The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986)
Dudley Moore (The Last Man on Earth), Some Fucking Cat (“Milo”), A Dog (“Otis”)
“Oh the dawn of man is over/ the time has come up/for a psychopathic cat and a pug-nose pup/gonna take a walk outside today/gonna make everyone die today” – Opening song.
Milo and Otis concerns a far-off future where the animals have turned on humankind and killed off the human species. They live in the remains of our infrastructure, our blood still cooling on their lips as they find that, without a common base enemy, they’re all enemies at heart. It’s a literal dog-eat-dog world that we arrive into.
The Last Man on Earth (unseen and unnamed, but played by Dudley Moore) watches from a secret bunker buried deep within the Earth, controlling camera drones that watch the lives of a pug and a barn cat. To stave off madness and combat the darkness that lives in his heart, the man serves as a narrator, spinning a whimsical yarn of two animals who are the best of friends over a story so bleak that my soul may never recover.
The cat, called “Milo” by the man is a sociopath from birth. His first act on this Earth is to mortify his mother by jumping from the hay loft, but soon he finds a new patsy in a small pug called Otis. His first act upon meeting the dunderheaded pooch is to point out that they are different so that Otis will never forget that he is of inferior stock.
Milo continues to mind-fuck Otis for years, mocking his self-less deeds and driving away others who would be more capable of noticing his toxic influence. Then one day, having finally decided to destroy the innocence of the wall-eyed beast that his venom-tipped tongue calls “friend”, he jumps into a crate and goes down the river, causing Otis to give chase.
What follows is like a mash-up of Homer’s The Oddysey and Salo. Karma hits Milo hard and with great frequency as he is tortured, mocked, and beaten by all the animals he comes across. Even the man attempts to kill the cat with an automated trolley car, but his attempt is unsuccesful. Otis, on the other hand, becomes stronger and braver and develops into a formidable wasteland warrior.
When dog and cat cross paths again, Otis is more than aware of the manipulations that Milo has made and uses his weakened state to enslave the vile cat. Milo travels as Otis’ slave for some time until he finds a female cat who helps drive Otis off for a time. Otis finds a mate as well, and together they have puppies, but a cold winter and near-starvation drives Otis out into the cold. His teeth and claws are mighty, but they cannot protect the ones he loves from starvation.
The only food Otis can find is kept by Milo, who offers the dog some fish in exchange for his undying servitude. Otis grudgingly agrees and the two meet in the spring, heading back to the farm where Otis and his family will suffer years of back-breaking labor until they die a pauper’s death. If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a revolver being loaded as the man finishes the happy ending to his story and the screen goes to black.
It has been noticed by many that the end credits of this movie contains no assurance that animals were not harmed in the making of this movie. This is because not only were the animals harmed, but actually tortured. To build an authentic sense of dread, each animal would go through three and a half hours of vigourous beatings prior to filming a scene and were often fed ground glass and lemon Jolly Ranchers to make their despair extra convincing.
According to this documentary on the making of the film, when an animal actor died it was fed to its replacement so that its feelings of pain would pass on to its descendant. The production went through 350 Milos and 89 Otis’ by the end of filming. Most of the Milos were eaten by the bear, who was raised on a diet of yellow barn cat from birth to make its performance extra convincing.
At the end of filming, the final dog was killed and fed to the final cat who was fed to the bear who was cooked. The nightmare mockery of a turducken was sold at auction where celebrities with a taste for the disturbing and perverse such as Takashi Miike, Werner Herzog, and Donnie Osmond bid for the privilege of eating it. The winning bid was placed by film-maker Lars Von Trier who took one single bite and then began weeping uncontrollably, the next day he wrote the screenplay for Antichrist.
I’m going to be covering a lot of bleak and upsetting movies in the course of this column, but none will compare to the abyssal melancholy thrust upon me by The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Instant from Amazon as well as a special Criterion Collection edition which features an extra 45 minutes of uninterrupted animal torture.
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