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A Boy and His Dog (1975): Director LQ Jones tells tales of his cult classic

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*Director L.Q. Jones tells tales of his cult classic, 'A Boy and His Dog'*

 

 

By ROBERT W. BUTLER

The Kansas City Star

 

 

 

*Veteran actor L.Q. Jones (?The Wild Bunch,? ?Casino,? ?A Prairie Home Companion?) has directed only one feature film, but it was a keeper.*

 

 

*Back in 1975, his ?A Boy and His Dog? was a modest hit. It has been a cult favorite ever since.*

 

 

But making and distributing the bleakly hilarious futuristic adventure was so exhausting that the 82-year-old Jones never directed a second film.

 

?Once I finished that picture, a whole bunch of offers were generated,? he said in a recent phone call from Los Angeles. ?But I?d been working 21 hours a day, seven days a week for 2  1/2 years to make ?A Boy and His Dog.?

 

 

?Did I want to direct another one? Hell, no.?

 

 

*Still, Jones ? his acting credits include 100 features and more than 400 TV appearances ? remains proud of the picture. He?s bringing it to Kansas City FilmFest for a screening at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Tivoli theater.*

 

 

Set in a post-nuclear wasteland, it stars a young Don Johnson as Vic, a nomad who lives for food and sex. Helping him find both is his dog Blood, a mutt he communicates with telepathically.

 

The joke is that Blood is the smartest character in sight.

 

?The dog is the only human,? Jones said. ?Everybody else is an animal. Basically it?s a love story about this guy and his dog.?

 

The film is based on Harlan Ellison?s novella of the same name. Ellison was to have written the screenplay, but after months of missed deadlines, Jones ? who had bought the screen rights ? did the adaptation himself. The notoriously prickly Ellison has claimed that ?Boy? is the best screen version of any of his books.

 

At the time he was cast, Missouri native Johnson (he?d attended the University of Kansas) had appeared in only three films.

 

?We went through almost 500 people to find our Vic,? Jones said. ?We figured Don was a heck of an actor who just hadn?t had enough opportunity to show what he could do.

 

?Early on, I had some trouble with Don. We were trying to decide which of us was directing the picture. I told him, ?It?s my money, and the bus leaves every 45 minutes if you can?t live with it.?

 

?To his credit he worked his fanny off. I still think it?s his best performance, and because of it he got seven or eight pilot offers, including ?Miami Vice.? ?

 

Also in the cast was Jason Robards, at the time ?the best actor in American movies,? according to Jones.

 

Playing Blood was veteran canine actor Tiger, a regular on TV?s ?The Brady Bunch.? Jones calls Tiger ?the most brilliant four-footed actor I?ve seen. In ?75, after the picture came out, there was actually a movement to give the dog an Oscar.?

 

Every time he watches ?A Boy and His Dog,? Jones said, ?that dog shows me something new. Most trained animals understand a few words. Tiger understood 50 or 60. He had the IQ of a 3-year-old child.?

 

Instead of looking off the set to see what instructions his trainer was giving, Tiger played directly to the camera.

 

?We reached a point where I was giving the dog verbal instructions, and he was following them. Meanwhile his trainer?s 50 yards away, reading the paper. We had a very emotional scene, and I swear that damn dog cried.

 

?I was pretty sure that soon he was going to start directing.?

 

 

 

Jones was so in love with the pooch that he offered to buy Tiger and retire him from show biz. But the dog?s owners refused, and two years after filming Jones? movie, Tiger died.

 

Providing Blood?s voice was Tim McIntire, then the busiest voiceover artist in Hollywood.

 

When the big studios declined to distribute the finished film, Jones and his partners did it themselves, beginning with one print screened in Austin, Texas.

 

?We started out with three midnight shows. When it opened proper, the line was more than three blocks long,? Jones said. ?After that we went to Houston and on to Kansas City. The picture did monstrously well, but we kept a tight rein on it. At most we had 125 prints.?

 

Traditional wisdom maintained that an L.A. opening in 1975 required $750,000 in marketing.

 

?We spent $17,000, opened in 28 houses and stayed for 11 weeks.?

 

Still, it took many months for the film to break even. ?Boy? was re-released in 1982 to even bigger box office. It has been translated into 17 languages. Jones is working on an animated remake.

 

For his KC visit, Jones is bringing a new 35mm print.

 

?It almost looks like we shot it yesterday.?

 

 

 

Thanks,

Kansas City Star - Robert W. Butler

Thu, Apr. 15, 2010

 

 

1976_movie_poster_for_the_movie_%27a_boy_and_his_dog%27.jpg

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The film is a favorite of mine, and I agree, it is still Don Johnson's best performance, even if Tiger was better!

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