work against kids, don’t work against animals, and sure as hell don’t work against a talking dog. But that’s what he did, and he did a marvelous job. But Don was full of Don. That’s fine. We got along fine the first couple of days. And then we were working at the boiler room, and Don decided that he was going to direct the scene. And I said, “Hey, that’s fine. And we’re really gonna miss ya, Don. Because I’m gonna put your ass on the bus, and I’ll finish the picture.” He knew I meant exactly what I said. And after that, he made a bunch of suggestions, which you want people to do. But whatever I said, went. I tell this, and nobody believes it, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. We’re doing the scene where the dog is chasing the boy across the desert. The boy is going down under, and the dog is chasing after him, and he’s limping. Well, limping is no trick. All you do is put a little blood on his foot, and put a rubber band on it. And every time he steps down, the band pinches, so he limps. You don’t have to teach him anything. We did the scene the first time, and I said, “Cut,” and I went over and I said, “Listen, this is just not right. Let’s do it again. Don, pick it up a little bit. A little bit. Don’t give me the actor’s revenge and run in, but pick it up a little bit. Tiger, God damn it, you’re on the wrong side of the boy.” I’m not talking to the dog. The trainer is seated over 50 feet away reading a magazine. My crew is not laughing. This is like the second week. They’re used to this. I’m saying, “Get over on this side. That way, I can see you. Now, let’s try it again.” Watch the picture. He is on the camera side of Don when he is chasing him. When he finally gets the kid to stop, his nose is even with Don’s leg. They stop. I started to stop the camera, but the dog moved ahead towards the drop shaft. He didn’t know where the drop shaft was, but he limped forward about six feet, turned around, sat down, faced the boy, did his dialogue, looked over his correct right shoulder at where he was going, moved back to the boy, and finally at the end put his head in the boy’s lap. Now, that is about seven sequential tricks. You cannot teach an animal to do sequential tricks. Maybe you can teach him two. Seven or eight? Well, as a matter of fact, Jason Robards did his stuff, and asked me what I thought. I said, “Jason, if you can just hit your marks and say your lines like Tiger, I’ll make a star out of you.” He understood exactly what I meant. The dog was brilliant. Joe Hornok was the man who trained him, and I suggested to him that he was reading the script to him at night and telling him what to do. The dog was marvelous. For instance, if you watch him, he doesn’t wag his tail. He does for balance. They have to. But the first day, we had a device, and we didn’t want him wagging his tail. Makes you think of him as a dog, so we put this device on him. The second day, we forgot it, and we didn’t have it. We had to shoot, and we realized he didn’t wag his tail. He realized that’s what we wanted. That’s what he did. The scene at the drop shaft, the damn dog sat there and cried. I mean, you could see tears coming out of his eyes. I can blow stuff in his eyes and make him cry, but we didn’t do it. The dog truly was brilliant. He was so good, that here in town there was a movement afoot to nominate him for an Oscar. Not the Patsy, which he won, but an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in a motion picture. The dog was brilliant. I think he was on The Brady Bunch before he did A Boy and his Dog. I tried to buy him when the thing was over. They wouldn’t sell him. And I said, “He won’t be competition. I’ll just use him if I’m gonna make another Boy. Other than that, he’s retired.” They wouldn’t sell him to me. People didn’t realize he’d had distemper, which will 99% of the time kill a dog or kill a horse. It’s a form of pneumonia I believe, and they very seldom get over it. They’d found him. He was in a dog pound. Nursed him back to health, and off he went. So he was not healthy, but he was as healthy as he ever was before he got sick. But he was marvelous. When you work with an animal like a dog that you can train, the dog is always looking for the trainer. It looks like he’s looking at the person who’s talking, but if you’ll notice, he’s looking slightly to one side or the other. He’s looking at his trainer, because his trainer’s giving him hand signals.
For a fight with another dog, we waited until the very last day, because I was petrified that something was gonna happen to him. Both of them had muzzles on, and they were good friends. So I’m asking Joe, “What do we do?” He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just get ready.” And I said, “I don’t want him hurt.” He said, “No way he’s gonna get hurt. If he gets hurt, you can hurt me. But he’s not gonna get hurt. But be ready.” All he did was take one plate, put food on it, put it in front of Tiger. He starts to eat it, and Joe took it away, and put it in front of the other dog — and the shit hit the fan. They were really out to kill each other, and they were friends. But nothing phony about the fight. I was afraid something was gonna happen. We had trimmed their nails. They couldn’t open their mouth to bite, but you don’t see it. We’ve got it well-hidden. Both of them did a marvelous job, but I thought we were gonna have two dead dogs. So, hell, they did it better than humans do it.
For a small, independent film, you were able to get Jason Robards, who was a big star at the time. I mean, he did All The President’s Men soon after this.
LQ: At the time we made A Boy and His Dog, Jason was maybe the best actor in our business. He wasn’t the biggest star, but he was perhaps the best actor. The truth is, Robert Ryan was going to do A Boy and His Dog. We had done Men In War and The Wild Bunch together. He wanted to do it, and I would have been tickled to death if he had. But Bob came down with cancer and he could not do it. So I talked to Jason and he said send it to me. He was not money driven at all, he was interested in doing good work. He read it and said, ‘When do we start?’
Given his animal nature, do you think Vic care more about sex than he does food?
