America Lost and Found: The BBS Story
Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties. Cinema attendance was down; what had once worked seemed broken. Enter Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, who knew that what Hollywood needed was new audiences—namely, young people—and that meant cultivating new talent and new ideas. Fueled by money from their invention of the superstar TV pop group the Monkees, they set off on a film-industry journey that would lead them to form BBS Productions, a company that was also a community. The innovative films produced by this team between 1968 and 1972 are collected in this box set—works that now range from the iconic (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show) to the acclaimed (The King of Marvin Gardens) to the obscure (Head; Drive, He Said; A Safe Place), all created within the studio system but lifted right out of the countercultural id.
Criterion presents 7 films produced by BBS productions in America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, a box set that contains the films Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive, He Said, A Safe Place, The Last Picture Show, and The King of Marvin Gardens. They’re presented in new 1080p/24hz transfers over six dual-layer discs. Head is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, while the other films are presented in 1.85:1.
Originally a Sony production that moved to Criterion, all of the transfers were done by Sony’s team, but for the most part all of the films look about as good as one would expect from a Criterion release. Drive, He Said possibly presents the weakest transfer, loaded with noise and artifacts, and also presenting a murkier image with weak colours. A Safe Place (which shares a disc with Drive, He Said) is a little better than that film, but presents some noticeable artifacts and noise as well at times.
The remaining transfers are less problematic and do look very film-like, namely Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show, the latter being the sole black-and-white film in the set. Both of these films really come close to looking like a projected film, with sharp film grain that’s rendered beautifully, and sharp, crisp details.
The restoration on all of the films is also impressive, with only a few minor flaws present in the source of most of the films. Head has some more obvious damage, like scratches, in the latter part of the film. That’s probably the most glaring flaw throughout the whole set and it’s really not that bad.
In the end the set as a whole presents some stunning transfers. There fairly clean, look natural for the most part, and don’t look to have been over processed.
All of the films present Linear PCM mono tracks, and all of them are about the same. Dialogue is discernable and music is clear for the most part, but all of the mono tracks do sound a little flat and lifeless, lacking that punch that would lift them above your average mono track.
Both Head and Easy Rider come with DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround tracks (Easy Rider also comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track.) While dialogue sounds about the same quality-wise, music sounds much sharper in both of these films in their surround tracks. It’s sounds like the songs that appear in the films have been remastered, pulled from other sources (according to notes that accompany the release) so they’re much livelier and louder, with far better range. The surrounds also do kick in with some sound effects (and music) sneaking back there. Though ultimately these are really remixed mono tracks, they do sound very good and fairly natural.
Criterion’s America Lost and Found box set is basically a complete history lesson on BBS Productions and the supplements found on each disc in this set are primarily about the production company as a whole, though each disc still contains supplements that focus on their respective films. The supplements have been spread over the six discs.
The first disc presents the supplements for Head. It first features an audio commentary with Michael Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork, the former members of The Monkees. By the sounds of it they were recorded in groups and not all together. The four reflect on the making of the film, but confess early on they really have no idea what’s going on in the film, though do offer ideas as to what writer Jack Nicholson was probably thinking (not surprisingly, Nicholson’s name gets dropped a lot throughout the track.) Jones seems to be getting the biggest kick out of the film, laughing a lot throughout, also sharing some of the more amusing anecdotes, but the others all bring a lot to the track, though aren’t anywhere near as energetic. There’s an admission they were shocked at how much more political the film actually was, most of the group figuring it was going to be light and airy (kid-friendly) like the show, and you can sort of detect they wonder whether that may have been a good idea, and they also talk about the various songs that appear, and the group as a whole. A couple of members talk about film influences present but admit they weren’t familiar with these influences at the time, knowing next-to-nothing about film, and they discuss some of their costars, which includes Frank Zappa, Teri Garr, and, of course Victor Mature (with Nesmith sharing a fairly amusing anecdote about how he was signed on to the film.) It’s a light track but it’s amusing and entertaining and is well worth the listen.
