By Jonathan Marlow
January 18, 2006 - 12:14 PM PST
Did you ever see the Vic and Blood graphic novel?
Did Harlan put it out?
Harlan Ellison and Richard Corben. Yeah.
They did a good job with it.
They made the Vic character a bit younger.
I think it works better with someone of Don's age. Plus. Vic's outlook is a bit grim since Harlan doesn't have that much hope. What I keep trying to tell people is, "Look, if you don't get your head out of your butt, this is the world you're going to be living in. It may be funny with Vic and Blood, but it's not going to be funny if it really happens. If we don't stop what we're doing, this is where we're going to be living." I just happen to do it with a funny twist, but I don't think it's going to be that funny. To me, the idea is serious but the approach is different.
Everyone keeps saying they want to see something new, something different. A Boy & His Dog was so new and different when it came out that it was totally beyond reach. Pictures haven't caught up with A Boy & His Dog yet and that was 28 years ago.
It's almost as if the film begins the way that Dr. Strangelove ends, as if this is the film that takes place after that picture ends.
That's right. It's an evergreen picture. It is an active picture. It makes you think. You're perfectly right on that. I loved Strangelove. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to do the part that Slim Pickens did. I'm sitting in my agent's office one day and we're talking about something and he gets a call and he tells his secretary, "I thought I told you to hold all my calls." And she said something and he said, "Oh yes, put him on." It was Stanley Kubrick.
Stanley wanted to know if I'd be interested in doing this picture. I told the agent, "Tell him I'd be glad to walk barefoot across the United States just to get to do a picture with him." He said, "Okay, I'll let you know." We didn't make a deal, he just said, "I'll let you know when I'm ready."
Now I go off and I do another picture and I start another one and then Kubrick called back and there'd been a shift. You know, I'd been working three or four years when he called again, but something had shifted and he had to go to work. I couldn't get off. I was finishing the other picture and I was still on it for two or three weeks, so he cast Slim. I was ticked. Furious. Until I saw the picture and Slim is so marvelous in it, fantastic. I could never have done the job as well as he did. So, you know, I'm sorry I didn't get to play it, but I'm glad Slim did.
You're dead right, though. Where Kubrick stops, we start. We do it almost the same way as his. He had a little more money and a little more talent. But that's what it is. You get people to see that and the end jokes... How do I get people who don't normally go watch a picture like A Boy & His Dog to buy it and see it? That's the trick. How do you do that? Because if you tell them it's a picture where they have to think, you may scare them to death! Of course you want a picture to make money. You don't want to lose money on it. If Boy had not been successful, I would have been bankrupt because a whole bunch of it's mine. When you say that you want people to see it and you don't care about money, they think you're a nut. Have you ever made a picture?
Yes, I have.
Okay, I can talk to you. You don't really care whether it makes money or not.
You can't care.
You care about whether you've done the job properly. Whether you've done what you've set out to do. Whether you could've done it better or not. Of course, you can always do it better. In A Boy & His Dog, I was able to say, "I think I have." Therefore, to me, I think it's a success. Does it make money? I'm tickled to death, because it means if I make money more people are seeing the picture. That's why I made it. I made it so you could go see it.
It's hard to get that across to people. We're so driven by money today. I did Mask of Zorro, I think we got between $84 and $91 million dollars [domestic box office supposedly topped-off at $94 million]. There's not that much money in the world. How do you put that into one piece of real estate? If it were my money in Mask of Zorro, I'd be petrified. I'd do tits and violence rather than make Mask of Zorro because you're taking a chance.
With Boy, we did the same thing. Can you think of a story that would better lend itself to sex and violence than A Boy & His Dog? It's not there! Now a lot of people say what a terribly filthy picture it is. Listen to the dialogue. Cursing is rampant. I have one "goddamn" in the picture and one shot of nudity. That's it, but it's the way the picture works in your mind and you're seeing all of these things.
It's an atmosphere rather than anything specific.
