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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Western > Satire > Drama > History > Genocide > Relationships > Music > Little Big Man (1970/National General/CBS Blu-ray)/Welcome To L.A. (1976/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD)

Little Big Man (1970/National General/CBS Blu-ray)/Welcome To L.A. (1976/MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD)


Picture: B/C     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Films: B/B-



PLEASE NOTE: Welcome To L.A. is an MGM Limited Edition DVD and is available exclusively from Amazon through the right-hand sidebar of this site.



Among the many things that Arthur Penn and Robert Altman brought to the films of the 1970s was mythbusting and counterculture humor.  They helped invent it and in effect. 1970s Hollywood along with a small handful of other filmmakers and that resulted in healthy cynicism and a new realism in mature filmmaking.  Here are two films from the period that reflect that well.


Penn was on a roll when he made his darkly comic Little Big Man (1970) in which Dustin Hoffman plays the same character from 17 to 121 years old.  The premise of Jack Crabb’s life is supposed to be bizarre, but it is also an indication of the kind of anything-can-happen humor that informs the film as he has witnessed the rise of the U.S. through genocide of Native Americans (who he eventually has to pretend to be; the title is like Dances With Wolves, but not played seriously in the least) and survived Custer’s Last Stand, yet at a time when violations against Native Americans had reached a new awareness, the film hit a nerve like all Penn films of the time and Hoffman was one of the most important actors of the time in his early prime.


Arriving a few years before Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, Westerns were already in their twilight and this gem was a hit that has been too often forgotten.  Hoffman is amazing, more impressive at the time for being an early film to show how far method acting could go and it is great this important film has arrived on Blu-ray.  Faye Dunaway reunites with Penn from their watershed success on Bonnie & Clyde, Chief Dan George, Martin Balsam, Jeff Corey and Richard Mulligan also star.  All serious Western fans need to catch up with this one, but amazingly, what the film has to say is as relevant as ever.



Altman produced Welcome To L.A. (1976) and it is very much a film in his mode, yet it is Alan Rudolph who directed and they frequently collaborated together.  As a sort of play on Altman’s landmark epic Nashville (1975), Keith Carradine plays a singer who enjoys sleeping around and not committing to much, save maybe more music, but the screenplay by Rudolph is a multi-character tale of the lives of several of the characters wee meet and how they ultimately interact (when they or even if they do) for better and worse.  The impressive cast also features Geraldine Chaplin, Sally Kellerman, Harvey Keitel (in one of his more interesting roles), Silly Spacek, Denver Pyle, Viveca Lindfors, Lauren Hutton, Dianne Abbott and Richard Baskin in what is a film that holds up very well.


Rudolph never establishes his own cinematic identity, but many of the players here were affiliated with Altman and it comes from the same smart school of filmmaking that works well for the most part.  It is also a time capsule that does not seem dead or boring.  I bought much of it and its honesty about relationships, then realized how many similar films of late have not come close in the authenticity department.  But both of these films were from the last golden period of filmmaking in the U.S. and Hollywood, so no one should be surprised.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Man was originally issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints and shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision by Director of Photography Harry Stradling, Jr. (The Way We Were, McQ, Bite The Bullet, Damnation Alley) uses the widescreen frame to its fullest extent and increases the laugh value as a result.  This film should never be seen chopped up as it looses its impact, especially in what this does to the Western genre.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Welcome comes from what looks like a fine print, but it is just a little too soft throughout despite that print.  Director of Photography David Myers (THX-1138, Woodstock, Wattstax, Soul To Soul, FM) was the perfect choice to combine music and narrative, though it still looks and feels a bit like an Altman film.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Man is a bit towards the front speakers, but this was a film originally designed for stereo playback with 4-track magnetic stereo on U.S. 35mm prints and 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects on 70mm blow-ups overseas, so that is to be expected.  However, this is more likely based on the 4-track and really stretches out the sound the best it can.  The film still shows its audio age.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Welcome is not badly recorded, though the film is credited as being recorded on an 8-track system where it may have had playback that way somewhere (the studio that made it), but who knows where that soundmaster is.  If ever found and restored, a multi-0channel upgrade would be nice.


The only extra on both releases are Theatrical Trailers, but both deserve more.  Hopefully these releases will get them a new audience and overdue rediscovery.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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