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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

Bonnie and Clyde

In the throes of my adolescence, I loved Bullitt madly, and the company that had produced and distributed the film, Warner Bros., also produced and distributed Bonnie and Clyde, a movie that I saw when it first came out and greatly admired. In those days, there was no such thing as home video and successful movies were often reissued to theaters. Warner eventually paired Bullitt andBonnie and Clyde as a double bill, and as I went back to watch Bullitt again and again, I gradually started to like it a little bit less and Bonnie and Clyde a lot more. Both movies had thrilling action scenes, but the characters in Bullitt were fairly superficial-a good deal more nuanced than characters in most action films, but still, ultimately, superficial. No matter how often I sawBonnie and Clyde, however, the psychologies and emotions of the characters just continued to get richer and deeper. They were real people, caught in the hardships of their times and the maelstrom of their own impulses, and compelled to their fates entirely by their interactions with one another. Nicely modulated with humor, the narrative presented a steadily woven advancement of successes and failures that I would later come to learn was part of a long tradition in Warner gangster films, going back to the days when the real Bonnie Parker andClyde Barrow, consciously or subconsciously, styled themselves upon the exploits ofJames Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Superbly staged and encouraged by directorArthur Penn, the performances of Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons and Michael J. Pollard are as breathlessly vivid as they are iconically attractive, and all five received Oscar nominations, with Parsons, who acrobatically manages to be as shrill as a fire alarm without alienating the viewer, going on to win a statue. Dede Allen’s editing is smart and invigorating, and the final scene in the movie, depicting the pair’s death, is probably one of the ten best shot and edited sequences in the history of American cinema. The 1967 feature crossed over some kind of invisible line of cinematic grammar that arose during its era, so that in capturing an earlier period of time while not shying away from sexuality or violence, it has never seemed to age in any aspect of its production, and can rivet the attention of young as well as older viewers today just as readily as it did when it first came out.

Warner Home Video released Bonnie and Clyde twice previously and has now taken yet another shot at it, with a Two-Disc Special Edition (UPC#085391167983, $21), presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The monophonic sound is solid and the 111-minute program comes with optional English, French and Korean subtitles, and two trailers. The color transfer is a definite improvement over the shared transfer on the older releases. Although they looked fine in their day, they appear pinkish compared to the pure whites and truer fleshtones on the new release. Unfortunately, there is room for even more improvement. You are aware as you watch the movie that the hues are a little bland, but when you move on to the second platter and view two deleted scenes that have been included, the differences are stunning. One of the deleted scenes has footage that did remain in the film and can be compared directly to what is seen in the feature. The colors in that deleted scene are incredibly bright and precise, and the colors in the feature are, in comparison, flat and dispiriting.

The 5 minutes of deleted scenes are silent, but are supported by optional subtitles and are as welcome a revelation as any found footage from such a significant film would be, including an ambiguously erotic interchange between Dunaway and Pollard’s characters. The second platter also contains 8 minutes of silent costume tests with Beatty, featuring the same vivid colors that the deleted scenes have. There is a good 65-minute retrospective documentary that manages to talk to almost everyone involved, including Curtis Hanson, who had parlayed some early glamour shots of Dunaway into a visit to the set, and Morgan Fairchild, who was Dunaway’s double. The program goes over the New Wave/Sixties phenomena and that sort of thing, but its real strength is in the comprehensive detail it brings up about the many components that came together so well in the film. Art director Dean Tavoularis, for example, points out, “I was very happy to see that Texas had not progressed very much out of the Depression. You had these beautiful roads with wooden sidewalks and businesses that were mostly shut, but beautifully preserved. At that time, I found everything I wanted, very quickly.” Finally, there is an efficient 43-minute History Channel documentary from 1994 about the real Parker and Barrow. It is a bit jarring to see how some of the events in their lives were copied meticulously while others were completely romanticized, but that’s the movies for you.

April 2, 2008

– by Douglas Pratt

Douglas Pratt’s DVD-Laser Disc Newsletter is published monthly.
For a free sample, call (516)594-9304 or go to his website at

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon