The Apartment

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Comedy;
$49.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams. 

When it comes to my personal choice for best/favorite Billy Wilder movie, I usually zig-zag among Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole and The Apartment — though let it be noted in the name of Joey Bishop that my strongest emotional attachment goes to Kiss Me, Stupid (absolutely and eternally) and Stalag 17 (probably in second place due to how much I loved it as a youngster, particularly in the mail call scenes: “At ease, at ease”). But re-savoring The Apartment in Arrow’s new limited edition and absorbing the bonus backgrounders both new and recycled from a past release, it’s tough to deny the perfection of 1960’s best picture Oscar winner all the way down the line, which in Wilder’s case, always extended to the care he took with, say, the 125th-billed actor.

And though topicality can be a trap when gauging a movie’s effectiveness due to how today’s dominator of news can eventually turn into tomorrow’s LP of Anita Bryant’s Greatest Hits, it’s a real punch to the face (and here, I mean this in a good sense) to see how a once controversial comedy-drama from 58 years ago can be so spot-on about sexual harassment in the work place. This, of course, is an issue not likely to fall prey to topicality limitations, so when we take a fresh jaded look at the comical sleazeball execs who populate the story’s Manhattan-based insurance company — and with its big boss the worst offender of all — there’s simply no way anyone can deny that the movie is more potent than it even was at the time.

Interestingly, especially in view of its commercial success with a public that “got it,” the picture got mixed reviews when it opened in the summer (Psycho, The Apartment and Kazan’s Wild River all opened in close proximity; ponder that the next time you deny that movies have gone to hell). Critically speaking, Pauline Kael got tiresomely huffy about it, but in truth — and in retrospect, this probably isn’t very surprising — it was her male colleagues who were predominantly offended by the idea of a career-hungry insurance company exec (Jack Lemmon) advancing up the “Mad Men” ladder by lending his apartment out to superiors for their extra-marital flings. (After, of course, packing his modest digs out with vodka and the right kind of cheese crackers.) Yeah, right: We all know this didn’t happen in the Rat Pack era.

Yet, something happened over the next few months (most likely, commercial acceptance), and by the time spring rolled around, The Apartment won five Oscars — including three to Wilder himself for producing, directing and co-writing with I.A.L. Diamond. Despite Lemmon’s supporting Oscar for 1955’s Mister Roberts, it was Wilder’s Some Like It Hot in 1959 that had “made” the actor, and Wilder knew even during Hot’s production that not only did he want him for this immediate follow-up — and that if he couldn’t get Lemmon and his ingratiating personality as an audience buffer amid an undeniably sordid premise, the picture probably wouldn’t be made. It was genius casting, as was Shirley MacLaine’s as the plot-central elevator girl (as they used to be called), as was Fred MacMurray as the firm’s slimy personnel director, Mr. Sheldrake — albeit in this case, casting that emerged from tragedy.

Paul Douglas, who hadn’t looked too healthy in swan song The Mating Game from ’59, was signed and ready to go in the Sheldrake role before suddenly dropping dead of a heart attack. Though Douglas is a lifelong favorite of mine and had played the brashly crude Harry Brock character on Broadway in Born Yesterday, he was almost always lovable (if gruffly lovable) in the movies, and I can’t recall his ever having played an absolute heel on screen. MacMurray (and his eyebrows) convey the character’s all but transparent dark side at once, and the No. 1 revelation I’ve taken from this recent viewing is just how great MacMurray is here. Though he initially resisted the part due to his then recent Disney association and the launching of TV’s “My Three Sons” (on this week’s episode, dad cheats with a pert employee who eventually tries to kill herself), this is one of MacMurray’s two career performances. Both were for Wilder — the other being his all-timer as the insurance agent who makes the worst sale possible policy sale this side of the one Bob Hope writes up for you-know-who in Alias Jesse James.

