Last Picture Show" on DVD
by Jim Bray
Much honored upon
- and since - its 1971 release, "The Last Picture Show" is a
"slice of life" set during a dying era in early 1950's Texas.
As with George Lucas' "American
Grafitti," it portrays the people and situations of small town
America at a particular crux in its history.
Where the films fundamentally
differ, however, is in the fact that Lucas crafted a highly entertaining
film, whereas "Picture Show" is bleak and plodding - deliberately
so, I'm sure, but that doesn't change the fact that there isn't a lot
of entertainment value in the film.
Still, it has a lot
to recommend it. The cast, which were mostly virtually unknowns at the
time, is terrific. Director Peter Bogdanovich crafts the film very well,
and the black and white widescreen images highlight the bleakness and
the townsfolk's feeling of being hemmed in by a dead end existence.
That cast includes
Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Ben Johnson
and Cybill Shepherd, with Randy Quaid in a smaller role. Their performances
belie their relative inexperience, though I would submit that while Johnson
may have deserved his "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar, Leachman
(who's a fine actress) must have been at the head of a thin crop that
Not that she's bad;
she isn't. But she doesn't really transcend the material the way Johnson's
portrayal of the tired old Sam the Lion does.
The musical soundtrack
consists of country and western standards from the time, and they enhance
the film's mood very well.
In the end "Picture
Show" is mostly a mood piece in its look at the lives and loves of
Anarene, Texas. It succeeds at this very well; it's just too bad the mood
it portrays is so dark and hopeless.
The DVD is in widescreen,
Dolby Digital mono (from the two stereo speakers), and digitally mastered
audio/video quality are very good.
There are plenty of
extras on this collector's edition, too. Best are the hour long "Looking
back" feature and the featurette made for the film's theatrical re-release
a few years after its initial run. There's also a slew of other language
choices, talent files, chapter stops, and a decent liner essay inside
The Last Picture Show,
from Columbia Tristar Home Video
126 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Cloris
Leachman, Randy Quaid, Cybill Shepherd, Written by Larry McMurtry and
Peter Bogdanovich, Produced by Stephen J. Friedman,
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
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