Easy Rider - 35th
Anniv. Deluxe Edition
Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Date: September 28, 2004
Review posted: September 21, 2004
“We blew it”
Those immortal last
words of Captain America (Peter Fonda) capture the theme of this
timeless classic that still resonates today. Easy Rider
captured not only the overwhelming feeling of change and intensity of
the 1960s, but also touched on the ideals of true freedom in America
and the reactions of society when faced with it. Easy Rider
was one of the first successful independent films (it was budgeted
around $350,000 and grossed over $60 million) and the film is credited
by some as the first classic of independent cinema.
The story revolves
around two guys from Los Angeles, Wyatt, also called Captain America,
and Billy (Dennis Hopper), who pull off a large drug deal in order to
get enough cash to be free of the restrictions of society and travel
around America on their motorcycles. They have a destination in mind,
hitting New Orleans for Mardi Gras. On their trip from California to
Louisiana, they find their way into a hippie commune out in the
desert, get thrown in jail for riding their bikes in a parade in a
southern town, meet up with a young ACLU lawyer named George (Jack
Nicholson) who joins up with them, and end up offending most of the
southerners they come across just with their looks and free attitude.
It was a turbulent time in the South (and in the country as a whole)
and there were a lot of prejudices towards change and everyone
representing it, and Billy and Wyatt realize the depth of this
prejudice in an extreme and violent way.
classic, embodying a generation’s idealism and launching the vast
multitude of “road movies” that never quite matched its raw power.
There weren’t many films that touched so realistically upon the use of
drugs and the armchair politics and philosophizing that spawned from
it at this time. Easy Rider captured the spirit of a people
during a time of near revolution and managed to stir up even more
controversy than was at its core.
One of the film’s
strongest assets is the outstanding soundtrack. The music of the 60s
is used as a focal point; it drives their journey across the country
and helps capture the character of the times. There are numerous long
shots of the beautiful desert of the southwest and the music
accompanying these shots alleviates these into something more and
melds them into the themes of the film.
proves himself as a very competent and creative director, using styles
and tricks from a variety of sources and making something wholly
original. His use of jump cuts, zooms, and his ever-changing focus
made for a very interesting picture. The camera is always moving and
there is a high energy running through the film. One of the ingenious
moves by Hopper is how he filmed his actors. He just let the camera
run and let his actors improvise and see where the moment took them.
It made for some of the most interesting and arresting moments of any
film of that generation (or any other).
The acting is just
outstanding across the board. Peter Fonda is the core of the film and
he grounds the film in a cool, intelligent, and deep vibe. His
Captain America just sees everything exactly for what it is and he
never loses his cool. Dennis Hopper’s Billy is exactly the opposite;
he is unnerving, hotheaded, and dimwitted. Hopper fits him perfectly,
totally embodying the character in Hopper’s itchy, improvisation style
of acting. As great as both Fonda and Hopper are, it is Jack
Nicholson’s performance as George that truly reverberates and stays
with you. His character becomes the true heart and soul of the
picture for what he represents and for the famous speech on
and how it used to be “one helluva place”. Nicholson garnered a Best
Supporting Actor nod for his amazing performance and it launched his
brief career as a solid character actor before Five Easy Pieces
launched him into his legendary leading man career. The rest of the
supporting cast is also terrific. Hopper used real people not actors
for many of the supporting roles and it really paid off giving the
film such a realistic grounding.
The transfer on the
35th Anniversary disc is exceptionally good. For a film
made on such a low budget in the 60s (and that most of the footage is
done with handhelds), the quality of the video is just outstanding.
The raw footage of the desert and the New Orleans scenes are
exceptionally great looking.
presents Easy Rider in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and the
audio is fantastic. The balances are terrific and the dialogue is
crisp and clear. The soundtrack, which is one of the strongest points
of the film, sounds great.
director Dennis Hopper – Dennis Hopper gives his full-length audio commentary on the film and
he is very informative and extremely detailed. He goes at length into
the hardships of the production and what obstacles were overcome to
get it made. He also has some interesting anecdotes on the other
actors and the reasons for some of the funny moments in the film.
It’s a shame they didn’t get everyone involved in the film to add to
the commentary. It would have been a blast to hear Fonda, Hopper and
Nicholson do the commentary together. But from the stories told from
Hooper and from the documentary, it doesn’t seem like the three of
them remained very close. In fact, there seems to be some bad blood
between them. That may be the reason for only Hopper on the
commentary track. Hopper does a great job on it, but you can’t help
wishing there was more.
Easy Rider: Shaking
the Cage – This is a documentary on the making of the film. This is an
absolutely terrific making of documentary, with some great inside
information diligently shared by the films stars and crew. Like the
fact that Nicholson was actually high in that scene were he goes on
about alien invaders and that Fonda had the entire crew back to his
hotel room often for all night parties and “smoke outs”. This is an
extremely entertaining, insightful, and hilarious documentary. There
is one big, gaping hole in it though: no Jack Nicholson. Whether it
was for personal reasons or scheduling conflicts, the documentary does
suffer from the prospect of how tremendously classic it would have
been if they had Jack.
Bonus CD Soundtrack
is a well thought out and terrific extra. The soundtrack is such an
absolutely big part of the film, so it makes sense that they would
include it in the 35th Anniversary edition. There are
countless classic songs on the disc like Born to Be Wild, Get
Together, and The Pusher.
Institute Modern Classic Book “Easy Rider” –
This was an original and interesting extra, it is a book that is
included that goes through the personal history of everyone involved
in the film up to that point in the time, the making of the film, the
release, and the effects of the film as a whole. A very informative
and interesting read.
is more than just a great road movie, it is an unconventional classic
that captured the spirit of a generation and provided its own unique
signature on the ideals of a nation.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - A GREAT BUY
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