LQ: Good heavens, yes. I mean, no doubt about it. He’s always eating, or else getting enough food, because he’s there and he’s alive. Well, it’s because of Blood that he’s finding the food. But female companionship, which to him doesn’t exist he uses a female strictly for sex. I mean, what we have to understand about Vic, he’s not very smart. You listen to Blood talk with him, and you realize Blood is trying to teach him to grow up a little bit. Now, he’s not having too much success, but that’s what he’s doing. As a matter of fact, a couple of times through the picture, the boy is saying in effect, “Leave me alone, for chrissakes! I can read ‘beets’ on the can.” He couldn’t, but neither could the guy he gave it to. Vic is an animal. Let’s put it down where it really belongs. He is an animal. The only intelligent being in the whole picture that he’s in contact with is Blood. Blood teaches him to think, teaches him to talk, teaches him history, teaches him to spell. The whole thing. Blood’s trying to bring him around. He’s dealing with, in effect, a not-very-intelligent high school student. Why would he be anything else? He knows nothing else. So misogyny to you or me, doesn’t mean a damn thing to him. He wants to get laid. The dog says, “I’m hungry.” So there’s the trade-off. “Find me a broad, and I’ll get some food.” Everybody gets what they want. And again, we’re nearly down to that anyway now. I’m trying to get people to understand a little bit that, “Folks, if you don’t get your head out of your ass, this is exactly what’s going to be happening.” And that’s a fact of life. If all of us continue to be uneducated and greedy, that’s where we’re gonna end up. And you’re not gonna have a Blood, probably, to make things any easier or funnier, surely. So the picture is full of that message. Again, I found a long time ago that you can’t get an audience’s attention by talking to them. You have to first entertain them. And then, if you can slip it by them, you’re OK. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but that’s the way it is.
“I was lucky to work with two of the finest. Jason Robards, to me, the best actor. I directed him in A Boy and His Dog. He did not miss one trick. – L. Q. Jones “
I took a chance, and I almost went too far, but I don’t explain anything. A lot of people say, “I have trouble understanding it.” Of course you do. Because I’m giving you something in a context you have never seen before. There’s no sheriff. There are no patrol cars. There are no grocery stores. You can’t pick up a telephone. So everything you see is, in effect, brand new. George Miller was the guy who directed Mad Max. I didn’t like it that much, but I liked the next one better, The Road Warrior. But they asked him, “How did you come up with the idea for The Road Warrior?” And he said, “It’s very simple. I just picked up A Boy and his Dog, and went commercial.” I mean, he didn’t hesitate a second. I haven’t gotten the chance to talk with him, but I will one of these days. But he was right and I’m wrong. That’s what he did. Now, consider this. Can you think of a story that’s better fitted for sex and violence than A Boy and his Dog? The original that Harlan did, that’s all it is: sex and violence. But I said, “I want to go at it another way.” And I figured the best way to get there is humor, so that’s the way I went. Well, Miller didn’t have this constraint with The Road Warrior. I probably cost myself 20 or 30 million dollars by going the way that I went. But I said, “I don’t care. This is what I’m spending five years doing. I’m gonna do it the way I want it.”
PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY & LOCATIONS
Convinced A BOY AND HIS DOG was an unmarketable title, Jones settled upon ROVER BLOOD, and it was under that title that the film went before the cameras for twenty-seven days in April and May 1973.
The opening scenes of nuclear explosions weren’t in the original film but were instead added in 1982 in an effort to clarify the film’s post apocalyptic setting. The film itself was mostly shot outside Barstow, CA. near Coyote Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.
Though dismal and depressing, the topside sequences are more finely drawn and visually interesting than their down under counterparts. But it is in the down under sequences that Ellison and Jones insert their strongest barbs. For here is a vision of conservative middle America exaggerated, but not sufficiently far removed from reality so as to appear totally alien. Topeka is an artificial world with artificial people. All actions transpire in an emotional vacuum: all words, however strong. are passionless. With totalitarian unforgivingness, the Committee, pledged with preserving the status quo at all cost, blithely sends offenders to “the farm” an amusingly euphemistic term for execution, considering the agrarian nature of the society. But life goes on in its sugary sweet fashion in Topeka, as ever present loudspeakers bleat out never-ending bits of folksy news, household hints, prize recipes, and other “helpful hints for living from the Committee’s Almanac.” For nothing is ever really unpleasant in Topeka.
How did you go about choosing the locations and sets for the film?
LQ: We had spent so much time and so much money, we had to find what we considered the right place. How many trees did you see in the picture above ground? Zero. How many blades of grass did you see? None. So this is what I wanted, because I sat down and tried to figure out there’d been a number of pictures made about that subject, and what do you do? On the Beach was a huge one MGM did. I didn’t have their kind of money for goodness sakes, so I sat for quite literally months trying to figure out how do you shoot it. What do you do to make the picture different? And finally, after months and I would go over that probably 10 times a day, every day trying to figure out what you do it occurred to me. So to check, I went to UCLA and SC to the scientific department. I said, “If these things happened, if World War III occurs and we trigger hundreds of devices, X number of them are going to go off at exactly the same time, probably. That being the case, what’s gonna happen?” He said, “We don’t know, of course, but the balance of opinion is that there could be a stutter in the movement of the Earth. It might be one-thousandth, one-millionth of a second. But there could be one if it all occurs at the same time.” That being the case, what’s gonna happen? All of the water on the planet starts to move. It’s lost the arrest. Once it starts, it’s going to go inland just as far as it needs to. And when it retreats, what’s gonna be left? A mess and mud mud being the operating phrase. So if it is now X number of years later, the mud has dried. Therefore, I have desert. So I went to a place where it had at one time been a huge lake, and we used that.
What was the inspiration for the film’s below-ground Topeka, Kansas society?
LQ: That was part of Harlan’s theory. We diverged, but he saw that sort of an operation bucolic, but people who were tired of the world being run the way it was run, and taking it unto themselves. And most of them that had done that were farmers, so he figured they would come up that way. So all I did was show it in the way they talked, and the way you could hear them reason. My robot was like the one in The Day the Earth Stood Still: totally powerful, nothing you can do, unless you find the way to get him of course. Harlan’s was called the “Green Metal Motherfucker.” Mine was called “Michael”, because I didn’t want to come out with the other in a theater. But we’re working from the same theory. When I travel with the picture over, good heavens, hundreds of thousands of miles I guess, I go around to colleges. Because it’s one of the most-shown, most-taught pictures. They invite me, and I go around and talk while I’m out with the picture. So I ask people, “Where would you rather live? Above ground or below ground?” And I know pretty much what you’re like when you tell me what frightens you the most, or what you find the most repulsive. I myself, I’d rather be dead than live down in Topeka. But that’s my division. You may come at it another way. But I know generally what you feel when you tell me where you would prefer to live. You want to be controlled — cared for, of course, but controlled — or do you want to do it yourself? That’s your division. I don’t know whether Harlan intended it that way, but that’s the way I saw it.