From The Monkees to Head presents a 28-minute interview with director Bob Rafelson, responsible for the creation of The Monkees, the television show, and of course the film Head. Here he talks about getting the band together, with footage from the actual audition tapes of the members, and then filming the pilot, which tested horrifically. He did some reedits, placing footage from the audition tapes into it, and it apparently tested rather well, leading to the birth of the show. He then moves on to how the film Head came to be and working with Jack Nicholson on the script (Nicholson was apparently disenchanted by how his acting career was going and was considering a move to writing/directing.) Not all that surprising but acid was apparently involved while writing the film. He talks about some of the other actors that appear in the film (referring to Timothy Carey as a “crazy man”,) shares anecdotes from the set, explains some sequences and the title, and even talks about some influences, admitting that Stan Brakhage and Kenneth Anger were huge ones. Rafelson, one of the most engaging people to show up in the supplements spread across this set, is very frank, though something tells me he’s may be containing himself, but in all it’s a very engaging and terrific interview.
BBS: A Time for Change is another 28-minute featurette featuring interviews with critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley. The two talk about Hollywood’s state during the 50’s and 60’s, losing audiences to television and churning the same types of tired movies out. They talk about the counterculture in America and the rage building up from the frustrations many were feeling about what was going on in America at the time (the election of Nixon being a big thorn in the sides of many) and how it led to Hopper and Fonda writing what would become Easy Rider, funded by what would become BBS productions. And an audience was apparently there for it because the film became a surprise hit, making names of its cast and crew, and causing Hollywood to drastically change its direction. The segment in all deals not only with the impact Easy Rider and BBS had on Hollywood and its studios (which included a more “auteur” driven way of filmmaking, where director’s picked their material instead of studios picking directors) but also the career launch many saw, specifically Jack Nicholson, who, with the one-two punch of Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces became a huge star. Throughout the set there are a number of features on the production company and this makes a great intro.
The rest of the supplements concentrate solely on Head starting with the actual screen tests for all four members of The Monkees, which were sampled in the Rafelson interview. They also include a couple of group screen tests where they film a few scenes with the actors auditioning together, to get a feel for their chemistry. The cool thing about these group clips is that we not only get to see Jones, Tork, Dolenz, and Nesmith, but we also get to see a couple of other actors trying out for the roles. In total these clips run about 18-minutes.
We then get a collection of promotional material. First is a disorganized 5-and-a-half-minute interview with group on the Hy Lit Show from 1968, where the group talks about Head (nobody, especially the interviewer, seems to know what’s going on.) We then get 4 theatrical trailers (including a Portuguese one), 5 TV spots, and then 9 radio spots. Lastly we get a collection of Ephemera which is presented as an automatic slideshow with music, sound effects, or segments from the film playing in the background. Running almost 7-minutes it displays production photos, behind-the-scenes photos, posters, newspaper clippings/ads, and other items. This closes the supplements on this disc.
The second disc presents the classic hit, Easy Rider. This film comes with two audio commentaries, the first a new one by director Dennis Hopper, recorded in 2009. While I think it’s wonderful Hopper was able to sit down to record a new track for his landmark film before his death, it’s unfortunately a bit of a dud for a track. The biggest issue is it’s laced with dead spots, and not dead spots here and there, but long dead spots, sometimes through whole scenes, even scenes where you would expect the director would want to say something. In all Hopper covers the general production, mentions some of the influences over the film, points out the symbolism that appears, mentions plenty of deleted scenes (the original cut was apparently close to 4 hours,) casting locals in roles (like in the café scene,) and of course talks about Jack (in a role meant originally for Rip Torn.) He also has a knack for pointing out every song that plays, which is fine but becomes frustrating during the dead spots; sometimes there will be a dead spot in the track, a song will then play in the film, and Hopper will pop in to point out the name of the song, then disappear again.
A little better is the second track, which features Hopper, Peter Fonda, and production manager Paul Lewis. This track is better in that it’s more active, with Fonda and Lewis sort of pushing Hopper to talk (Fonda and Lewis have been recorded together with Hopper on the phone.) This track was recorded for the original laserdisc special edition produced back in 1995 and has appeared in editions on other formats. But it covers the same material the other track does, including the actual production, the time period the film represents, Fonda’s and Hopper’s work with Corman, the acid trip in the cemetery, deleted sequences, it’s release, and so on. Basically it’s the same track, just with more participants, more details, and much livelier, with everyone talking about it as if you wouldn’t have known this information before, whereas Hopper’s solo track makes it feel like the actor/director is assuming you already know everything about the production and doesn’t need to expand on anything.
