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Drugstore Cowboy

A rare revival for Dennis Hopper's megalomaniacal, tripped-out western


The Last Movie made the name "Dennis Hopper" marquee death. Finished in late 1971, Kid Blue—an amiable comic western with Hopper as an aging outlaw attempting to go straight—was shelved for over a year. After a New York opening was canceled, the movie was included in the New York Film Festival. This honor proved the kiss of death. Kid Blue's ensuing commercial run lasted four days.

Kid Blue is almost never revived, but coincidentally Anthology is screening it Thursday as part of its Warren Oates retro. A relaxed piece of work, directed by James Frawley, who won an Emmy for The Monkees, Kid Blue has a meandering jug band sensibility and a premise hilariously relevant to Hopper's situation. After the ludicrous failure of his last heist, his character "retires" to seek honest work in the town of Dime Box, Texas—a hotbed of petit bourgeois cantankerousness, dominated by the Great American Ceramic Novelty Company and administered by a bullying sheriff with a grotesque sense of propriety (Ben Johnson). Unable to succeed as either a shoeshine boy or chicken flicker, Hopper is reduced to working for Great American. His job is planting U.S. flags on ceramic Santa Claus tchotchkes alongside a trio of sympathetically bedraggled Indians. ("I love you, Jesus," one unconvincingly cries in the hopes of regaining his tribal land.)

A visionary act of aggression: Hopper
photo: Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives
A visionary act of aggression: Hopper

Details

The Last Movie
Directed by Dennis Hopper
Universal
August 18 through 24, Anthology Film Archives

Kid Blue
Directed by James Frawley
Twentieth Century Fox
August 17, Anthology Film Archives

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What's most impressive about Kid Blue as a statement and a western is its honest hatred of work. No cowboy ever met a more inglorious end—punching a time clock instead of a steer. The hangdog hero requires certain things explained—not just the concept of "ashtray," but also that of "factory."

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