The Bootleggers (1974/VCI)
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