003797Reviews & Counting
Easy Rider (SE)
DVD disk
10.19.2004 By: JaneBlo
Easy Rider (SE) order
Dennis Hopper

Peter Fonda
Dennis Hopper
Jack Nicholson


star Printer-Friendly version
This highly respected 1969 counterculture classic is finally out in a 35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD which includes a songtrack CD as well as an 80-page booklet on the film. Directed by Dennis Hopper, produced by Peter Fonda, and starring both men, this modern western follows the adventures of a couple of renegade hippies, Wyatt aka Captain America (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), as they ride their Harleys across the land after having made tons of money in a drug deal. Crazy adventures and wild trips ensue as they meet all kinds of cool and interesting characters, Jack Nicholson being one of them.
This film reminded me somewhat of another one, OUT OF THE BLUE also directed by Hopper. Both were very different from anything I had ever seen before and I appreciated that a lot. Both are also very cool films. I was amazed by this film the first time I saw it, especially by the ending, because as a young girl, I had once written a short story with a similar ending, a shocking one, and it’s cool to see that Fonda and Hopper thought the same way and that my head wasn’t as twisted as I thought it was. That said, this film is very interesting and good for many reasons. It sent a powerful message at the time it came out, it was the end of a tumultuous decade and such a film had not been made before. It was needed because it reflected a lot of what was going on at the time. With no holds barred, and I respect that. No sugar-coating here. Also, one cannot review this film without mentioning the awesome soundtrack, including classic hits from Steppenwolf “Born To Be Wild” and others such as The Byrds (my favorites), Hendrix, The Band and The Moody Blues. Since I love the music of that time, this was a big plus for me. Here the lyrics and music are part of the narrative of the story and reflect the visuals, which was very cool.

In the beginning of the film, there is a great shot of Wyatt and Billy changing the tires on their bikes as two farmers put on a horseshoe on their horse. I liked the symbolism of that. This film also had some of the most beautiful sunsets ever seen on film, gorgeous vistas of the American Southwest – kudos to the cinematography - and some freaky new editing, montage, where we have very quick edits which are used to bring out another meaning. Like when Fonda throws his watch off in the beginning of the movie. There are a handful of these kinds of shots in the movie, and you’ll notice them. Let’s not forget to give praise to Fonda’s biker jacket and leather pants, and both Billy’s and his California Choppers, some great bikes that are a sight for sore eyes, as is Peter Fonda, gorgeous man.

Many say this role made Jack Nicholson famous and he is good. But there is more than that, I mean the role is somewhat small after all. As lawyer George Hanson, a non-hippie one might call him, he meets these two dealers in jail and befriends them in such a way that is touching to see. But he is only one of the oddballs they meet along their bike trip. Most everywhere they go, the two protagonists are shunned by the world but not by George. They have late night campfire discussions, and I had heard about those filming scenes, and yes, you could tell they were stoned, in real life. But they could still act...well. And they have fascinating conversations about everything from aliens to drugs and much more. Karen Black and Toni Basil are also featured as the lovers/hookers, but their roles are minor and they only appear at the Mardi Gras trippy drug scenes in New Orleans. Which brings me to the beautiful cemetery shots of New Orleans which I also shot (with a photo camera) when I was there years ago. No wonder they also saw the raw beauty of those cemeteries as a very cool place to shoot a drug trip.
Audio Commentary by Director, Co-Writer and Actor Dennis Hopper: A fascinating and very illuminating commentary by Hopper, including some interesting facts about the film such as the meaning behind Fonda’s character throwing his watch off in the earliest scenes of the film and where his name Captain America came from. I always wondered, and now I know. Hopper describes this as an art film outside of the studio system and a fable of what was happening in America at the time. I knew I would enjoy this commentary because over the years, I had heard about the making of this film and it is something else. A fun, enlightening commentary that is a pleasure to listen to, well paced, with regular pauses and good speaking voice by Hopper.

Making-Of Documentary “Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage”: Naturally, some of the same stuff is repeated in the audio commentary and this one hour long documentary, but that is to be expected. This was another exciting feature that explored many aspects involved in the making of this American classic. And yes, thanks to this feature, I realized I was right, that was Phil Spector as the big drug connection in the film. He sure looks funny though. I liked finding out about Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid and the whole western thing, as it is explained. I did feel that too, watching the film. The majestic Southern views sure helped the western feel though. A good documentary is one where lots of fun, interesting stuff is uncovered and this one does not disappoint.

Exclusive 8 song songtrack CD: You can put this CD in an empty CD case, cut out the listing of the songs from the DVD insert and make a new CD for yourself from the film. I did because the songs rock and include my favorite tune, “I Wasn’t Born to Follow” by the Byrds as well as the amazing “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues.

British Film Institute 80-page booklet “Easy Rider” by Lee Hill: Everything and anything you ever wanted to know about this film, in detail, is to be found in this amazingly concise booklet which includes many black and white photos as well. A welcome and complimentary addition to the set. There is just so much to say that this booklet is well deserved.

Talent Files on actors Karen Black, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda & Jack Nicholson.
For those of you who have not seen this film, it might be about time you checked out this classic. For those of us who have seen and loved this movie, it’s great fun to revisit it again, like I did. It’s still as enjoyable as viewing it for the first time, except I kind of knew the ending. The DVD package is well put together, although they could have included more things here, like a poster, a complete soundtrack or more stuff about the actors, for example. All in all, a pretty decent and cool looking edition though. Worth buying for the soundtrack alone, but buy it and cherish it for the classic visually pleasing fun ride that it is, is what I recommend. I can’t believe it’s been 35 years since this came out.
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