We then move to video features, first with Born To Be Wild, a 1995 documentary that appeared on BBC2. Running 30-minutes it quickly goes over the production of the film, featuring interviews with Hopper, Fonda, Karen Black, and Henry Jaglom. Again, it repeats just about everything found on the commentary tracks, but expands a little on certain areas. They talk about getting the funding from “Monkee money” and then developing the script with Terry Southern and then some of the casting issues that came up. There’s a lot of discussion about Jack’s performance (all participants are amazed that Jack was able to pull of some scenes perfectly despite being absolutely stoned) and talk about all the drugs on set (though Hopper admits here and elsewhere on the release that he was more a drinker, marijuana making him a little too paranoid.) There’s then discussion about the 4 hour cut and how hard it was to get Hopper to edit it down, with everyone taking turns at editing (and Hopper still seems annoyed by this) and then they talk about the release and the “we blew it” line. Again, all of this is covered in the commentary tracks (or at least most of it) but it’s still a decent doc.
Annoyingly the next documentary on the disc, a 65-minute piece directed by Charles Kiselyak called Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage, is made up of newer interviews but basically covers the exact same material as the previous documentary, with its interviewees pretty much repeating themselves word for word in some instances. The advantage of this documentary, which includes more of the crew, including director of photography László Kovács, is that it’s more detailed and focuses a little more on specific scenes, even featuring Kovács talking about his camera work a little more. More detail is given about the filming of the Mardi Gras sequence, which was hinted at in other supplements as being a disaster and here that’s made abundantly more clear. Again, continuing from the commentary tracks, more on the casting of the locals in the café scene, and then a better examination of the acid scene. In the end, the same material is covered but it appears that more details and specifics have been added. In all it’s a good doc, but there’s very little in here that hasn’t been covered elsewhere.
And next, it wouldn’t be a Criterion release without some sort of footage from a French television program, and here they include 2-minutes of footage from the French program Pour le cinema, which features Hopper and Fonda at Cannes. Again it’s very brief and shows Hopper and Fonda talking about the film (Fonda looking a little spaced as he tries to talk in French.) And here they confirm early on that the film is basically a Western with motorcycles.
The next feature has to do with BBS productions, and is an interview with Steve Blauner the “’S’ in BBS” as Criterion states. In this 19-minute interview Blauner talks about his first working at Screen Gems and developing television, eventually working with Bob Rafelson on the television show The Monkees. He goes over a little bit of the history of the show and the group, and then moves on to Easy Rider, which he, along with Rafelson and Bert Schneider, helped fund, making the statement there would be “no Easy Rider without The Monkees.” He’s also very frank, stating that if Rip Torn had originally been cast in the Nicholson role as planned, he feels he wouldn’t be here today talking about the film, because it would have been forgotten. After rifling through supplements that all felt the same on this release, this interview was a welcome breath of fresh air as he gets into the founding of BBS after Easy Rider and talks in great detail about the office they set up and the atmosphere, and how the employees were treated (everyone getting a “taste” of the successful films.) He talks about the films that followed Easy Rider to an extent, but then concentrates the last portion of the interview on what would turn out to be a frustrating partnership with director Jim McBride after Blauner saw his film, David Holzman’s Diary. Fantastic interview.
The disc then closes with two theatrical trailers, a 3-minute one followed by a 1-minute version that’s basically the same, just a shorter version of it.
This one ends up being the most disappointing disc in the set because of the film’s place in film history and the fact the supplements all pretty much repeat the exact same information. This actually becomes a bit of a problem for the set since the same material does get repeated across discs.
The third disc is devoted to Five Easy Pieces.