Some things will even happen by accident. We were shooting the big downunder scene in a park in Ventura. We had three hundred and some odd extras–the band, all the picknikers and we started making them up at four o’clock in the afternoon. The makeup was very slow to put on, and some people have said they don’t like it, but one scientific fact that everyone will agree to is that if you live underground, away from the sun, you will lose color. So, I said: “Okay, what’s going to happen?” They can either stay white, or they could build sunlamps and everybody would be berry brown. But I didn’t like that. So, what if neither of these took place? What would happen?
Well, the first year they’d probably stay about the way they were; the second year, because they were losing color, they would add a bit of color; and the third year, they’d add a bit more. So, as the years passed, because they were a society where everybody wanted to look alike and everybody wanted to smile, the makeup just sort of evolved and became the thing to do. Anyway, it was eleven o’clock before we had everybody madeup. It was our last night, and the reason the chase is so beautifully misty is because the fog was setting in, and it was nearly daybreak. The sun was coming up, and we had to shoot that mother because we didn’t have any choice. And it came out as the prettiest shot in the whole picture. I would love to say I planned it that way, but it was just one of those things. It really is just candy cane sweet and the perfect Never-Never Land feeling. I had hoped people would ask, somewhere along the line: “Is downunder really supposed to be happening? Are those people real? The whole thing is it a dream? And something about the fog said it for me. I realize at times the downunder sequence bogs down. But it was not an accident. I bogged it down on purpose, hoping to be able to get it back on its feet. I wanted to project boredom, but not bore the audience. Everything downunder is abnormally slow. The only things down below that move with any rapidity are the band, Vic and Quilla June. Everybody moves in a very slow strolling pace. Even the kids stumbling over each other trying to get away move slowly. Nobody listens to anybody else. They hear, more or less, but they use it only as a frame of reference to start their next sentence. And that gave our actors some trouble, at first, because it’s a weird way to play things and they weren’t quite comfortable with it. Even Jason couldn’t quite get his pieces together, and Jason is, to me, the finest technician in the business today. So, even with rehearsing, it took us an hour or so the first night, but once they understood how we wanted it to fit into the whole fabric, then he and Alvy and Helene worked like an unbelievable team.
I should have taken Blood down below. The picture would not have sagged had that happened. It might have suffered in other ways, but it would not have sagged. See, we did what they say you cannot do, and that is, you cannot change a story right in the middle. Well, this is not in the middle, but even worse, it’s toward the end-the last third of it. And look at what we do. There are only two constant characters—the boy and the girl. Everything else is changed, even the locations. And that’s one of the reasons we suffer. If I’d had more experience, maybe I could have made the transition better.
The novella’s description of Topeka seems wistful—
Yes, exactly! Whereas the film brings the satire to the surface, and is much harsher about Topeka. L.Q. Jones says he was making the movie you meant when you wrote the novella. Did he capture your intent there?
HE: The Down Under in “A Boy And His Dog” the novella, it’s the Midwest I grew up in. I was born in Ohio and ran away when I was 13, and spent a lot of time working farms, and working in small towns, and riding the rails. Learning the street when it really was a street and the farms, the country. It was a reflection of the 1950s, and that hidebound America we had to live in. Where Playboy was a great scandal, and the sight of a woman’s nipple was considered wildly captivating and salacious. So the people down below were kind of salt-of-the-earth, common-clay people that I had known and lived beside through most of my younger life. When L.Q. did it, he went a little further and did something very clever, I think. He’s got the people wearing that strange makeup. I thought, “Well, that’s very clever,” because if you were to go back to the equivalent culture, you’ll see the court of Louis XIV, men and women were all wearing powder and rouge and flounces and ruffles. I thought, “Well, yeah. Every culture has its own fads.” Today, people dye their hair green and have rings in their noses, and tattoos. L.Q. decided to give them their own particular outstanding cultural fad. Could have been hula hoops. But I think that was very clever of him. Very foresightful.
I think the downunder section is much weaker than the above-ground stuff. I don’t chalk that up to an inadequacy on L.Q. ‘s part, or the film’s part. It’s my fault. Because I was being dishonest when I wrote that section of the story. I didn’t really create a downunder section that was realistic. I did a kind of papier-mâché Disneyland, because I wanted to poke fun at the middle class and you know, all of Agnew’s people. When I started writing the story, I had no idea what I was going to write. None whatsoever. The plot just sort of evolved it’s really an organic story which maybe is why the downunder part doesn’t hang together as well as the other because I changed my tune in the middle. As the story progressed, it became, in the downunder sections, a vehicle for my fury at the common man during that whole period of repression of Agnew and Mitchell and Nixon which really just about drove me crazy. I mean, I could not believe what was happening to this country. I would stand in the middle of the room and scream- just primal therapy. If I were doing the story over again, now, I would probably rewrite the downunder section completely. But L.Q. was saddled with that. When he came to write the script, here was this whole chunk that fell apart like tissue paper. I think, for what I gave him in that section, he turned it into some very solid material. And I have enormous respect for him, because L.Q. and I, at that point in time, did not have the same political viewpoints I mean, we were diametrically opposed. But even so, in the downunder sections of the movie, which is where I got my rocks off about that kind of thing, he maintained the same attitude. And I think that was a great gesture of respect for my work. The writer of the original material can ask for nothing more than that.
LQ: After we got the picture shot , Harlan tried to come in and write Blood for me. But his Blood would not fit with my Blood. Harlan’s concept of Blood, and mine, were entirely different and yet, exactly the same. And Harlan wanted to do the voice of the dog. He rehearsed and wrote lines, and we went over it time and time again. But he was so far into Blood that Blood had to be a certain way for him. I figured that there’s only one person in that picture you’re going to like there’s only one norm in the entire picture-and that’s Blood. And for that dog to be smart-mouthed, he’ll turn you off very quickly. So, I very consciously built the dog to be liked. Blood in the story is much more bitter than he is in the picture. The only line which Harlan wrote that I did not take out of the book was when the dog says: “Let the seven dwarfs have Snow White, and we can get out of here with all our parts.” That’s obviously a Harlan Ellison line. But otherwise, he couldn’t write the dog, because he was too bitter and too smart-mouthed with him, and it didn’t fit.
