Put on some Jiffy Pop, the world's
(Part of our series on negative
utopias and dystopia in media)
Wednesday may be Prince Spaghetti Day....
...but Tuesday is Soylent
Green day, as the television ad informs us early on in the movie.
It had never occurred to me until re-watching this clever piece
of sixties environmental movement propaganda, but this film may
be the reason I've always shied away from eating processed food.
What is that orange stuff that accumulates on your fingers when
you eat Doritos, anyway?
Although watching people get scooped up by frontloaders
simply because they're rioting over a lack of food is a little disturbing,
much of this film is a strange mixture of comical and eerily not
too unreal. In my life I've watched a jar of jam go from forty-nine
cents to three dollars; is $150.00 a jar by 2022 so unreasonable?
The film also portrays a future in which an elite set of "haves"
make some pretty big decisions without informing the "have-nots".
Sounds attainable to me.
Charlton Heston's proclamation at the end of the
film that "Soylent Green is people" has become a modern
archetype, appearing as a comic device in everything from the Simpsons
(Treehouse of Horror V) to Saturday
Night Live. What's not so funny is how close to reality this
has the potential to be, given the scope of food companies like
Monsanto, the rapid destruction of the oceans occurring as we speak,
and the popularity of today's Soylent Yellow, American Cheese.
Every Dog Gets Its Day After
Speaking of American Cheese: If you liked Don Johnson
in Miami Vice, you'll love him in...uh, skip that. A
Boy & His Dog takes place just two years later than Soylent
Green, in 2024. The film opens with a bang. A nuclear one. Stock
footage of nuclear blasts followed with text on the screen that
"World War IV lasted five days."
"Politicians had finally solved the problem
of urban blight."
Boy & His Dog would never get made today. With its themes of
rape and pillaging, its overall misogynistic tone, and the fact
that most of this is suggested rather than actually portrayed (which
might be more acceptable to many upright censors - provided no boobies
were showing), no mainstream distributor would touch it. In spite
of the unsavory content, this low budget film (actor L.Q. Jones'
only project as director) is a dystopian gem, pre-dating other films
in this genre (namely "Mad Max") by nearly a decade. One
of the few works based on the masterful writing of Harlan Ellison
that actually captures some of the feel of his work, A Boy and His
Dog explores the post-apocalyptic world with a wry nonchalance.
Considering the dreck that was churned out by Hollywood in the seventies,
this film is a masterpiece.
This comment from Wayne
Malin (IMDB user) says a lot:
"I understand why people are upset with the
rape theme but this is a science-fiction fantasy--don't take this
Indeed. In one of his earliest starring roles, Don
Johnson plays opposite a psychic police dog. Johnson's character
Vic and the dog Blood have a mutually beneficial relationship in
which Blood has the nose to sniff out the food and chicks, and Vic
has...well, a can opener, I guess...and, uh...viable seed. Vic follows
his first true love (i.e.: the first woman he's met he doesn't feel
like raping) to the "Down Under", a subterranean culture
where a surreal ice-cream-social-and-gingham 1950's Country fair
Americana is maintained by an oppressive ruling council (led by
Jason Robards). Unfortunately, the boys down under are all sterile,
and to keep the culture alive they must venture to the surface occasionally
to find a fertile male. Should be a dream come true for Vic, but
the process of impregnating the women turns out to be a little different
than what he envisioned...
Boy & His Dog is a tasteless and often adolescent exploration
of the apocalypse. Misogynistic, politically incorrect, puerile,
absurd, and, well, fun.
Why do people in the future always dress like
Well, when it's a Kurt Russell film, it's to match
his hairdo. I've read an amazing number of reviews and commentaries
from L.A. which actually try to say something serious about
the quality of the effects, how it stacked up to the original, Kurt
MY GOD PEOPLE! GET A LIFE. This is a gem of self-parody.
Peter Fonda in tight leather pants and a pink rain poncho, Pam Grier's
over-the-top camp, Bruce Campbell as the "Surgeon General of
Beverly Hills", the numerous inside jokes (none of which I
claim to get); how many clues does one need to understand they were
having fun here? The most disturbing thing about this movie? They
were only joking when they created a storyline in which the president
(Cliff Robertson) uses a national tragedy (9/11?) to change the
constitution (check) and become president for life (Bush 2008?).
Oh. And I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I expected
Kurt Russell to be a little taller, somehow.
A Neville Ending Story
As a teen, I and my friends often fantasized what
it would be like if everyone disappeared one day, and you could
go into any building you wanted, any time, and do whatever you want.
Our ironic 1970's champion of the environment, Charlton Heston,
gets to do just that as Robert Neville in The
Omega Man. Neville survives the biowarfare catastrophe he helps
to cause, and [blah blah blah] may be the only human left [etc.,
etc.] who must [blah blah blah] save the world [yadda yadda].
This film manages all at once to feel like a blacksploitation
film, a Woodstockian eco-hippy warning, and yet another cheezy sci-fi
film where Heston says "Damn" and "God" and
laughs uproariously for no apparent reason. An almost mandatory
double-feature with either Planet
of the Apes or Soylent
| Read more about
negative utopias and dystopia in film here.
Green, The Other White Meat
It's Tastier Than Kraft Singles
Culkin's got nothin' on:
Don Walk His Johnson in:
Boy & His Dog
Or let Harlan Ellison
explain how that's not what he meant in
"Vic & Blood":
I expected him to be taller.