The audio commentary included with this film features director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson (Bob’s ex-wife) who were both recorded separately. Together the two deliver a very involving and thorough track, covering the production of the film. They both offer plenty of praise for screenwriter Carole Eastman, cinematographer László Kovács, and of course Jack Nicholson, and then offer anecdotes from the set. Bob probably has the bulk of the track, talking specifically about certain sequences and recalling how they came about, even offering up information on alternate scenes that originally appeared in the script. Toby talks about setting up some of the scenes, but also has some recollections about how certain scenes came about. And also, for those still unsure, Bob does offer an explanation for the title. In the end I was incredibly surprised by it and it may be the best commentary track to be found in the entire set.
Next up is a short, obviously Sony produced featurette called Soul Searching in Five Easy Pieces, which runs about 9-minutes. Despite some decent comments from Rafelson and Nicholson (the former recalling the initial mood on the set, and both on the famous diner scene) this is an incredibly fluffy piece that doesn’t offer much insight into the film. Though Jack is of course a great interviewee; it’s a shame he appears sparingly throughout the supplements in the box set as a whole.
Next up, and a little better, is another Sony produced feature called BBStory, a 47-minute documentary on BBS, its short history, and its impact on Hollywood. Some of this material is of course covered on other supplements throughout the set but it’s nice to have this all-encompassing one, but it’s unfortunately too brief and makes its way through its material too quickly.
It starts with how the production was formed, as Hollywood was having trouble keeping, let alone gaining, audiences, and the success of Easy Rider (after the failed Monkess movie Head, which meant they couldn’t use the tagline “from the producers who gave you Head”for the advertising of Easy Rider) and then the doc goes through each film found in the set. The documentary features interviews with Rafelson, Henry Jaglom, Nicholson, Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich, and many others involved with the production company and its films in one way or another, recount each film quickly, unfortunately only spending a few minutes on each one (though almost completely skipping over Drive, He Said and A Safe Place, which is a blip.) Though a decent documentary about the production company (which contains a lot of spoilers, so make sure you’ve seen each film in the set before watching this) it really does move very quickly through its material. Thankfully supplements on the rest of the set at least expand on the material covered here, offering a clearer picture of BBS, its people, and its films.
The final big supplement on here (and I’m sure Criterion’s addition to the disc) is Bob Rafelson at AFI, a 49-minute Q&A with the director performed in 1976. Audio quality is questionable and low, at times being hard to make out everything being said, but Rafelson covers his career from his early days at Shochiku Studios while in Japan to what would have been his newest film at the time, Stay Hungry. In between he of course talks about his other films and the state of Hollywood when BBS came to the scene. Rafelson’s an incredibly engaging speaker and can be frank, and his appearances on this set are overall very welcome, and despite the interesting material covered here he does actually drone on a bit. But it’s another excellent interview with him overall and I’d least recommend using the index (with 8 chapters) to jump to what would be the most interesting material for you.
The disc then closes with two teaser trailers (though one feels like a full trailer) and then a 3-minute theatrical trailer. Interestingly one of the trailers bleeps out the word “crap”, though I suspect it’s to make it sound like Bob Dupea (Nicholson) said a worse word.
The fourth disc features both Drive, He Said and A Safe Place. Once the disc is popped in you have the option to jump to either film’s menu and access their respective supplements.
Drive, He Said unfortunately gets the shaft in this set, receiving only one significant supplement. Called A Cautionary Tale of Campus Revolution and Sexual Freedom, this 11-minute “making-of” features interviews with Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Harry Gittes , Fred Roos, and Christophe Holmes. In it the group talks about the general production and recall some incidents from the set (including the real student protest they got caught up in and filmed.) In whole it’s not all that ground breaking and is basically a fluff piece, but Nicholson’s presence manages to make this one of the more entertaining supplements in the set. Nicholson spends most of his time talking about the nudity in the film, which goes against the agreement he made with the Oregon University he filmed at, who insisted no nudity be filmed on campus. An incident did arise because of this (which ended with a naked Jack apparently holding police at bay) but the nudity could have actually been a lot worse: Nicholson talks about a far more graphic locker room scene, which he refers to as a “symphony of dicks” said in a way only Jack could. He was of course talked out of this.
Unfortunately this one lone supplement doesn’t get into much more detail about the film than in a fairly superficial way. Nicholson touches a little on the themes and explains a few things, but something more in-depth would have been welcome, even a commentary (in fact, this is the only film that doesn’t come with one in the set.) The film is an intriguing one, if nothing else, and certainly deserves more. The only other feature we get is a theatrical trailer, which manages to also pack in some nudity.
