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Put on some Jiffy Pop™, the world's ending
(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 says:

"World War IV lasted five days."

"Politicians had finally solved the problem of urban blight."

A 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 too seriously."

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...

A 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 it's 1985?

Well, when it's a Kurt Russell film, it's to match his hairdo. I've read an amazing number of reviews and commentaries of Escape from L.A. which actually try to say something serious about the quality of the effects, how it stacked up to the original, Kurt Russell's performance...

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 Green.

Ian Gray
March 2005

Read more about negative utopias and dystopia in film here.

Soylent Green, The Other White Meat

It's Tastier Than Kraft Singles™

Macaulay Culkin's got nothin' on:

See Don Walk His Johnson in:
A Boy & His Dog

Or let Harlan Ellison explain how that's not what he meant in "Vic & Blood":

Funny. I expected him to be taller.


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