In 2024, after a nuclear war, Vic (Don Johnson) is an 18-year-old boy scavenging in the wasteland of the former US Southwest. Vic cares only about food and sex; his parents are dead, and he has no education, ethics, or morality. He is accompanied by a telepathic dog named Blood (voice of Tim McIntyre), who lost his hunting instincts when he became telepathic. He finds women for Vic in exchange for food. They steal for a living and watch out for marauders, berserk military androids, and mutants. Boy and Dog have an antagonistic relationship, but they need each other. Blood wants to find a mythic above-ground utopia called Over the Hill, but Vic doesn’t believe it exists.
They find a woman in a bunker, but she is mutilated and dying. They find slavers digging up another bunker and Vic steals some cans of food. They use one to gain entrance to a movie theater. Blood smells a woman in the crowd, and they track her to an underground warehouse. She is Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), a scheming and seductive teenager from Downunder—a society in an underground settlement. It seems Quilla June’s father Lou Craddock (Jason Robards) has sent her topside to recruit surface dwellers. Blood hates her, but Vic ignores him.
He saves Quilla June from raiders and mutants and they have a lot of sex. But she takes off for home and he follows her, despite Blood’s warnings. At the portal to Downunder, Vic descends and Blood waits on the surface. Downunder is an artificial biosphere with forests and a city called Topeka. The people are in whiteface and dress in archaic clothing. When Vic is told he is there to fertilize the females, he thinks this is a great gig, but he finds out it is to be done with artificial insemination. After he inseminates 35 women, he will be sent to the mysterious Farm.
Quilla June helps Vic escape because she wants him to kill the ruling Committee and destroy the android enforcer Michael (Hal Baylor) so she can rule. He just wants to get out of there. The coup fails and Quilla June leaves with him to escape the Farm. They find Blood starving and Vic decides he loves his dog. Later they talk. Blood thanks Vic for the food and says Quilla June did not have good taste. They walk off together.
The film was directed by L.Q. Jones, from his screenplay based on Harlan Ellison’s black-comedy 1969 novella. Jones raised $400,000 from family and business associates. The voice of the dog was Tim McIntyre, a voice actor who also wrote the music. Ray Manzarek of The Doors was among the musicians. It was thought that the story was unfilmable. Some reviewers liked its black humor, but most thought it was amateurish. It is now, of course, a cult film. It won a Hugo and apparently helped inspire Mad Max.
Harlan Ellison admitted that the two halves of the story did not fit together. The first half was a fairly realistic post-apocalyptic story, but the half in the underground city was just a satire on middle-class life. He said that Blood’s habit of referring to Vic as Albert was a reference to Albert Payson Terhune’s saccharine boy-and-dog stories. A sequel called A Girl and Her Dog was considered, but the dog (named Tiger) died, and he was the best actor in the film. Ellison tried to get the last, extremely dark line excised, but that never happened. That line was pretty much the reason why it became a cult film.