In the book, Harlan went to very great lengths to explain why the dog talks. And you know what a disaster it would be if the dog talking bothered you. But I say that’s wrong, because as soon as I tell the audience. “Now, the reason the dog talks is…,” I’m really saying to you: “You will not believe it, and so I’m going to shore up my argument.” So I say: “Pass the dog talks. “Like every picture, it’s a compromise between just gut out gambles and trying to hedge your bet. And we hedged our bet in a few places.
Look at our opening scene. The normal approach to the thing would be, the first time the dog talks you go to a tight close up and you really punch it, so they know the dog’s talking. But look how we did it we’re on a wide shot. And some of the reactions are very funny. A lot of people think Vic and Blood are under observation by another unseen life force and you’re hearing discussions by them. Others think it may be somebody off camera and you just haven’t seen him yet. A lot of people think the boy is talking to himself. And it is only when you get to that final part, when Vic says: “I can’t see a thing in there. Smell it !”” and you cut to the dog, and he says: “I thought you were doing all the scouting today.” The voice is different, and they finally realize what I’m saying the dog is talking. And by that time. we’re off and running.
LQ: Our first picture, a small independent distributor handled: the second, one of the biggest independent distributors: the third, one of the big majors. So, we’ve seen what’s involved with all of them. This one we’re doing ourselves. This picture needs very special attention. Now, I don’t think it’s a small picture, but by every definition of commercialism, it is a small picture-there is no name star or director: it doesn’t have big studio backing: and it’s not from a big book. Small picture. So, we’re very carefully hand-picking our situations, and tailoring our advertising campaign-we’re trying all our pieces to see how they fit together. Normally, a major won’t do this. And I’m not about to work four and a half years and that’s what I spent on this picture and then turn it over to some ding-dong who doesn’t care because it’s not a $22 million picture. What I was most petrified about, really, was the fear of not having a style. But I really surprised myself, because the style is there. And it’s my style, my way of saying things. I also found that I was visually stronger than I thought I could be. I can perfect it a hell of a lot — pacing should be better; selection of shots could be better; also, manipulation of actors, and the ability to recognize a dead spot in the script. I guess the only place you learn these things is in the cutting room. That’s where all the chickens come home to roost. And the only thing that saves you, when you’re like myself, is the flexibility of the film. It’s like writing music. There’s a beat that you establish. And you can do it right in there at the Moviola. That’s where you’re really brought to your knees a couple times a day.
Our picture’s changed a lot since we shot it. The first assemblage was petrifying to look at. It didn’t work at all. Alvy turned pea green after he saw it. And rightly so. Because we knew where we wanted to go with it, and thought we knew how to get there, but you’ve got to look at what you have, first. We tried slides at first to do certain things. We tried a different kind of pacing. We had whole sequences which, except in little bitty pieces, didn’t make it in. One sequence we had to cut was where Vic and Blood are huddled together in the rain, bitching at each other, and the dog’s explaining why he treats Vic like he does. And, of course, it’s a putdown. That’s where we brought out the thing about why Blood calls him Albert. It’s unfortunate that allusions to Albert Payson Terhune had to go. I really wish I could have worked it in, because it’s a dear point to the story—and that’s the thing that Harlan misses the most. But it was one of those things where I just couldn’t get it cut in. Sometimes, if pieces are left out, it can help a picture, because you get so attentive to detail, explaining everything that you really don’t have to explain at all.
By the end of the film, Blood the dog is the most heroic character — but is he your film’s hero?
LQ: The hero in this particular case, which we had to be very touchy with — the hero is a dog. And lest anybody make a mistake, that is the way it is. Blood’s our hero. Now, you’re dealing with an animal. Normally you love an animal, which the boy does. But if you can recall the beginning of the picture, you are introduced to a place with no grass, no trees, no nothing, but the mood is rather jocular for a second. And then a voice sounds a warning. Now at the beginning, the voice is warm, fuzzy — could be your father, could be your teacher, could your brother — and then it shifts, and it becomes a military voice. Not only in what it says, but in the way it’s barked out. Here’s a voice that’s used to being listened to. And not only that, but we proved to you that he is worth listening to, because that which he has laid out as a danger is now in front of you. So you’re seeing that this guy knows what he’s talking about, and knows how to handle it. Incidentally, he’s a dog. Now, that may not sound like much. But if I start off telling you that it’s a dog, you’re gonna say, “Aw, cut the crap. What is this?” But it’s so built that you accept him not only that he’s warm and fuzzy, but that he’s intelligent, he knows what he’s doing, he cares about Vic — and he’s also a dog. So I’ve already put you in my pocket, before you realize that I’m talking about a dog. And if you don’t do it that way, the picture will not work.
The end is as delicate and as structured as the beginning, if not more so. Because if you watch it, you can see that when he escapes from down below, he comes up above, and they find Blood dying. And she is saying, “Don’t worry about it. We can go on. If you love me, you’ll leave him.” Well, Don does it gorgeously. You can see running through his mind, “What happens if I go with what she wants to go with?” And in the very end, I expect you to put it together. He is figuring, “OK, she and I try to make it. We can’t make it. We’re just not gonna make it. Blood is the brains of the outfit. She and Blood can go and live, but both detest the other. Therefore, that’s not gonna work. I have only one option.” And the option is to do what he did. It’s not accidental. That’s the way the ending is reinforcing what we started out to prove: who’s an animal, and who takes care of whom? It’s not a message. It’s just there. If you see it, great. If you don’t see it… I’ve seen the picture 500 times. And I have been in audiences as little as one person. I have been in audiences as big as 7,000 people who are watching the picture at the same time. About 25% of the audience catches what is going to happen when we switch from his first coming up, and we hear fire crackling, and fat is dripping into the fire. But that’s so subliminal, probably 75% of people never hear it. But we have already told you what’s happened right there. About 25% of the people will get it when the boy looks at the girl. You know what’s going to happen. About 25% of the people get it when the dog at the end says, “Well, at least she had good taste.” About 25% of the people never understand what took place. And that’s what I wanted. Harlan wanted to beat them over the head with it. There was only two times in the whole picture that we disagreed. That was the second one. I said, “Harlan, unfortunately for you, I’m the one that put up the money and wrote the script. When you do that, you can change it the way you want it. But now, guess who gets to make that choice?” So that’s it, and for me it worked.