Technical credits are pro here, as Variety reviews used to say, with the visual showstopper being the set for Lemmon’s impersonally cavernous work “hangar” — the creation of Children of Paradise’s always-brilliant production designer Alexandre Trauner, who won an Oscar here. These key scenes were in turn heavily influenced by parts of King Vidor’s The Crowd, a silent so brilliantly off-the-charts that you’d naturally expect it to be on DVD or Blu-ray yet one that only enjoyed a laserdisc release back in the Cro-Magnon video era. Meanwhile, versatile (and nominated) cinematographer Joseph LaShelle gives The Apartment an appropriately noir-ish look while doing a flawless job of navigating Lemmon’s just-functional digs (for him and for the work cronies who use it). Adolph Deutsch’s score wasn’t nominated, but this has to be because his main theme was borrowed or swiped from an obscure British film of the ’40s (I’d like to hear the story behind this). Even so, the music and its many moods give both the comedy and drama a huge boost, and the aforementioned theme caught on with the public and made it to Billboard’s No. 10 when Ferrante & Teicher hugely tickled 176 ivories in their tie-in recording.

MGM’s old Blu-ray never struck me as one of the most obvious titles that begged for a revamp, but the clean-up job Arrow has done here re-emphasizes the point that imagery delivered as the filmmaker intended it can go a long, long way toward totally putting over even a screenplay as verbally kinetic as The Apartment’s. (I love it when Oscar-nominated Jack Kruschen, as Lemmon’s doctor neighbor, refers to the younger man’s perceived sexual dalliances with a wide array of women, on certain evenings, as a “twi-night double header.”) Bruce Block, who delivers an outstanding commentary carried over from the previous release, has a visual background — which, when combined with his massive research, makes for a wall-to-wall informative two hours.

This Arrow version also adds a slew of featurettes that include a Wilder archival interview where he speaks extensively and sweetly about Diamond and a sturdy booklet with critical writings more on the ball than some of the original reviews. From what I’ve seen to date, Arrow has become one of those companies whose name on the box means you can go to the bank, and this fresh viewing has, for me, been somewhat of a revelation. And this despite the fact that The Apartment has always been one of my favorite films since seeing it in a summer drive-in double bill the following year with Elmer Gantry — quite a night for a then recent 14-year-old and one that killed Disney Fred MacMurray’s for me forever. Matter of fact, I’d walked across the street to see Some Like It Hot in ’59 immediately after exiting the Fred-Walt original of The Shaggy Dog, and even then, the comparison was one of “Give me a break.”

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

The Apartment (Blu-ray)

MVD/Arrow, Comedy, $49.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams.
1960. Though topicality can be a trap when gauging a movie’s effectiveness, it’s a real punch to the face to see how a once controversial comedy-drama from 58 years ago can be so spot-on about sexual harassment in the work place. This, of course, is an issue not likely to fall prey to topicality limitations, so when we take a fresh jaded look at the comical sleazeball execs who populate the story’s Manhattan-based insurance company — and with its big boss the worst offender of all — there’s simply no way anyone can deny that the movie is more potent than it even was at the time.
Extras: Bruce Block, who delivers an outstanding commentary carried over from the previous release, has a visual background — which, when combined with his massive research, makes for a wall-to-wall informative two hours. This Arrow version also adds a slew of featurettes that include a Billy Wilder archival interview where he speaks extensively and sweetly about Diamond and a sturdy booklet with critical writings more on the ball than some of the original reviews.
Read the Full Review

Captain From Castile (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, Lee J. Cobb, Thomas Gomez.
1947. There’s no shortfall of goodies to carry Captain From Castile, and fairly easily at that, over the lumps you might expect from a 140-minute epic directed by Henry King.
Extras: Twilight Time’s familiar virtue of isolating the musical score of its Blu-ray releases takes on added significance here with Castile because we can now concentrate on how composer Alfred Newman specifically applied one of his foremost achievements to the action at hand. Adding to the musical emphasis is a commentary by music producer and Twilight Time guiding force Nick Redman and writer/producer/historian Jon Burlingame (who are all things to the history of movie music) and the ever-agreeable historian Rudy Behlmer.
Read the Full Review

Captain From Castile

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, Lee J. Cobb, Thomas Gomez. 

There’s no shortfall of goodies to carry Captain From Castile, and fairly easily at that, over the lumps you might expect from a 140-minute epic directed by Henry King, who in his day was probably the most prized house director at 20th Century-Fox (at least after the more freelancing John Ford left). The down side: King was also known for one the greatest disparities I can think of between the really good movies he made and the clunkers, of which there were many.