A Safe Place, surprisingly, feature far more supplements. Jaglom first provides an audio commentary for the film. Though I will admit I’m not terribly fond of the film, I was surprised at how engaging I found Jaglom’s track. He talks a little about the play it’s based on and some of the differences (Welles’ character doesn’t appear in the play, in fact, the character was made up on the spot to entice Welles to join the cast, knowing the actor was fond of magic.) He also covers the production, BBS, the film’s music, working with the various actors, and shares inspirations, though repeats himself a couple of times. He also actually explains the film, the characters, sequences, and general themes within, laying it out pretty simply in some cases. I must admit I appreciated this, and I do have a better understanding of what Jaglom was trying to do. I also liked listening to his experiences from making this film, lessons learned, and what he took from the harsh reception. But do I appreciate the film a little more now? Not particularly, but Jaglom’s track is still a fascinating one.
Next is basically a condensed version of the commentary, a 7-minute interview with Henry Jaglom, who again talks about the play, the thrill of directing his first feature, and then the themes in the film, as well as responses. Okay interview, but its inclusion is bizarre since, well, everything covered in here is covered in the commentary.
Notes on the New York Film Festival is a 29-minute interview with directors Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom, who talk with Molly Haskell about their respective films, The Last Picture Show and A Safe Place. It’s a little stuffy but worth viewing as the two talk about their styles (Jaglom apparently shoots a lot of footage, saying he could make another film, and it sounds as though he shot footage of Bogdanovich that never made it—and this isn’t surprising since Jaglom mentions in the commentary he spent a year editing the film) and share some anecdotes. Though Jaglom does talk about his film’s themes, along with the film’s editing style and structure, it actually feels more like Bogdanovich’s interview since Haskell seems more intrigued by his film, and the fact more clips are shown from The Last Picture Show than A Safe Place. In fact there’s a bit of a discussion about the nature of “clips” after Jaglom has to explain the first clip from A Safe Place that would be completely disorienting to the viewer when not played in the context of the entire film. It’s not a great interview as Haskell doesn’t seem all that absorbed in it, and on a technical level it’s rough, but there’s some interesting comments from Bogdanovich and Jaglom.
Outtakes and Screen Tests presents 25-minutes worth of material. First we get about 5-minutes of outtakes with Orson Welles, followed by 4 different screen tests for other actresses trying out for the lead which of course went to Tuesday Weld.
The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer which can’t be accused of false advertising.
The fifth disc, featuring The Last Picture Show, possibly has the strongest set of supplements, despite some mild repetition again. On it Criterion first presents a group audio commentary featuring director Peter Bogdanovich, and actors Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman, and Frank Marshall. This is the commentary originally recorded for Criterion’s laserdisc edition released in 1991. Similar to most of Criterion’s group commentaries (or at least their laserdisc/early DVD ones) everyone has been recorded separately. Bogdanovich has the bulk of the track, probably 90% of it, and carries it fairly well. Though a lot of his comments do get repeated elsewhere in the supplements (especially in his fairly redundant solo commentary track that was newly recorded for this edition) there’s still a lot of unique material here, specifically some of the issues he faced when trying to film in certain parts of town, especially at the school (and he got in trouble thanks to the scene involving the dogs humping in front of the school) and he also points out all of the added/extended/rearranged scenes for this director’s cut. He also mentions scenes that never ultimately made it. He talks about specific scenes and miracles that occurred while filming (Ben Johnson’s speech being one of the biggest ones) and he talks about his shooting style and “cutting in camera” among other technical details; he really pushes the depth-of-field advantage of black and white all throughout the film. Unfortunately the actors each show up briefly, usually involving only their scenes, with Cybill showing up the most. Their comments are limited and disappointing, focused primarily on their role or character. Quaid may have the least amount of time. Though the actors getting little time is a big disappointment it’s still a strong track.