The first change was in the “putz scene” — the scene where the dog is lecturing him, trying to figure out what they’re gonna do. And Blood makes a comment about a cow and the girl. Harlan’s thought was, “One animal would not put down another animal.” It was the wrong thing to say, and he was right. I said I agreed. We would take it out, but I’m out of money. So we showed the picture to the group that gets together once a year. And when they were there, I think I was here working on another picture, so Harlan and my partner Alvy went. And they sold at the showing, which started I think at 8 o’clock at night, and ended up at around four in the morning, because the machine kept breaking down. We were in separate sound and picture, and they weren’t fixed to handle it, so it kept breaking down. But they sold enough, which I think was about $2,000 they raised selling the picture in color clips. And we went and shot the thing that he wanted changed, which was about the cow. We took it out and did another line. The other disagreement was my last line. Harlan’s last is, “A boy loves his dog.” My last line wasn’t. I told him, “Harlan, yeah I understand what you’re saying. I’m pushing the same thing visually. But yours will not work, because in your short story he repeats that phrase several times — ‘A boy loves his dog’ is the reason for the ending.” But I said, “That won’t work for the picture.” And it took me over six months to write the new line. It’s a matter of choice. And it works. But a lot of times when I go out with the picture, I go down the street to get a drink, pick up a cup of coffee or something — I can be two or three blocks away, and I know when the picture ends, because the reaction is such that I know what it is. I mean, I’ve seen people who’ve fainted. People have gotten mad and torn up furniture. It just doesn’t leave you much. You realize you’ve been hung out to dry, because you don’t expect it. Who would expect that ending? So it works, and the whole thing works. My line works. If you go back and then redo it, Harlan’s line would work. And those are the two that we just could not agree on. And I still think I’m right. He’s right for his. I’m right for mine.
HE: The only time I really got annoyed, and annoyed enough to raise hell, was after I saw the rough cut, and realized that there were about a half a dozen genuinely sexist lines that came out of the dog’s mouth. And I said: “No, the dog would not say that! These lines are offensive to me. The boy would say it, because it’s that kind of society and he would think of women in that way. The dog would not! The dog is above that. The dog is the goddamned hero. You may not do that you’ve got to redub!” And L. Q. said: “How the hell are we going to redub ? There ain’t no goddamned money!” And I said “If I get you the money, will you take it over to the sound studios and put it back on the board?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said: “How much do you need?” And he said something like four or five hundred dollars. Well, I went to the World Science Fiction Convention in Washington last Labor Day, and I took along little three frame outtakes from the film, and I sold them for ten dollars apiece, and got that money. Then L.Q. went back into the studio and redid it. And that was the only beef I had. Although, the last line is really, I think, just a cheap shot. But audiences love it, and I can’t fight that.
LQ: The last line of the picture took me 3 months to write. A lot of people don’t like it; but a lot of people do. To me, that line says what the whole picture is about, and what the philosophy of their lives is. They’re immoral. They have no scruples, whatsoever. See, most pictures are passive. You don’t have to do anything but sit there and suck it up like a sponge. And that’s fine. There should be a lot of stuff in which we do nothing but that. But I want you to get involved. And it’s rather like a mystery in that respect. I give you clues; I give you false clues; I give you no clues–and see if you can put it together and move on to the next point. That’s what it’s about. I want you to supply something. I don’t want to work you to death, but I want you to supply something. That’s why the ending is the way it is. I could very easily have painted the picture so as nobody would miss it. And if I’m proud of anything—and I am proud of this picture, I guess you may have noticed that –I am so unbelievably proud of the way the end works. I sat down when I started writing my first draft, and I said: “Now, what do I want ? I want twenty-five percent of the people to catch it at a certain point,” and so on. And if you sit in an audience, you can almost feel that working for you. About twenty-five percent will catch it when Vic turns to Quilla June, and they’ll know instinctively what’s going to happen. Another twenty-five percent catch it when Blood says: “You haven’t eaten a bite,” or “I really appreciate this,'”-either one. The third twenty-five percent catches it with, “… if not particularly good taste.” But twenty-five percent never catch it at all. And you don’t know how I worried about that. Because without that, I’ve got a real problem. It’s my upbeat ending, and the laughs and the applause, and everything I need. And boy, we took that apart and put it together, and took it apart, and rewrote it, and recut it, and still, we’re petrified with the way it is now, that people won’t understand it. And we were rather gut less in this respect. I shot the ending twice. Right on the spot. I shot it for the ending that is on there, and I shot it for the sweetness-and-light ending with Vic, Blood, and Quilla June off into the sunrise. But that one scene would destroy the entire ending if you put it on now. The ending is right —it is dictated by the picture. I tried to make it a different ending to see what would happen, but the film will not allow it. That’s the flexibility and inflexibility of film it’s so flexible you can’t believe it, but it said no. That is the ending that has to go on the picture. Fortunately, it’s the right ending.
The film was in post production for more than a year before it was previewed, still in rough cut, before the World Science Fiction Convention in Washington D.C. on August 31, 1974. Still dissatisfied with the title, Jones literally went through a dictionary page by page looking for words that would spark a title. Finally, he reverted to Ellison’s original, and in March 1975. the film opened in Austin, Texas, with an advertising campaign geared toward the apparent incongruity of an R-rated film named A BOY AND HIS DOG.
The world in which Vic and Blood live is very male-dominated; above ground, women are hunted for sex, below ground they are subjugated (as is everyone else) by a warped, Puritanical society. How did women react?
