PLOT: Vic roams the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland with his telepathic dog Blood, who has the ability to sense the presence of human females. Blood finds a woman for Vic in an underground bunker; as Vic is about to rape her, a band of marauders come upon them, and Vic and Blood fight them off. The woman gives herself to Vic willingly but later sneaks away; Vic follows her to her strange underground world, leaving the badly wounded Blood behind on the surface.
A Boy and His Dog was adapted from Harlan Ellison’s novella of the same name. Ellison began the screenplay but ran into writer’s block, and director Jones and producer Alvy Moore completed the script.
Jones wrote the film’s infamous last line. Ellison has gone on record as “despising” the final dialogue.
Director L.Q. Jones was better known as a character actor (usually a heavy) in westerns, appearing in small roles in five films by Sam Peckinpah among his 150+ acting credits. This is one of only two feature films he directed. He appears as a cowboy in the film-inside-the-film.
Blood, the dog in the film, was played by Tiger, who also portrayed (in one episode) the family pet in the “Brady Bunch” television show.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The setting and ideas of A Boy and His Dog are more memorable than the imagery, but the clown-faced residents of underground Topeka worm themselves into the memory.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A Boy and His Dog gives us two weird worlds for the price of one: a scorched earth surface roamed by sarcastic, hyper-intelligent telepathic dogs, and an underground society of impotent totalitarian mimes. Either vision on its own might have been weird enough to get this movie onto the List, but put them together and you’ve got something radically unique.
PLOT: Joe is an ordinary young man with a sweetheart back home who goes to Europe to fight World War I and is blown apart by an enemy shell. The accident leaves him limbless, deaf, and blind; the doctors assume he is brain dead, but keep him alive in hopes of learning how to cure similar brain injuries in the future. Left alone in a hospital bed with only his own thoughts for company for years on end, Joe drifts in and out of memories and dreams, while during his lucid moments he struggles to find a way to communicate with the outside world.
Dalton Trumbo wrote the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” in 1938; it won that year’s National Book Award for “Most Original Novel.”
Trumbo became a sought after screenwriter in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. He joined the American Communist Party, and in 1947 he was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee (the “McCarthy hearings”). Along with 9 others (the “Hollywood 10”), Trumbo was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on the grounds that he believed the First Amendment protected his right to political association. Trumbo served several months in prison and was later blacklisted by Hollywood. While the blacklist was in effect he wrote the script for The Brave One; the screenplay won an Academy Award, but no one showed up to the Oscars to claim it. The person credited for the screenplay was actually a producer’s nephew.
Luis Buñuel, whom Trumbo had met while in a self-imposed exile in Mexico, was originally set to direct the adaptation of the novel. The two men went so far as to collaborate on a screenplay. When the deal fell through, Trumbo decided to direct the film himself. The image of Christ driving the locomotive was one typically Buñuelian touch that made it into the final product.
Johnny Got His Gun tied for the Jury Prize (second place) at Cannes.
The movie inspired the popular Metallica song “One,” and footage from the film features heavily in music video (included on the DVD).
There is also a 2008 version of Johnny Got His Gun available on DVD, which is actually a film version of the stage play.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Jesus Christ howling out the window of a locomotive engine as he drives doomed doughboys to the front.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The bizarre flashbacks and fantasies Joe endures for years on end as he lies in a nightmarish paralysis. His dreamlike reveries—including conversations with Jesus and imagining himself as a freakshow exhibit in a carnival traveling though a barren desert—are never gratuitously weird, but always relate tightly to his psychology and to the antiwar theme.