Unfortunately the second audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich doesn’t add much, in fact it pretty much repeats everything in the first track, including the additional scenes, adding only some minor details here and there about the scenes in question. Best example would probably be an early scene in the classroom, where Bogdanovich repeats comments about actor John Hillerman and the dogs outside, but then adds a comment about directing Cybill Shepherd and then the book that appears, I, The Jury. He also points out some mistakes or things that nag him. But basically, if you were to jump back and forth between the two commentaries you’re almost guaranteed Bogdanovich will be talking about the same thing. Shockingly it has very little dead space, unlike the newer track Dennis Hopper had recorded for Easy Rider. In all I’d say you can listen to either one, though I think I prefer the group track.
This edition also comes with two documentaries on the film, the first being the 1999, 64-minute The Last Picture Show: A Look Back. Featuring interviews with Bogdanovich, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Marshall, Cloris Leachman, and Ellen Burstyn, and is a fairly detailed and lengthy making-of. Bogdanovich first talks about how he came to adapt the book, and the lengthy process he and author Larry McCurty went through adapting the novel. He covers the casting process, like the chance encounter he had with a magazine cover featuring Shepherd, casting the older women, and there’s even mention of alternate casting choices. There’s a lot of time devoted to Shepherd’s nude scene in the film (and the lawsuit brought against Playboy after they published photos) and there’s some minor details brought up about some on set “scandals” I guess one could say (though the second doc gets into more detail about that.) Mentioned elsewhere in other features in the set, including the commentaries found on the disc, but given more detail here, is the concern by producer Bert Schneider over Bogdanovich’s filming style, which didn’t include a “master shot.” Bogdanovich was almost fired for this because the dailies were incomprehensible but Bob Rafelson explained that Schneider shouldn’t worry, that Bogdanovich was editing “in camera” and that the film would “cut like butter” with Rafelson ultimately saving him. The actors appear and talk about their parts (Leachman giving a particularly thorough and insightful analysis of her character) and the last part of the documentary goes over the film’s release. It’s primarily a “talking heads” piece but it’s quite engaging and manages to go by fairly quickly.
Following this is a new discussion with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, recorded in 2009. Running 13-minutes it features the director talking about his career prior to his first feature, Targets, and then, somewhat repeating comments made in the previous documentary, talks about The Last Picture Show. He also talks about his favourite directors, his style, how he casts, and location shooting. He also talks a bit about reviews for his films. Though the title cards featured for each question being asked are presented in a fairly annoying manner, it’s decent, informative piece.
The next documentary, directed by George Hickenlooper, may be the best feature on here. Running only 42-minutes it may offer the most interesting perspective on the making of the film. Made in 1990, while Bogdanovich was working on the follow-up Texasville (which brought all the cast members together and allowed Hickenlooper to get interviews with just about everyone) it really focuses on the events around the film an production of the people that influenced both the novel and the film. We not only get interviews with Bridges, Shepherd, Quaid, and Bottoms (as well as Bogdanovich of course) but we also get intriguing and entertaining interviews with some of the locals of Archer City, including author Larry McCurty’s mother, who talks about, amongst other things, first reading the book. The locals have mixed feelings about both the book and the film and the people involved in its production (one remarks that a “name like [Bogdanovich], I knew he wasn’t from Wichita Falls.”) Criticisms are brought up, and rumours are mentioned, but the real meat is of course the affair that went on between Bogdanovich and Shepherd while Bogdanovich was still married to Polly Platt. I usually don’t care about this kind of material, but Hickenlooper handles it well and finds a an center to it, surprisingly in Bottoms. While Platt humourously recalls the affair (yes, humourously) Bottoms still shows some pain, because he had fallen for Shepherd, and he was still carrying this with him to that day, as shown by some behind-the-scenes footage from Texasville where Shepherd teases him a bit, though not maliciously, but Bottoms wears his emotions obviously. A true gem is that we get an interview with Ben Johnson, who talks about how director John Ford convinced him to do the film and his Oscar acceptance speech. In all it’s a fabulous documentary, and if one were only inclined to watch one feature on here I would say it should be this one.
The remaining supplements are all quickies. First is over 2-minutes worth of screen tests for the actors in the more minor roles, some of whom look to be possibly trying out for other roles. The footage is silent, with music playing over (my knowledge on country music is limited so I can’t say what song it is.)