That's what it is. One critic said, and I think he was right, that A Boy & His Dog is a whole series of tiny little explosions that keep going off. That's what the picture does and that's what it is. I also ran an experiment when we were running in Westwood. We were out at nine o'clock and I got there ten minutes to nine. I let the audience drift out and I started following them. I went into the bars. I went into the restaurants, I went into the drug stores and, as I drifted along, it was amazing how many people you'll hear, "Yeah, but what did that damned make-up on those people mean?" or "Did you see what the dog did?" Fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes later, they were still talking about the picture. Being the case, I've earned your money. If I can get you to remember that piece for more than five seconds, I've got you. Obviously, I kind of caught you because thirty years later we're still talking about it.
As I understand it, you had some intentions of making a follow-up to A Boy & His Dog with a female lead. What ever happened to that project?
That was one of those things Harlan and I always talked about. I really caught it in the neck when he first put the story out and I caught it again when I made the picture because a lot of women were unhappy. I finally got tired of the crap and I said, "Look, let me try to get something across here. Suppose we left Blood the same and we turned the boy and the girl 180 degrees? How about it, is it okay then?" Harlan said "Oh, that's marvelous." I said, "BS. It's marvelous because..."
It's a double standard!
Right! I bought the story to make the film. Now if you don't like that story, that's too bad. That's the story I bought and I wanted to make, and Harlan thought the same thing. As we went along I said, "Let's do it." We end up with the boy up in the air clicking his heels together. They walk off. In the new one, we start at the exact same place. There's a gunshot, he's off on his fanny, he's been shot, and here comes Spike. Spike is a girl. She's wanted Blood for years, for a long time, this is her first time to really get it. She makes off with Blood and we go from there. We're now going to tell the female side of it.
Would it be a sequel, in effect?
No, but we'd be doing it again. They were talking about putting a series of it on television. You're out of your mind! There's no way you're going to put A Boy & His Dog on television. They didn't. That fell through finally. Harlan wrote a script for that one but I don't like it. Don't like the script at all. And so it just kind of sits there. About every six months somebody calls and says, "I want to do A Boy & His Dog." They don't want to do A Boy & His Dog. They want to make the same crap and call it A Boy & His Dog. Which I don't care to do and neither does Harlan.
You still talk to Harlan?
Oh sure, we're the best of enemies.
He never published the script for Spike & Blood?
He wrote it as a prequel and a sequel. He put it out [only in the aforementioned Vic and Blood graphic novel, as far as I can tell]. I've forgotten what the first one is [Run, Spot, Run] and the other one is called Eggsucker. I read the galleys and I just didn't like them. I told Harlan, "I think you've got unbelievable talent but I just don't like this story. Believe it or not, A Boy & His Dog is almost as much mine as it is yours." We had a thing where they're talking about millions into a picture and we can't agree. Will it get made? Hell, I don't know.
Which picture is this?
They want to remake A Boy & His Dog.
Is this a particular studio that's approached you to do it?
It's people, not a studio. Of course they didn't want me to direct it. They want one of "our people" and I've seen what "our people" do. They make crap.
What would your involvement be in that project?
At the moment, nothing.
You suspect it'll stay that way?
You've seen the picture. I set out to do something, right or wrong. I did what I wanted to do and I did it the hard way. Obviously I did something right because millions of people are fans of A Boy & His Dog. This is thirty years after the fact.
These people come along and what they want to do is make a lot of money. I'm not against money but I want to make a picture that I'm proud of that also makes money. They want a picture that they can make money with and it doesn't make a difference [to them] whether they're proud of it or not. So I just passed. I didn't say I was very bright. I just didn't want to do that. I tell people, "Everybody should be lucky enough to build a house, plant a tree and direct A Boy & His Dog." It's one of the great moments of my life to have been able to do that.
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"I was sitting in hysterical laughter because he had actually pulled it off."
"That damn dog is phenomenal."
"I would have sold my seat in hell to work with all three of them!"
"I absolutely adore Vic and Blood."
"It's one of the great moments of my life."
back to past articles
In addition to his persistence in acquiring obscure films for GreenCine, Marlow is a writer, filmmaker, curator and occasional critic. Not necessarily in that order. He is also a dedicated skeptic.
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