All components considered, my take has long been that you have to weigh Castile, and in not insubstantial ways, somewhat toward the former grouping — which would include Twelve O’Clock High, The Gunfighter and Margie for personal starters. And a lot this is due to Alfred Newman’s durably famous and oft-recorded score for this shot-on-location 16th-century Technicolor epic, which is one of my three or four favorites screen compositions of all time. For the record, No. 1 would be Newman’s score for How the West Was Won, whose LP version I wore out even more in 1963 than Rat Pack vocals and the early Bob Dylan. As for Newman himself, he put Castile in his own personal top-3 along with his scores for Wuthering Heights and The Song of Bernadette (but while we’re at it, how about a little love for How Green Was My Valley?).

Appropriately, then, Twilight Time’s familiar virtue of isolating the musical score of its Blu-ray releases takes on added significance here with Castile because we can now concentrate on how Newman specifically applied one of his foremost achievements to the action at hand, courtesy of both the lushly romantic “Catana” theme written for leads Tyrone Power and Jean Peters and the majestically ass-kicking “Conquest,” which the USC Marching Band has employed as one of its staples dating back to when I was a very young kid. The latter piece is, of all things, used to enhance our respect for Cesar Romero’s military muscle — though this eye-twinkling comment from me isn’t intended as a diss. Next to his comically oily turn as the island governor in Donovan’s Reef, which always cracks me up just thinking about it, Castile contains my favorite screen performance from Mr. “CR 2” — which I’m told was Romero’s license plate number by a friend who once ended up next to the actor’s gas-guzzler at the same red L.A. traffic light. Regardless of the digit next to his initials, his characterization turns famed conqueror-with-a-mean-streak Hernan Cortes into a tough but fair relatively nice guy who just incidentally finds all-in-a-day’s-work pleasure in plundering Aztecs.

Adding to the musical emphasis is a commentary by music producer and Twilight Time guiding force Nick Redman and writer/producer/historian Jon Burlingame (who are all things to the history of movie music) and the ever-agreeable historian Rudy Behlmer — someone whose writings I began following when I was a young teenager. Behlmer has always been all things to just about anything filmic that ever happened anytime, including (it wouldn’t surprise me) how many bennies David O. Selznick sprinkled each morning on his All-Bran.

Good thing, because there’s a lot of rich screen history for the trio here to discuss: the massive wartime popularity and necessary truncation of Samuel Shellabarger’s doorstop source novel; a long, long location shoot in multiple Mexican locales; censorship problems with the Breen Office over the book’s treatment of Catholicism (there was a little thing called he Spanish Inquisition that didn’t reflect too well on the Church); and returning Marine Power’s attempt to reestablish his mammothly successful career at postwar Fox in a way that never totally took hold. Then there was Peters being plucked from the campus of The Ohio State University and into the lead of a costly picture her very first time out (fairly successfully, too); her courtship by, and eventual marriage to, Howard Hughes; and the ultimate inability of the picture to recover its sizable cost despite otherwise healthy box office in a year (1947) when overall attendance plummeted after wartime peaks (and with TV’s mass acceptance and viewing habits transformation yet to come).

As for the story, Cortes doesn’t even show up or become a factor until Spanish nobleman Power has had a pronounced fall from grace after aiding an escaped slave and onetime friendly acquaintance (Jay Silverheels, pre-Tonto). As a result, Inquisition forces come after Power and his family; his wedding plans go on the rocks; he forces a dastardly pro-Inquisition stooge (John Sutton, who had the market cornered on this kind of role) to do something truly terrible from his point of view before giving this crud a sword in his soft underbelly (the only kind he has). Oh, and he’s nearly executed. After all this, I’d go to Mexico as well, or any other country that Donald Trump hates, just to get away.

