Cover Art: 8/10
Great cover and good menus make this old favorite a great DVD experience from the moment you see it on the shelf. I have watched lots and lots of older movies on DVD and most of the time they just slap the old movie poster on the cover and stick in a crap ugly menu purely for functional purposes. Somebody made some effort with this one, and I thank them for that.
I don’t always offer any opinions about the picture quality of movies on DVD. To be honest it’s not my field of expertise. I’m all about content, not so much about the technical aspects of this crazy thing called Digital Versatile Disk. However, this time I just have to say that the picture quality of this 70’s flick is really good, crispy clear, proper wide screen, and lacking all that annoying grain you often get with older movies. The sound is mono, whatever, but it looks great and that’s worth a mention.
- Commentary by Burt Reynolds and Albert S Ruddy – Burt Reynolds has turned in to a Hollywood story-telling machine. I have had to accept that he’s an old man who likes to drop names and talk endlessly, slowly, and ramblingly about his experiences making a movie. It’s great that they did get him to do some commentary for this DVD, so it’s well worth a listen.
- Doing Time Featurette – This is a decent little featurette for such an aging classic. You get Reynolds and other cast members talking about the behind the scenes making of the movie. It’s the kind of extra you want with these older movies because most of the time you only get a modern day movie historian or critic talking about the film, rather than actual cast and crew. In this special feature they are all kind of romantic about it, remembering it with great fondness, and putting a nice Hollywood spin on what has become a cult favorite.
- Unleashing The Mean Machine Featurette – How did they make such a quality sports film way back in the day before CGI? Geez….it seems impossible, but they pulled it off. This is an up close look at how they trained the actors and extras to be able to perform their roles, while also playing convincing football. They even had several pros mixed in there to inflict extra damage to the sissy actors 🙂
- Original Theatrical Trailer – Interesting to see old trailers and how they have a whole different dynamic from today’s movies.
- Exclusive Look At Longest Yard 2005 – Promotional blah blah blah
The Movie: 8/10:
I remembered watching this movie back in the day before I had access to cable TV. It was a long long time ago, at 1 AM on a Saturday night when I huddled close to the old TV in our basement and watched what seemed to be a racy grown up prison movie. I have always thought of it as a hard core story with violence and an evil prison warden. After all these years I have a different perspective, of course.
The hard core story is a lot less intense after several decades of movie watching. The whole thing is still quite powerful. A jerk of a guy goes to prison for good reasons, only to find that the inmates are unfairly beaten, racially taunted, and generally abused by the warden and guards.
The jerk of a guy happens to be an All-Star Football player on the down. He’s a rough neck with women, drives drunk, and seems to enjoy taking whacks at the local police. He also happens to be Burt Reynolds, so all that handsomeness makes up for his rouge behavior 🙂 Once he gets tossed in prison he’s recruited by the overacting warden, Mr. Green Acres himself Eddie Arnold, to be on the prison football team. In true rebel style he refuses, but eventually the plot drags us around to the heart of the movie, a game between guards and inmates.
Through it all Reynolds, Paul Crewe, makes some friends, brings some racial harmony, and takes his chance to get back some dignity to his otherwise failing life. It’s not a good guy vs. bad guy story. They are all pretty flawed. It’s just that Paul is so damn cute you end up rooting for him and his motley gang of murderous criminals.
The camera style is what you expect from most 70’s movies. There was a big trend of close ups and in-the-action camera angles, which brings you right in the thick of things. Did I mention that Reynolds is crazy handsome, so all those up close shots of his deep dark eyes, charming smile, and boyish/manly smooth shaven face….. whew! I can’t forget to mention the football scenes. The action is definitely ahead of it’s time. Hard hitting plays, cracking sounds, lots of dirt, grunting, and realistic field choreography even impresses a sports-a-phobic like me.
There is a big political vibe to this story, but not in a way that you choke on it. The prison personnel represent an oppressive regime that keeps the “little guy” in his place. The prison population, while dangerous, violent, and otherwise criminally endearing, represent the rest of us. Flawed though they are, the treatment they get from the racist, violent guards and psycho warden just feels so wrong in so many ways. The anti-hero was a strong theme in those days and this movie embodies that with every frame.
As we get to know the cons, we don’t really want them to be free to roam the streets, not even Crewe. What we do want is some fairness, some sense that the strong arm of the law can’t treat them with complete disregard of their rights…blah blah you get the picture. It’s the 70’s remember, after the 60’s, a time of civil unrest and great rebellion against a utilitarian government ideal that was so smothering in the 50’s and that let racism thrive in our country for so long. I give the people who made this movie credit for making a very political movie that can be meaningful to anyone looking for a message, but also can mask that message for the people who just want to watch a kick ass football/prison flick.
Make of this movie what you want, just don’t forget to pause on that gorgeous mug of Reynolds every once in a while 🙂 PLEASE watch this original version before going to see the new Sandler interpretation. Not that it won’t be good, I’m just saying the first time around is almost always the best.
Buy it! Don’t even finish reading this get your ten (or so) bucks together and order it, buy it from a local store, whatever. Just get this baby in your collection. Any quality flick with extras that I can find for under $12 around the net is a bargain bargain bargain!
Overall Score 8/10