LQ: It’s very strange because many ladies when we first came out in 1975 got upset. But why would you get upset? I bought a story, and I was very true to the story. Now we’ve always wanted to go back and do another picture, but I don’t want to redo A Boy and His Dog. We want to redo it about a girl named Spike. And she’s twice as tough as Vic is. So we wanted to go back and do the girl’s side. So what if the dog ate the boy? [Ladies said] Oh, that’s ok. Well that’s crap! That was in the ”70s. In the ’80s it was starting to change, just a little. By now it’s changed where I think probably women will either like it as much as men do or will hate it as much as men do. But I guess the thing I’m happiest with is when I talk to people, the most said thing is that it’s so real. I said, you’re telling me that I’m dealing with the year 2024, I have a talking dog, and before your very eyes humans have become animals and animals become human and it’s because it’s so real you like it!
What sort of complaints did feminist groups have about the film?
LQ: Well, they just thought it was misogynist. Hell, if you look at just the bare bones, yes it is. And by the same token, no it isn’t, because it’s a story. And I actually got tired of trying to explain it to them. Like at Boston University, it was a big to-do there. And so I said, “Hey, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we all get together, and we can talk? Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re saying.” So, I was there for three or four days. And along somewhere, we got together and we must have had, hell, 50 or 60 ladies in the audience and just myself. So I said, “Tell me what is bothering you about it.” And they explained it, and I said, “OK.” You gotta remember now, I’m talking 30-some odd years ago, so it gets out of memory a little bit. But roughly what I’m saying is, “That’s the story that I bought.” Now, I can understand that you would react to what happens to Quilla June. You also could react to the fact that it happened to any female all the way through the piece. All of the stuff that we’re seeing down below, yeah, I could understand why you would pay special attention to it. But that was the story I bought. So I said, “Let me ask you a question. Let me change everything 180 degrees. When the picture is over, Vic is gone. We don’t know where he is. Well, we do know if you think about it. But off into the sunset go Quilla June and Blood. How about that?” They said, “Oh, that’s OK.” Well, I said, “Stick it in your ear. Because this is the story that I bought, and it was the story I was telling.” Now somewhere along the line, and I probably still will do it, I’m going to go in and do it from the female point of view. But you can’t do both points of view in the same story, the way it’s set up. Actually, Harlan and I talked about it, and we came up with a character named “Spike,” who is a female. And the picture, if you’ll recall, ends with the kid walking into the distance, and we freeze. So he’s standing there, and the dog’s by his side. I’m gonna start the next one with the boy still standing there, and we turn the action on, and it starts to move. There’s the crack of a rifle, and Vic is laid out on the tundra, and up comes Spike. She has followed him for months, because she wants Blood. So the only way she knows to get him, is to kill Vic and take Blood. And that’s what she does. She goes sailing off into the sunset, and I stay with her and see how she reacts to everything — how she runs Blood, how he helps her. Aha, we now have the female side of the story. But I can’t go back and change A Boy and his Dog. I will change it when I put the other picture out. Well, that seemed to placate them a little bit. Not much, because they wanted to be professional howlers. That’s OK. Everybody’s entitled to their own point of view. But I finally got across to them that what I was doing was making this picture. Now, I also made it work. And we didn’t release the picture like they do now. I wasn’t bright enough for that. We did it where we’d go to Oklahoma City. We’d go to Kansas City. We went to New York. We went to all the keys, and a lot of the smaller ones. And of course, we went to Canada. And as normally happens when I go out with the picture, I do it because I get a chance to A) see the audience and talk with them, and B) I get to go to colleges and explain A Boy and his Dog. So I get a chance to say, “What questions do you have? What do you see, or don’t see? How can I help you in any way?” That’s what I’m doing. But I’ll also do, as I was doing it in Canada, three or four newspapers, five or six magazines, five or six radio stations, and a couple of TV programs. And I had lunch with the PR man who was working with me for months all around the country, and he was acting kind of strange. I couldn’t figure out what the hell it was, so I asked him. He said, “Oh, nothing.” And I said, “Should we put this [program] off?” He said, “Oh no, you’ve gotta do it, because it’s one of the biggest [TV] shows in town.” I think it was Toronto, and with a lady host. I said, “OK.” And we went up, and she and I sat and talked for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we flipped the cameras on. And the instant they flipped the cameras on, I realized why he didn’t say anything. She lit into me. She was practically screaming after about five minutes, “This is the filthiest show I’ve ever seen! It’s pornographic, misogynist…” And she’d slow down, and I’d ask a question or make a comment, and she’d sail off again. I kept prodding her, and we went through the whole 30 minutes. I was the only person on. We went through the whole 30 minutes, and she’s still screaming at the end of it. When it wrapped up, I said, “Thank you very much. You just made me a fortune.” And she said, “There’s no need to be cute.” And I said, “Honey, I’m not being cute. If you had just said, ‘I don’t agree with this picture. I find it crude, unattractive, and I’m not gonna go, and I recommend nobody else go,’ I would’ve had a tough time. But now, I’m gonna be flooded with customers who want to see the dirtiest picture ever made.” And it’s right. We set records for two or three weeks, because she went off on it. But like I said, if she had put one nail in it and shut up, she would have been fine. I don’t agree with 75% of what takes place. If I were Vic, I’d work another way. But I didn’t buy the story of me. I bought the story of Vic. And he is in a spot, because look at what you’re dealing with. And a couple of reviewers were quick enough to pick something up, which I’m very proud of. It’s probably the only picture you’ll ever see in your life where, when it’s over, the animal turns into the only “human” you’ve got in the whole damn piece, and people turn into animals. Everybody, right in front of your eyes. Not with makeup. Just what they’re doing. So, the picture in that particular vein is brilliant. It truly is. I wish I had nothing to do with making the picture, then I could say something and people wouldn’t say, “Well, you’re trying to make money.”
