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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Comedy > The Bootleggers (1974/VCI)

The Bootleggers (1974/VCI)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C+     Film: C+



Charles B. Pierce’s The Bootleggers (1974) is an interesting Western made at an interesting time.  The genre was heading into decline and a new naturalism had entered it by the 1960s.  With the Spaghetti Westerns moving that development along, the film takes a knowing approach that hardly any Western ever took and the results are worth a look.


The makers know where The Western is, as well as the Gangster genre and the new cycle of criminals on the run.  The result is a film played just seriously enough, but laid back with humor that would seem silly and excessive if it were obvious early on that it would rarely surface in the film.  That makes the film somewhat uneven, but actually points to a less cynical cinema that was not from that long ago.


Slim Pickens is the head of a household that has moonshine as a side business in the Ozark Mountains, with his sons (Paul Koslo, Dennis Fimple) slowly taking over.  However, a murder of one of them sets events in motion that include revenge and nude women who throw a wrench in the story.  Jaclyn Smith is the lead skinny-dipper who has more to offer than it would first seem.


We have seen just about all of this before, but the way it is done is what makes it worth a look, suggesting a semi-family film approach of some sort and is as much a drama as a Western.  It’s not great, but it is worth a look because of the cast, locations, way it was shot and Smith in particular before she became the longest running of all the Charlie’s Angels.  Oh, and it is a masterwork of cinema as compared to Charlie’s Angels – Full Throttle.


The letterboxed 2.35 X 1 image is sadly not anamorphic and has some color and detail issues throughout, but is still interesting to see.  The film was one of about only 32 usually interesting films shot in the anamorphic Todd-AO 35 format lenses and has future Jonathan Demme collaborator Tak Fujimoto (The Silence Of The Lambs, reviewed elsewhere on this site) as its cinematographer.  The result is a visually interesting film that had a little more character and restrictive form than usual for a film with so many outdoor shots.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono also shows its age to the point where this must be an old analog transfer overall.  Capitol Records supposedly issued the soundtrack, so a stereo remix would be nice for a digital High Definition version.  Extras include text profiles of the four stars, director and trailers for three other VCI DVD releases.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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