This underrated sleeper stars the ever-underutilized Mary Stuart Masterson, and child star Jena Malone. Malone gave a riveting performance as the title character in BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA and manages to hold her own against her veteran co-stars. Masterson plays Penny, a bitter, down on her luck poet. In her effort to care for her dying sister Mary (Malone) she has taken the low road to prostitution and drug addiction hoping ease her financial and emotional woes. Mary, on the other hand, is well aware of the value of even the destitute life she has been given and spends her last days trying to pass this legacy on to Penny.
While the story focuses on Mary and Penny, there is also a fabulous collection of characters that rotate around the girls. Delroy Lindo plays The Professor, a neighbor who believes in Penny and her talent but only irritates her with his constant lecturing about her lost potential. The only bond between them is their love for Mary. Ron Leamon, in a beautifully understated piece of acting, plays the soul sick neighbor from a country that “no longer exists” and a town that was burned to the ground. Rounding out the ensemble is D.B. Sweeney as The Prisoner, a fan of Penny’s poetry who begins a pen pal correspondence with Mary, thinking that she is Penny. While all of this could go wrong in a Scorsse script, there is a fine edge of fantasy and good will that allows the viewer a suspension of disbelief from fatalism, beyond the impending death of Mary, and allows the possibility of hope for even the most broken people.
As cliché as the story sounds, the acting and directing along with some well placed special effects make the story endearing and worthwhile. I know “endearing” can be the kiss of death in a cynical world, but in this case it is a good thing. I would recommend this film for anyone looking for a change of pace from the normal doom and gloom. As for the DVD quality, the picture and color are great.
A BOY AND HIS DOG (1975)
A cult favorite among the gen-xers, A BOY AND HIS DOG is set in the post apocalyptic world of the future after the few minutes that constituted World War III. A young cocky Don Johnson is the Boy and the Dog is telepathic. Together they traverse a desert world where canned food is king and women are scarce.
A strange society of Cleaver-ites living below ground and lead by Jason Robards, use a nubile young lady to lure Johnson to a strange underground city complete with full grown pine trees. Their goal: the introduction of new DNA to the gene pool. Johnson thinks this is his chance to fertilize the ladies of the land down under with abandon, but the truth turns out to be a little less fun, and a little more painful, than he imagined. The young, not so innocent girl rescues Johnson and makes a short-lived bid for control of the town. Neither Johnson or the town is very supportive and the girl ends up, well… you should really see the film just for the ending.
Directed by L.Q. Jones in 1975, with a screenplay by Harlan Ellison, A BOY AND HIS DOG predates films like MAD MAX and set the standard for sci fi that mixed the satire of the 50’s and 60’s along with the cynicism of a generation raised in the Nixon era. It is still fun and fascinating to watch after all these years and I found myself appreciating aspects of the film I hadn’t even noticed when I was twelve (go figure). The DVD itself is a bit of a disappointment. Billed as the “Special Collector’s Edition” the transfer looks like it was done from a film print, and an old one at that, and the sound is average.