We opened in LA in 26 theaters, but it was nine months or a year after we first opened the picture. And I would find out what time Boy lets out over in Beverly Hills and Westwood. And then I’d wait fifteen minutes, and I’d go to Westwood and park the car, and I’d drift from a bar to a hamburger stand to buying clothes. I just wandered through. And it was amazing, as I’m going along I’d hear, “I’m telling you, that dog is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.” Go a little bit further and, “Did you notice what was happening with the makeup?” Go to another store, “Why was ‘down under’ this way?” Well, if you’ve not been in the business, it doesn’t mean much to you. But 99% of the shows you see, and I’ve done a few of them, you’ve forgotten what the story is by the time you’ve hit the popcorn machine on your way out. I mean, they’ve done their job. They’ve entertained you. They’ve taken care of you for an hour-and-a-half, two hours, and got your mind on something else. But then that’s the end of it, and you go back to your normal problems. But with A Boy and his Dog, it was marvelous, they were talking about what the picture showed them. So, it was handy that I could do it. I also did it in other cities, but here it was easier.
A BOY AND HIS DOG, – The Abandoned Television Series and Sequel
A BOY AND HIS DOG, which won a Nebula for its writer Harlan Ellison, and a Hugo for its cinematic adapter L. Q. Jones, may soon find its way onto network television, as a series! “We’ve been fiddling around with it for a year,” reports Jones. “At NBC, one of the producers liked the picture, and I say that because had it come from a lower level, it probably would have been snuffed out. But his 11-year-old son saw it and adored it, and told his dad it was a super picture and they should have it. So he called for it to take a look. The bottom line really was that TV’s not ready for it yet – they were afraid of the violence. But they thought there was a possible series there.”
NBC took an option on the project and Ellison went to work on the script for a 90-minute pilot. (Jones had written the film script.) At 113 pages, the first script was submitted in June. “The network looked at it and said, ‘It’s brilliant!’ I didn’t quite agree with them, for a number of reasons that are known to Harlan and myself. My Blood and Vic are completely different from Harlan’s Blood and Vic. That doesn’t make him right and me wrong, or vice versa. It’s just that I would not have made a picture about Harlan ‘s Vic and Blood.
“Anyway, we sat down with the people at NBC, and they said, The problem here is there’s too much to put into 90 minutes, so a) we would like it expanded to 120 minutes, and b) we would like a subplot.’ So Harlan rewrote the script to 131 pages, and they came back and said: “We don’t like it at all. It won’t hold up for two hours. Reduce it to 82 pages.’ Now, at first blush, that doesn’t sound too bad, but when something is brilliant at 113 pages, and no good whatsoever at 131 pages, why not just reduce it back to the 113 pages of brilliance? But it’s their money, and you either do business with them or you don’t; and if I want to work with them, it behooves me to adapt to their framework, not the other way around.”
Ellison, who was about to leave the country anyway, was disinclined to tackle another rewrite, so Jones did it-in 82 days to meet NBC’s deadline. “Harlan won’t think so, but my scripts about the same as his. It develops the same way to the same climax points, and it follows the same steps basically – just changed the interior of each step. I didn’t have time to do anything more extensive.” That version is now awaiting a decision by NBC.
Although the project was initially envisioned as a mid-season fill-in, it is now unlikely that it can be readied before next fall. If NBC goes with it, Jones plans to produce and direct the pilot independent of studio involvement, as he did the film. Then, if A BOY AND HIS DOG goes into a series, he plans to act as executive producer, as well as occasional writer and director. Not much thought has been given toward casting the human roles, but Tiger, who won the Patsy Award for best animal actor in the feature is at the top of Jones’ list for Blood.
“But Tiger is nearly twelve years old now. We’re going to try to use him but we’ll probably have to back him up with three or four does to do the fights and jumping and stuff.”
What’s the status of the screenplay segment of Blood’s A Rover? Do you still hope to see it made into a movie?
HE: A Boy And His Dog, the original film L.Q. Jones made, has been under option [to be remade] since 1975, and there’s even a version—somebody wants to do it as a rotoscope. I hold all the other rights. I haven’t done anything with the screenplay, but if we don’t eventually do it as a film, I will do it as part of the Brain Movies series of my books. Brain Movies are my screenplays and teleplays, and they’ve done four of them. The last one features a two-hour movie that’s never been released or made, called Cutter’s World. We may do Blood’s A Rover. If not, I may do the novel. I mean, who knows what tomorrow brings?
L.Q. Jones has been talking for decades about the possibility of a direct sequel to the film Boy And His Dog, but with a female protagonist. Would you want to be involved in that?
HE: Well, I own the rights to it. How it will be done, I do not know. L.Q. owns the original film. I made very little money off it, although it continues to be and has been, for decades, one of the top five rentals for film societies and colleges—they show it constantly. And it’s been ripped off, and reissued, and on DVDs, though nothing like this incredible Blu-ray Shout! Factory has done, which restores its original, vivid, stark, adept original incarnation. So this becomes a question of who offers us the most money, because like all storytellers, I sit around the campfire with my turban out and say, “Here’s Vic and Blood and the third leg of this love triangle, a female rover called Spike, the dominant figure in the two-thirds of the book that make up Blood’s A Rover.” When someone comes along, the storyteller says, “And the hero is hanging by his fingertips from the rotting edge of the chasm, and below him, the snakes and vipers and crocodiles are all snapping. You want to know what happened to him, put a few drachma in my turban.” And when someone crosses my palm with the right amount of silver, I will release the screenplay, which is already written and ready to go, and they may either remake A Boy And His Dog, which would involve L.Q., or just make the sequel. This all is up in the air. It’s all ready to go and everything that can be made is under option and everything that I own that’s ready to go, is waiting here for the right golden mouth to open.
When he’s described the film sequel, he’s also mentioned Spike, so it sounds like you’re talking about the same thing, except he’s positioning it as his sequel.
HE: I adore L.Q., make no mistake, I adore L.Q., but he is like a cold you get in May and you don’t get rid of until the following January. He’s a good old Texas boy, and he and I fight each other like Cain and Abel. But I have enormous respects for his talents—and that was what killed the deal with CBS. They loved the script and were ready to go with it, for a two-hour movie, followed by a series about the adventures of Vic and Blood. And I would have brought in Spike, so it would have been three of them, so it’s a love triangle. That’s what the story basically is, in personal terms. But CBS didn’t want to go with L.Q. as the director. They didn’t have the faith in him, although he had produced this wonderful work that has lasted for nearly half a century, and is as popular now as the day it was released. The suits went above the head of network film, who had green-lighted it, and they said, “We want a—in air quotes—“big director.” God knows who they would have gotten. And L.Q. got his dander up and became the thorn under their saddle, and the whole project fell between the stools. So let L.Q. think that it’s his sequel, but in fact, it’s 100 percent out of my fecund imagination.
