Taking Issue with A Boy and His Dog (1975)

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A guest post provided by former TCM intern, Alexandra Greenway.

To view A Boy and His Dog click here.

A Boy and His Dog follows 18-year-old Vic (Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog, Blood (voiced by Tim McIntire), as they scavenge for women in the dystopian Wild West in the year 2024. The film is directed by L. Q. Jones, who is probably best known as a member of Sam Peckinpaw’s troop of stock actors, appearing in his Klondike series (1960–1961), Ride the High Country (1962), Major Dundee (1965), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Peckinpaw was known for his violent films, some of which including Straw Dogs (1971), garnered controversy based on their content. It follows then that Jones would take the same violent approach to his own filmmaking, as A Boy and His Dog is equally gruesome. It opens with Vic finding a woman after she’s been raped and beaten to near death. Vic, despondent, makes no effort to save her and instead whines that the previous party could have at least left her alive so that he, too, could rape her. So despite the innocuous title, Jones’s film deals with some disturbing material, especially with regard to its treatment of women.

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A Roar, Not a Whimper: The Wind and the Lion (1975)

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To view The Wind and the Lion click here.

A stunning epic adventure that would have been a massive hit had it been released ten years earlier, The Wind and the Lion (1975) is one of those movies I always look forward to revisiting every few years. Its unusual, clear-eyed look at global relations and the weirdness of national politics hasn’t dated a bit, and in fact, I’d say time has helped this film look even better and more relevant than when it was originally released to respectful but muted reviews and box office sales. Additionally, it was only nominated for two Oscars, Best Sound and Best Music (Original Dramatic Score) for one of the best scores Jerry Goldsmith ever wrote. (However, Goldsmith would have to wait a year to bring home his first and only Academy Award for The Omen.) Despite the modest initial reception, I’m here to announce it’s a film worth exploring. [...MORE]

The Swashbuckling Lover: Bardelys the Magnificent (1926)

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To view Bardelys the Magnificent click here.

By 1926 director King Vidor and star John Gilbert were one of MGM’s most bankable duos, thanks to the massive success of their WWI drama The Big Parade (1925). They were immediately thrust into the similarly high-minded period piece La Bohème (1926), and were cast in The Glory Diggers, about the construction of the Panama Canal. But MGM had to drop the latter project, and to keep them working swiftly re-assigned both of them to Bardelys the Magnificent (1926) instead, a tongue-in-cheek romantic adventure in the Douglas Fairbanks mold. It was a departure for the duo, but they proved to have the appropriately light touch, and Gilbert flies across the screen as if sprung from a trampoline. Gilbert pokes fun at his “Great Lover” persona, here pushed into a seducer caricature of Casanovian proportions. Once thought lost, an incomplete print was discovered in France in 2006 and restored by Lobster Films. The third reel is missing, with that section filled in with inter-titles and stills. It is this version that is on DVD from Flicker Alley and is now streaming on FilmStruck.

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Revisiting On the Waterfront (1954)

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To view On the Waterfront click here.

In a limited engagement on FilmStruck, Criterion is streaming On the Waterfront (1954) through October 31. The offer also includes Criterion’s extensive bonus material package. I hope young subscribers will take this opportunity to watch the film, which should be on everyone’s must-see list. As mentioned by one of my readers recently, fewer and fewer young people are turning to classic films for their viewing pleasure. Unable to see beyond the black and white surface and unfamiliar stars, they assume “old movies” have little to offer them.

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The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

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To view The Decline of Western Civilization click here.

To view The Decline of Western Civilization, Part III click here.

It was in January of 2001 while I was talking to Ozzy Osbourne about David Bradley’s They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968) that I first met Penelope Spheeris. She and Ozzy were doing press interviews at a posh hotel in honor of her Sundance screening for We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n Roll (2001), her documentary about the ’99 Ozzfest Tour. I talked with Ozzy first, Penelope second. The contrast in demeanor could not have been starker. Ozzy was amiable but absent-minded, all twitches and trembles. Penelope was sharp as a razor and extremely relaxed. I should have used my short time with Penelope to dig up details on Ozzfest, but instead found myself talking mostly about her The Decline of Western Civilization documentary trilogy. Of the first two (the original and Part III can currently be seen on FilmStruck), Marc Maron in his podcast with Penelope Spheeris told the director: “You captured the essence of punk, and the essence of what killed it.” [...MORE]

The Bleak Reality of William Wyler’s Dead End (1937)

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To view Dead End click here.

