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Easy Rider

"Easy Rider" on DVD

Born to be Wild

Looking back on Columbia's "Easy Rider" through the lens of history, one can hardly argue that it isn't the quintessential 1960's hippie biker flick. It's more than that, however, it's a time capsule and a glorious travelog for America's highways and byways.

Dennis Hopper directed the screenplay he wrote with co-star Peter Fonda (who also produced) and Terry Southern. He plays the angry young man - long haired and rebellious - to Fonda's easy going free spirit.

They begin the film with a cocaine deal that makes them comfortably well off and propels them on their cross country odyssey to sample the fleshpots of New Orleans at Mardi Gras. Along the way they pick up a hippie hitchhiker who takes them to his commune - and later when they're thrown in jail they meet up with George Hanson (Jack Nicholson), a lawyer who decides to make the rest of the trek with them.

Naturally, these anti establishment rebels run afoul of the establishment and it ends up costing all three of them dearly.

The movie is really about Hopper and Fonda's pursuit of the American dream, and a tribute to the freedom of the open road, and as such it's quite enjoyable.

Columbia Tristar has done a terrific job with the DVD of Easy Rider. The audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1, and it really shows. Early scenes at the end of an airport runway have jets flying overhead - with their noise filling the room most delightfully.

The famous rock music score has also been given a loving treatment. I don't know whether or not they went to the audio CD's and used them for the new soundtrack, but the songs sound as if they were recorded yesterday and the stereo audio is nothing less than first rate.

The movie is presented only in widescreen, and it looks wonderful. The locations chosen are a mixture of the lush, the mountainous, the arid, and the spectacular, and it's almost enough to make you want to retrace the boys' route across the US just so you can see those glorious locations.

Extras include a full length documentary courtesy of director Hopper, and an hour long documentary "Easy Rider: Shaking The Cage," which features new interviews with the cage shakers and movers. There's also a selection of talent files on the disc and a decent liner essay in the package.

Oh, you may want to have the audio system turned down when you access the main menu - unless you really, really love the throaty growl of a Harley...

I don't know if I'd agree that "Easy Rider" is "One of the ten most important pictures of the (1960's) decade," as Time Magazine called it - but despite its downbeat ending it's an entertaining film that beautifully captures the mood of its time.

Easy Rider, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
95 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Produced by Peter Fonda, Screenplay by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern
Directed by Dennis Hopper


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Updated May 13, 2006