Saturday, September 24, 2005

A BOY AND HIS DOG (1975) - L.Q. Jones

As a diehard Sam Peckinpah fan, I’ll see just about any movie he’s pissed within three feet of. This devotion has led me down some strange paths. Case in point, I trekked across town to the revival theatre earlier this week just to take in a horrifyingly bad (though horrifyingly fun) Grindhouse sci-fi movie called The Visitor because Peckinpah acted in it for all of two minutes. It turned out to be two poorly overdubbed minutes because, as the guest speaker in attendance related, Peckinpah was drunk for that entire day of shooting and could not remember his lines.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s up on Peckinpah. Nor should it come as a shock that occasionally these treks will turn up some minor bits of gold. Another case in point: Trekking to the Museum of TV & Radio to sit in a little cubicle and watch his hard to find TV movie Noon Wine. It turned out to be one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen.
A Boy and His Dog may be as far astray as I’ve wondered in my Peckinpah-associated viewing, but at least I didn’t have to travel far…I found it in the local library. Peckinpah’s not anywhere in it, nor did he direct it. It’s directed by one of his stock company players, L.Q. Jones. And if you’ve seen any of the characters Jones usually plays for him -- let’s just say the phrase “raving redneck peckerwoods” about covers them all -- then you’d be surprised he could even figure out how to turn on a movie camera.
The movie stars a young Don Johnson as “Vic” and his talking dog “Blood” as post-apocalyptic wanderers out hunting the desolate plains for food and, more importantly to Johnson, women. Since Blood is the smarter of the two, he handles the women search and Vic the food hunt. Both are pretty scarce, so the first half-hour mostly involves Johnson wandering and talking to the dog who responds in voiceover, generally to crack-wise and belittle Johnson’s stupid human libido. This device is cute for about the first fifteen minutes before it starts to stretch a little thin.
Pretty soon, Johnson steals a can of beans from some other wanderers and Blood returns the favor by leading him to a sort of tent-city where they play loops of old porn films. It seems like this is as close as Vic is ever going to get until...lo and behold…Blood ferrets out a real woman down in a tunnel. Conveniently, she turns out to be beautiful and in the middle of changing her clothes. Well, you can probably guess the rest from here…Boy Meets Girl. Boy and Girl screw ravenously. Girl makes Boy choose between her and Dog.
A Boy and His Dog doesn’t strike gold but it does have some nice kooky moments. The problem is there are a lot of long, boring stretches in between. After all, you can really only listen to a dog talk in a proper English accent for so long. I hate to knock a Peckinpah stalwart, but most of the problem seems to lie in Jones’ direction, which is simply just not there in the pacing and shot design.
Plus, there’s the issue of his lackluster screenplay adaptation of the Harlan Ellison story. A director like Cronenberg or Lynch could have better mined these concepts for maximum potential. Or even, dare I say, old Peckinpah himself.

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