The print here has to be real-deal IB Technicolor, which I strongly suspect isn’t true of Twilight Time’s also recent release of the same year’s Forever Amber, another period spectacle I like a lot and one with another all-time great score (by David Raksin). I think there are a lot of preservation horror stories about Fox having scrapped original negative materials on Amber and other three-strip titles, though I wouldn’t absolutely go to the bank on my memory here. But I do absolutely remember that several decades ago, an employee of Warner Bros.-TV (foreign division, which also distributed certain Fox titles at the time) had a beautiful 35mm print struck of Castile just before the cessation of inarguably superior IB printing as a viable endeavor. So maybe (or not) this was the source. In any event, this is the real-deal visually in a manner that’s up to Newman’s scoring, and even the humble tablecloth that Peters’ tavern girl takes to the creek to bang on some rock for cleaning purposes looks sharper than most of my personal wardrobe.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

Mike’s Picks: ‘Gidget’ and ‘Junior Bonner’

Gidget (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson, James Darren, Arthur O’Connell.
1959. The retro beach-time confection of Sandra Dee’s career-maker just gets by as a time-killer if you missed your beach time this summer.
Read the Full Review

Junior Bonner

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, Ben Johnson, Joe Don Baker.
1972. A lot of people revere Junior Bonner, which features a lovingly constructed Jeb Rosebrook screenplay that director Sam Peckinpah fleshes out with a couple of show-stopping extended set pieces, but it could have used an ad campaign that sold its maker’s most gentle movie as a family drama and not another of the rodeo sagas that were flooding the market at that time.
Extras: Offering the commentary are definitive Peckinpah experts Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, who long ago established themselves as the go-to crew on Sam-related voiceovers, no matter which distributor is behind the home release.
Read the Full Review

Gidget

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Comedy;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson, James Darren, Arthur O’Connell.

In terms of recent Twilight Time Blu-ray releases, my eyes have been more naturally gravitating toward Sayonara and Captain From Castile, big-scale productions whose substantial bankrolls easily financed stunner looks — the kind that now, many decades later, have made them ideal choices for high-def treatment. But the weather in my neighborhood is turning cooler — I don’t like it when the temperatures fall lower than 65°F for any reason — and the retro beach-time content of Gidget seems apposite for a stop-off on the way to viewing more ambitious screen projects that I’m much more ravenous to revisit. Besides, confections like Sandra Dee’s career-maker (though two of the other four 1959 releases Dee had the same year further accelerated her brief superstardom) are sometimes more indicative of how a culture is viewing itself. More so than, say, the Alain Resnais Hiroshima Mon Amour likely did — a film that, in any event, didn’t reach the U.S. until spring of ’60.

Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn was a little more than a year deceased when Gidget came out in early spring, but he was still around (and hated) when the project was set in motion. And he was still dead by the time Dee had made a cute impression, fourth-billed, in 1958’s The Reluctant Debutante for Vincente Minnelli (who also served up Gigi and Some Came Running the same year, mercy). Had Cohn seen Dee, he likely would have wondered about the diminutive cutie’s marquee potency after he had spent the entire ’40s and part of the ’50s promoting buxom studio meal ticket Rita Hayworth. Little could he have known that a pair of Dee-less Gidget sequels were also on the horizon, as well as a short-lived TV spinoff with Sally Field in a kind of “Flying Nun” alternative. We should also note that Cheech Marin brings up some lurid fantasy film of his called Gidget Gets Gooey in Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, though good luck, archivists, at finding a print of that one under some Yukon ice bed.

To be sure, times were changing and so was recognition of surfing as a sport — which the popularity of Gidget (it alludes to a combo of “girl” and “midget” by a cast of male beachcombers that then Selective Service Director Gen. Lewis Hershey probably yearned to draft) did something to accelerate. The fact that it did hacked off 30-ish oldtimers who resented the tidal invasion by what they perceived as paddling pretenders — though, in truth, the sport is mostly a backdrop here for another antiseptic beach romance. You know: the kind with swigs of Nehi shooters at campfire parties, lovers (clothed) rolling around in the sand and, lo and behold, even a vocal show-up by the Four Preps themselves, who also sing the title tune during the opening credits. For the record, Gidget co-star James Darren had the not-quite chart buster of this that he gets to reprise during the movie — one that hit Billboard’s No. 41 slot on Colpix Records, which was Columbia’s answer to Warner Bros. getting into the vinyl business after Tab Hunter hit it big with “Young Love.” (This is around the time at least one music-oriented publicity campaign tagged Tab as “America’s Favorite Bachelor” — but I digress.)