He has described Boy And His Dog as really a story about a boy and his father, which doesn’t really fit your description of a story about partnership, or about love.
HE: Well, I think I’m right and he’s wrong. Vic and Blood have a relationship that’s quite clear in the story, and I think quite clear in the movie. That’s the amazing quality of the film, that it is obvious the dog is far more intelligent than the boy. The boy, as written, is about 14, 15 years old. They cast Don Johnson, who was older at the time, and he’s supposed to be just emerging into that stage of adolescence when he’s feeling the stirrings of his penis. And the dog and the boy have a symbiotic relationship—the dog needs the boy to seek out food, and the boy needs the dog to seek out women. I used history as my model for the condition of the country in “A Boy And His Dog,” where, after a decimating war, like the Wars Of The Roses, for instance, the things that become most valuable are weapons, food, and women. Women were traded and treated like chattel. I tried to make it clear in the stories and the novel that I found this distasteful, but it’s the reality of what humanity’s like when it’s gone through this kind of apocalyptic inconvenience, if you will.
There’s a lengthy feature on the Blu-ray where you and Jones discuss your differences of opinion about the film’s sexism, particularly the final line of the film, which you’ve taken a lot of flak for over the years. Why did you object so strenuously? For me, it plays like the usual kind of grim, black joke that people use to make sense of tragedy, to take the edge off things that horrify them.
HE: Your perception is very good and correct.
But why are you so uncomfortable with it?
HE: Frat boys leap to their feet and applaud and love it to this day. People batten on that line. They love it. I’m still uncomfortable with it, as I would be with, say, the N-bomb word, although I’ve used it many times, because it was what was necessary for a story. Or the F-word. I don’t think that line, in these times, is any more comfortable for me than when it first came out. I had terrible trouble with I would go to colleges, and women’s groups would rise and scream at me from the audience, and I’d have to sit down with them and explain to them that this was not I, but L.Q. speaking. And I don’t make apologies for L.Q. He knew what he was doing for his audience. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, I’m right and if not, he’s right.
With the film coming about again for a new audience, do you have any thoughts or theories about how differently it will play now than it did back then?
HE: That’s one thing I have absolutely no worries about. Years would go by between the time I first saw it and the next time I saw it on a big screen. They had it here in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theater last year, where they premiered the new, clean Blu-ray version onscreen, and it was standing room only. And I sat there and I said, “This is a goddamn terrific movie.” It is a movie that reflects its times, and yet speaks to current intelligence. So I have absolutely no fear about how well this film will do, and how much people will love it. I think it’s an all-time film.
The most surprising thing in the Blu-ray package is the trailer, which presents the film as “a kinky tale of survival.” That makes it sound like a cute sex romp, which doesn’t seem like Jones’ intention or yours.
HE: Well, I’ll tell you, the people who marketed it… I remember when the film first came out, and it was not a huge Hollywood blockbuster. It was made on a budget, and it opened at a lot of drive-ins. I got a letter, a furious letter, from a very old woman who had taken her grandson to see it, thinking it was a Disney film, with a title like A Boy And His Dog. And she was outraged. Her jaw broke off from her face in indignation at the salacious and violent nature of this film she’d taken an innocent grandson to. I think, to offset the title A Boy And His Dog, the people who originally marketed this—I had no hand in it, but they thought they ought to do something that made it look a little more barren, a little more stark. So, as it is on the cover of the Blu-ray, you see Quilla June lying there with her clothing in disarray and her belly button showing, and Don Johnson and the dog and the underground doorway above it, and the phrase, “The year is 2024, a future you’ll probably live to see.” And here we are not many years away from 2024, a lot more than I thought we would be when I wrote this story. I thought 2024 was really kicking it ahead, and that the Cold War was going to destroy us at any minute. It’s a marketing ploy that I think works well now. “An R-rated, rather kinky tale of survival.” I don’t think anyone today is going to be misled by the packaging. I think it’s absolutely apropos at the moment.
The film does have a more playful feel than the story.
HE: Well, L.Q.’s a funny guy! And everybody who was playing in it knew what they were doing. They understood that it was in the grand tradition of Cyrano De Bergerac, which is a very serious piece of work, and yet it’s got an incredibly playful tone.
Do you see “A Boy And His Dog” as having more in common with older works like Cyrano than with the dystopian films of its era, like Soylent Green or Planet Of The Apes?
HE: Oh yeah. Yeah. Clearly now, in retrospect, this film was 20 years ahead of its time. The fact that it’s been ripped off so many times to do this kind of dystopian future, both in novels and film, shows that it was… [Laughs.] I’m trying my best to be humble, which is an act I don’t play very well. Shows that it was done right the first time, and that this film was a landmark. I had George Miller call me from Australia to tell me The Road Warrior was ripped off—and he used the phrase “ripped off”—from A Boy And His Dog, and that he wanted to thank me. But Road Warrior is a great movie. Many of the people who have done films like A Boy And His Dog have done homages whether they care to admit it or not, and I’m down with that. It’s part of being a great silver-maned icon of 20th-century culture.
Don Johnson as Vic
Tim McIntire (voice) as Blood
Susanne Benton as Quilla June Holmes
Jason Robards as Lou Craddock
Alvy Moore as Doctor Moore
Helene Winston as Mez Smith
Charles McGraw as Preacher
Hal Baylor as Michael
Ron Feinberg as Fellini
Michael Rupert as Gery
Don Carter as Ken
Michael Hershman as Richard
Directed by LQ. Jones
Produced by L.Q. Jones Alvy Moore
Written by L.Q. Jones Alvy Moore (uncredited) Wayne Cruseturner (uncredited)
Based on A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
Cinematography John Arthur Morrill
REFERENCES and SOURCES
Cinefantastique v05n01 (1976)
Cinefantastique v06n03 (1977)