Following the success of These Three and the film adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s Dodsworth (written about here and here), both released in 1936, William Wyler brought another popular Broadway play to the screen: Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End. Kingsley’s play tells the story of a group of young boys growing up in poverty in the slums of New York. With no clear-cut path to a decent life, the boys have nothing better to do but to find trouble, resorting to a life of petty theft, gambling and bullying. After seeing the play in its original run, both Wyler and producer Samuel Goldwyn were interested in adapting Kingsley’s work to the screen. The characters’ struggles were relatable for a Depression-era audience, and while it was risky to make a realistic film for an audience desperate for escapism, Wyler had proven that he could make a film that was both serious and entertaining. Goldwyn purchased the film rights and immediately began production. Starring Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea and Humphrey Bogart, Dead End (1937) was a relatively faithful adaptation of Kingsley’s play. When casting the gang of young boys, Samuel Goldwyn wasn’t having much luck, so he decided to bring several of the boys from the original stage production, including Billy Halop and Leo Gorcy, to Hollywood, offering them a contract. This marked the beginning of the famed “Dead End Kids.”

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From Hot Wax to the Silver Screen: Quadrophenia (1979)

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To view Quadrophenia click here.

Since film got sound, filmmakers have been making musicals. And much of the time the inspiration was the music itself. That is to say, while many musicals are composed originally, like Oklahoma (1955), others, like An American in Paris (1951), are adapted from music already in existence, music that inspired the filmmakers to, essentially, turn songs into plots. After the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, and its late 1960s/early 1970s predilection for concept albums, rock operas and good old fashioned wretched excess, there was new fertile ground from which filmmakers could excavate a storyline. Some were strict adaptations, some were songs as story and some were loose inspirations. In the 1970s, several movies were made with rock songs as their basis with decidedly mixed results, until finally, they seemed to have given up on the singing part altogether.

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Untapped Fears: The Plumber (1979)

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To view The Plumber click here.

Our fears take many forms. I was born and (mostly) raised in California so it’s probably not surprising that I fear natural disasters such as earthquakes and wildfires, which are currently ravaging the place I call home. Others are terrified by serial killers and mad gunmen such as the Las Vegas shooter who recently killed 59 people and wounded nearly 500 others. There are those who fear monstrous creatures like werewolves, giant apes and vampires and some who have phobias triggered by clowns, arachnids or great heights. War, disease and the death of loved ones are typically things we all fear. In the case of Peter Weir’s The Plumber (1979), the main protagonist fears a discourteous plumber who invades her privacy and personal space during a string of ill-timed repairs.

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If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out

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To view Harold and Maude click here.

Anyone who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s probably remembers their first viewing of Harold and Maude (1971). For me it came in the early days of cable TV when HBO and Cinemax started running it in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday; after all, it was rated PG so that meant it could comfortably rub shoulders with other family-friendly fare like Barbarella (1968) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). So imagine my surprise as an impressionable nine-year-old kid seeing this hilarious black comedy with a welcome morbid streak, delivering one of the screen’s great love stories when Bud Cort isn’t spurting fake blood or setting himself on fire. [...MORE]

Eternal Recurrence: Revenge (1989)

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To view Revenge click here.

Revenge (1989) concerns a vengeance that cannot be contained by time. It floats through the centuries, traveling from 17th century Korea to 20th century Sakhalin Island, a much fought over spit of land squabbled over by Russia and Japan. A free-form mass of condensed hate emerges during this period, one which causes the death of a little girl and the mission of her doomed half-brother, who is conceived and raised only to avenge her murder. A major work of what became known as the Kazakh New Wave, Revenge is elusive and incantatory due in part to the script by the Korean-Russian poet Anatoli Kim that does not provide as much of a narrative as it does a striking collage of decay. Add to this the fact that director Ermek Shinarbaev was born in Soviet controlled Kazakhstan, but after Revenge was filmed the Soviet system collapsed and Kazakhstan became a sovereign state. The film reflects the rootlessness, uncertainty and bitterness of no longer having a place to call home. Restored in 2010 thanks to the efforts of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, it is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion (in Volume 2 of their World Cinema Project series), and is now streaming on FilmStruck.

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