Darren plays one of Dee’s love interests, and so does Cliff Robertson, who was about 35 (passing for 30) when he made this. Given that wannabe surfer Gidget is 16 and a straight-A student who demonstrates her “who-vs.-whom” capability in one scene, we might have been in line for an icky Roy Moore moment had a) the script not kept it clean; and b) the weakened late-1950s version of the Production Code still not been that weak, despite Columbia’s release of Suddenly, Last Summer a few months later. Of course, a Moore moment is hopefully not something  many would have wanted to see, even if Robertson — who, like every other so-called beach bum here, remains clean-shaven — is a nice-looking fellow who presumably wouldn’t ever cruise a mall. As it happens, his character’s big offense of the day is that he doesn’t want to work — though if your moniker were “The Big Kahoona” in 1959, corporate headhunters wouldn’t be chasing you, either.

All of this positively bewilders Gidget’s parents, who despite the movie’s CinemaScope, color and theatrical release, are strictly TV issue. Dad (Arthur O’Connell) is one of those sexless ’50s dads married to a pretty but sexless ’50s blonde (Mary LaRoche), and they’d no doubt be sleeping in separate beds even if the Code hadn’t still mandated it. (LaRoche later played Ann-Margret’s mom — and that gangster-of-love Paul Lynde’s wife — in Columbia’s screen version of Bye Bye Birdie, so she apparently had the market cornered for these roles). One reason Mary Tyler Moore was such a revolutionary TV mom on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” had to do with the easily imagined vision not a few guys had of Dick buying her fishnets for their wedding anniversary and paying the babysitter to take the kids to Donovan’s Reef or some such healthy diversion while mom and dad acted out The Henry Miller Playbook.

As a result, the movie just gets by as a time-killer if (as I did) you missed your beach time this summer; after all, ocean, sand and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio are their own rewards at a time of year when Bing Crosby chestnuts will probably get piped into CVS loud speakers before Shout! Factory gets out its World Series Blu-ray editions. Though the ocean shots mercifully look the best here, Columbia was killing retinas in those days with all forms of processing that weren’t Technicolor, and IMDb.com actually lists the Eastman variation employed for Gidget as something called ColumbiaColor at a time when even Jack Warner had already seen the folly of appalling WarnerColor and knew enough to bail in time to shoot Dee’s year-end smash A Summer Place in real-deal pigments. (Talk about a movie that would be a ripe candidate for Warner Archive Blu-ray treatment). Still, I can’t help but feel at least a tinge of nostalgia for a title tune that contains the lyric, “Although she’s not king size, her finger is ring-size” — even if, in a pinch, I still prefer, “I’ve Got Smog in My Noggin, Ever Since You Made the Scene” from “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” which hit Billboard No. 4 almost exactly at the time Gidget came out.

You know: this wasn’t exactly “Freedom Summer” in terms of the youth culture.

Continue reading “Gidget”

Junior Bonner

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Drama;
$19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, Ben Johnson, Joe Don Baker.

To hear a welcome barrage of familiar Sam Peckinpah experts accurately tell it as part of Kino’s ample-plus Blu-ray bonus features, not many moviegoers were waiting for Junior Bonner in 1972 at a time when lead Steve McQueen (coming off his Le Mans debacle) needed a hit. I was an exception — and in one of the more folkloric stories in my personal movie-going history, drove 75 Ohio miles (each way) from Columbus to Dayton to see it in an early booking, only to discover that its too-brief engagement had wrapped the previous day. Something must have been in the water (or, given my peer group’s age at the time, firewater): Not long before or after this, a close friend of mine tried to impress a woman by driving the two of them from Columbus to Cleveland to see if they could score tickets for the day’s Browns-Giants game — rudely unaware that the Browns were playing in New York that day.

