Tag: Dennis Hopper

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #84. Easy Rider (1969)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
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“I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace.”

The downside of this AFI countdown is that I’m gonna have to re-watch a few movies that I’ve seen before and don’t like all that much.  I’m really not looking forward to slogging my way through 2001: A Space Odyssey again sometime in October or November.  But the fact that they’ve made this AFI list means I know that they’re important, and even if I don’t like them, I should probably give them another chance and figure out why I don’t like them.  I think this might have been my third viewing of Easy Rider in about 15 years.  I didn’t get it on previous viewings, and I still don’t get it now.


Wyatt (Peter Fonder) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) buy a heap of super pure cocaine in Mexico.  Taking it north of the border, they sell it on for the kind of profit that means they can hit the road on their awesome motorbikes and not worry about money for a while.  On their way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, they pick up a hippy hitchhiker and end up staying at his commune for a little while.  While Wyatt seems open to new people and new experiences, Billy is distrustful of everyone and paranoid that the money hidden in Wyatt’s petrol tank is easy pickings for everyone who comes their way. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Colors (1988)

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“There’s two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: Hey pop, let’s say we run down there and fuck one of them cows. The older one says: No son. Let’s walk down and fuck ’em all”.

Dennis Hopper began his directorial career in style. With Easy Rider, he made one of the most influential, iconic and revered movies of the last half century. Over the next 40 years, he only made eight more, and none came anywhere near the critical or audience success of his debut.


For someone who started with something so ground breaking, and who seems to have one of the most unique points of view in Hollywood (and who was never afraid to express it), I’m surprised by how anonymous the rest of his filmography as a director is. In fact, when I decided to watch Colors, it was based on the two lead actors. I had no idea Hopper directed it until his named popped up in the opening credits. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2013)

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“It’s time to face the ghosts of the past”.

I don’t like the original Easy Rider very much, but I can appreciate how important it is in the history of cinema. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were key contributors to the 70s movement that produced directors and writers like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin and others. And even if I don’t like Easy Rider a whole lot, I respect it enough to be offended on behalf of Fonda and Hopper, by the monumentally terrible sequel, Easy Rider: The Ride Back.


In some excruciating voiceover, the movie opens with Morgan (Phil Pitzer) telling us about the death of his brother, Wyatt (Fonda in the original). Apparently on the day Wyatt was killed, the sky was blue and clear, “Just like on 9/11”. What does this movie have to do with September 11, 2001? Nothing. This random comment comes out of nowhere and disappears to the same place. It’s also a great representative of what this movie is a whole. Ill conceived, badly written, clunky, messy and all over the place. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Coppola: The Rain People (1969)

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Fracnis Ford Coppola has to be one of the ballsiest directors to ever dominate the main stream.  Throughout the 70s and 80s, the making of several of his movies seemed like career suicide, and more than once had him on the brink of financial ruin.  Then all the dust would settle and something amazing like The Conversation or Apocalypse Now would be the result.   Or maybe something not so great would appear, like The Cotton Club or One From the Heart.  But even when they weren’t so great, there was always an attempt at something big, something different, something new.  With all that’s come since then, it’s amazing to see where it all started, with a small, character based road movie, The Rain People.

Shirley Knight is Natalie, a suburban housewife who finds out she’s pregnant, freaks out and hits the road, leaving her husband.  Along the way, she picks up a hitchhiker played by James Caan, Jimmy, who goes by his college football nickname, Killer.  Killer suffered a head injury on the field and is now never going to be eligible for Mensa membership.

At first strangely sexual, their relationship becomes more like a mother and son as Natalie realises the extent of Killer’s brain damage and she becomes increasingly protective.  Later, Robert Duvall appears as a motorcycle cop and bizarre possible love interest, but it’s obvious from the opening minutes that The Rain People isn’t interested in giving Natalie a happily ever after.

Coppola rarely does things small.  His movies are big, grand, bombastic and rich with everything…  Characters, story, music, sets, production design.  So it really is amazing to see it start on such a small scale.  And I don’t just mean small in budget and small on experience from its director.  I mean small in story, small in focus, small in execution.  Other characters pop up here and there, but the majority is just Natalie and Killer.  Even Duvall, who gets third billing as the cop Roger, only shows up for a handful of scenes in the second half.

The Rain People is a road movie, but it’s not all highways that vanish over the horizon and endless scenic vistas.  Instead, it’s all about the claustrophobic inside of Natalie’s station wagon, the cheap motels on the side of the road and the small towns that road movies usually drive right past.

The story goes that while Coppola, along with a young production associate  named George Lucas, were travelling across the top of the country from west to east making this movie, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonder were a little more south, headed east to west, making Easy Rider.   Even as someone who’s always found Easy Rider kind of over rated, indulgent and boring, it’s great to think that these future legends were all just getting started, doing things their way and getting ready to dominate the next decade in Hollywood.

The Rain People
Directed By – Francis Ford Coppola
Written By – Francis Ford Coppola