Location footage presents over 6-minutes of footage show of Archer City, Texas. The footage is of the downtown and outskirts, with some shots of the town from a roof top. Though the location footage show a fairly small, quiet town, it amazingly looks far more deserted in the film.
Criterion then includes a portion from a French television program called Vive le cinema from 1972, featuring director François Truffaut on the new Hollywood. For 4-and-a-half minutes he talks about the changes in Hollywood and it what it means, focusing primarily on The Last Picture Show. He seems fairly thrilled with these more realistic films and how this door opening allows for new ways of storytelling in American cinema.
The disc then concludes with a theatrical trailer and a re-release trailer for the director’s cut.
The sixth and final disc, featuring The King of Marvin Gardens, presents a modest collection of supplements that, while covering the film, seem to be really a showcase for Rafelson. First is a selected scene audio commentary by Bob Rafelson. For those unfamiliar with this type of commentary it’s simply a commentary that only plays over a short portion of the film or certain scenes of the film and not the entire feature. And instead of presenting the track over the entire film with plenty of dead space Criterion has edited the film down to 64-minutes with the commentary playing over it and title cards breaking up the track. I rather enjoyed it and am a little disappointed Rafelson doesn’t talk over the entire picture, but what we get here is quite good. He goes over the production and working with Nicholson and Dern, even mentioning how they got along with one another, points out influences, talks about the camera work and geographical set ups, and also points out things in scenes that I had missed before. He shares some great anecdotes, including one about Hunter S. Thompson at a screening of the film, and then another great one about Scatman Crothers while he was filming Kubrick’s The Shining with Nicholson. Sometimes it sounds like Rafelson is being cut off but I’m not completely sure why (or if that really is the case) but I did enjoy it.
We then get a couple of little featurettes that do repeat comments from the commentary a little, starting with Confessions of a Philosopher King, which is essentially a 10-minute interview with Rafelson on the film. He talks primarily about the opening story that Nicholson’s character tells and where it comes from, the climactic scene (not wanting to give anything away,) the positioning of the camera, and the family of actors that BBS had, with Ellen Burstyn showing up in the interview. Throughout the set, where he appears, Rafelson is easily the most engaging and straightforward speaker and here he’s no different.
The next featurette is from 2002 and features Rafelson, cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, and actor Bruce Dern. Called Afterthoughts and running 11-minutes, it does repeat some information from the previous supplement, specifically the opening story and some comments on the camerawork, but it still has some different material (not counting similar comments in the commentary.) Kovacs of course principally talks about shooting the film, some of the tight sets he had to film on, lighting, and Rafelson’s complicated set ups in some exterior shots. Dern talks a little about preparing for the role, and there is some discussion about how he performed drunk on camera (which involved Rafelson recording Dern delivering lines completely drunk then having Dern go back and watch it, and yes, we get some of that footage.) It then concludes with a little bit on the Miss America scene. Not a real eye-opener, and there’s some receptiveness, but it’s decent look back.
The next supplement is a little odd, more because Rafelson is the only individual to get one like it, but it’s five pages of text notes about Bob Rafelson, covering his early career up to about 2002, even giving us a filmography. It’s a good read but I would have preferred it in the book, and can’t help but wonder why no other director or producer got something similar.
The disc then closes with a rather bland theatrical trailer for the film.
After all of that Criterion then includes a massive 111-page booklet in the set featuring a number of essays. Five of the films get their own essay. First Chuck Stephens provides an essay about The Monkees and their film Head; Matt Zoller Seitz writes aboutEasy Rider and its impact; Kent Jones looks into Five Easy Pieces, while Graham Fuller and Mark le Fanu finish these essays with a look at The Last Picture Show and The King of Marvin Gardens. But the real gem to the booklet is the lengthy essay by J. Hoberman on BBS productions. Still the whole booklet is a wonderful read, and comes highly recommended.
And that closes the set, one of the more comprehensive packages from Criterion, despite some repetition throughout. Not all of the material here is gold but a good chunk of it is certainly worthwhile.
America Lost and Found is one of the more fascinating box sets to come from anyone, offering a comprehensive look at one of the more important and interesting production companies to ever get into the business, making an impact that can still be felt today. The set comes with an incredibly high recommendation.