Both of us could have used the Internet, and Junior Bonner could have used an ad campaign that sold its maker’s most gentle movie as a family drama and not another of the rodeo sagas that were flooding the market at that time. McQueen, Robert Preston and Ida Lupino are three of my favorite screen performers ever, and here they are as a wayward son and his estranged parents, with Joe Don Baker (as the more responsible “Curly” Bonner) as a brother trying to make a go with a (so far) lucrative Prescott, Ariz., real estate development. What more could anyone want — and this at a time when The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Straw Dogs in quick succession had established Peckinpah as possibly the most dazzling U.S. director then going — though rebuttals were intelligently advanced by disciples of Robert Altman and also Mike Nichols, who’d come back big-time from his Catch-22 stumble with the oddly not-on-Blu-ray Carnal Knowledge).

For a movie that bombed at the box office during its release, a lot of people revere Junior Bonner — including Ali MacGraw (also a part of this Blu-ray’s bonus features), whose The Getaway with McQueen opened four months after JB to become what I am virtually certain was Peckinpah’s biggest commercial hit. (She also did Convoy, the director’s penultimate film.) MacGraw is one of many who’ve advanced, or at least implied, the sentiment that Peckinpah’s more characteristic big-screen bloodbaths only told half the story; in other words, where were all you clowns who put Sam the Man down as reprehensible when the still underseen Cable Hogue and then this unpretentious beauty were showing an entirely different side?

Uh, huh.

Via a lovingly constructed Jeb Rosebrook screenplay that Peckinpah fleshes out with a couple of show-stopping extended set pieces, Junior (McQueen) returns to his hometown to compete in a contest that necessitates his doing well in front of parents and old acquaintances, even though he’s been banged up from getting bucked and is otherwise no longer the competitor he used to be. Papa “Ace” (Preston) is an irresponsible mental child — albeit a onetime real-deal rodeo star as well, who keeps eating up Curly’s money-tree generosity in grand schemes that may probably will not extend to his latest: prospecting for minerals in Australia. Meanwhile, the siblings’ heard-it-all-before mom Lupino, who long ago fled the marital coop, is running the knick-knack register at one of Curly’s “shops” in a construction endeavor that earns him no little money but perhaps not a whole lot of respect. Junior matter-of-factly balks at the offer of a cushy job with the business, apparently preferring to nurse body bruises from unfriendly four-legged creatures.

The movie exudes an extraordinary sense of community, with added autobiographical touches here and there, including one McQueen-Preston gesture involving a hat that I’ve never forgotten over the years. Both virtues come through in Rosebrook’s authentic dialogue (sparked by actors who can really deliver it) — and the predominantly nonverbal flair of an elaborate barroom brawl and an earlier parade sequence that’s the best of its type I’ve ever seen on screen. These kinds of sequences are not easy to shoot (the brawl packs a few dozen participants into a cramped widescreen frame), but Peckinpah gave them lots of coverage, which at least one of his editors had always stressed was the way to go.

The project, which came together quickly, is one that McQueen especially coveted as one that would make certain audiences take him seriously as an actor when, in actuality, he had one of the most readably nuanced screen faces of anyone who ever stepped in front of the camera. This is one of his best jobs ever, but rodeo pics were inevitably a tough sell in taste-making geographical regions (I suspect that Nicholas Ray’s as extraordinary The Lusty Men had troubles of its own knocking down 1952 turnstiles). Peckinpah’s take on the genre is extraordinary as well but in quiet ways that camouflage its full virtues. This said, the included coming attraction and TV trailers make it look like a feature-length bundle of clichés and fail to emphasize the extraordinary cast Peckinpah had at his disposal.

Thus, it has always remained for revisionists for trumpet its considerable virtues, and, in fact, Junior Bonner was the very first movie I ever programmed upon launching nearly a decade of daily programming and almost as many whiplashing calendar changes at the AFI Theater in Washington, D.C. Offering the commentary are definitive Peckinpah experts Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, who long ago established themselves as the go-to crew on Sam-related voiceovers, no matter which distributor is behind the home release. Rosebrook, who can easily spin an anecdote, rates a half-hour of his own, and another featurette of similar length features an array of actors (L.Q. Jones, Ernie Borgnine and the expected usual suspects) who worked with Peckinpah and lived (though perhaps at times without their livers) to tell about it. One Kris Kristofferson anecdote — about Bob Dylan’s reaction to Peckinpah’s creative response to some faulty lab work on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid — is by itself worth the price of admission.

Continue reading “Junior Bonner”