America Lost and Found: The BBS Story
Hey, hey, it’s the Monkees . . . being catapulted through one of American cinema’s most surreal sixties odysseys. The brainchild of Bob Rafelson, making his directorial debut; his producing partner and Monkees cocreator Bert Schneider; and Jack Nicholson, a coscreenwriter on the project, Head was the fanciful beginning and ignominious end of the TV-bred supergroup’s big-screen career. In it, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork become trapped in a kaleidoscopic satire that’s movie homage, media send-up, concert movie, and antiwar cry all at once. A constantly looping, self-referential spoof that was ahead of its time, Head dodged commercial success on its release but has since been reclaimed as one of the great cult objects of its era.
As Billy and "Captain America," Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda motored down the highway on their Harley Davidsons to the roaring strains of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," the definitive counterculture blockbuster was born. The former clean-cut teen star Hopper's down-and-dirty directorial debut, Easy Rider heralded the arrival of a new voice in film, one positioned firmly, angrily against the mainstream. After Easy Rider-with its radical, New Wave-style editing, outsider-rock soundtrack, revelatory performance by a young Jack Nicholson, and explosive ending-the American road trip would never be the same.
Following Jack Nicholson's breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, director Bob Rafelson devised a powerful leading role for the new star in the searing character study Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson plays the now iconic cad Bobby Dupea, a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of romantic or familial responsibility, who returns to his childhood home to see his ailing, estranged father-his blue-collar girlfriend (Karen Black, like Nicholson nominated for an Oscar) in tow. Moving in its simplicity and gritty in its textures, Five Easy Pieces is a lasting example of early 1970s American alienation.
The two most overlooked films of the BBS era, Drive, He Said and A Safe Place are daring, personal character studies, and the directorial debuts of, respectively, Jack Nicholson and Henry Jaglom. Nicholson's feverish snapshot of the early seventies concerns a disaffected college basketball player and his increasingly radical roommate. In Jaglom's delicate, fantasy-faced drama, Tuesday Weld stars as a fragile young woman in New York unable to reconcile her ambiguous past with her unmoored present; Orson Welles also appears as an enchanting Central Park magician.
The Last Picture Show is one of the key films of the American cinema renaissance of the seventies. Set during the early fifties, in the loneliest Texas nowheresville to ever dust up a movie screen, this aching portrait of a dying West, adapted from Larry McMurtry’s novel, focuses on the daily shuffles of three futureless teens—the enigmatic Sonny (Timothy Bottoms), the wayward jock Duane (Jeff Bridges), and the desperate-to-be-adored rich girl Jacy (Cybil Shepherd)—and the aging lost souls who bump up against them in the night like drifting tumbleweeds, including Cloris Leachman’s lonely housewife and Ben Johnson’s grizzled movie-house proprietor. Featuring evocative black-and-white imagery and profoundly felt performances, this hushed depiction of crumbling American values remains the pivotal film in the career of the invaluable director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich.
For his electrifying follow-up to the smash success Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson dug even deeper into the crushed dreams of wayward America. Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern play estranged siblings David and Jason, the former a depressive late-night-radio talk show host, the latter an extroverted con man; when Jason drags his younger brother to a dreary Atlantic City and into a real-estate scam, events spiral toward tragedy. The King of Marvin Gardens, also starring a brilliant Ellen Burstyn as Jason’s bitter aging beauty-queen squeeze, is one of the most devastating character studies of the seventies.
Details by Film
A Safe Place
Drive, He Said
Five Easy Pieces
The King of Marvin Gardens
The Last Picture Show
- Audio commentary featuring actor-writer-director Dennis Hopper
- Audio commentary from 1995, featuring Dennis Hopper, actor-writer Peter Fonda, and production manager Paul Lewis
- Born to Be Wild (1995) and “Easy Rider”: Shaking the Cage (1999), documentaries about the making and history of the film
- Television excerpts showing Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969
- Interview with BBS Productions cofounder Steve Blauner
- Theatrical trailers
- Audio commentary featuring the Monkees
- New video interview with director Bob Rafelson
- New documentary about BBS featuring critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley
- Screen tests with the Monkees
- TV spots
- Radio spots
- Ephemera, including behind-the-scenes photos by Henry Diltz
- Rare 1968 television interview with the Monkees
- Audio commentary by director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Tony Rafelson
- Soul Searching in “Five Easy Pieces,” a 2009 video piece featuring Bob Rafelson
- BBStory, a 2009 documentary about the legendary film company BBS Productions, with Bob Rafelson; actors Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Ellen Burstyn; filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom; and others
- Audio excerpts from a 1976 AFI interview with Bob Rafelson
- Trailers and teasers
- A Cautionary Tale of Campus Revolution and Sexual Freedom, a 2009 video piece featuring Jack Nicholson
- Theatrical trailer for Drive, He Said
- Audio commentary featuring director Henry Jaglom
- Henry Jaglom Finds “A Safe Place,” a 2009 video piece in which the director discusses the film
- Notes on the New York Film Festival, a 1971 video interview with Henry Jaglom and director Peter Bogdanovich
- Outtakes and screen tests
- Theatrical trailer for A Safe Place
- Audio commentary from 1991, featuring Peter Bogdanovich and actors Cybil Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman, and Frank Marshall
- Audio commentary from 2009 featuring Peter Bogdanovich
- “The Last Picture Show”: A Look Back, (1999) and Picture This (1990), documentaries about the making of the film
- A Discussion with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, a 2009 Q&A
- Screen tests and location footage
- Excerpts from a 1972 television interview with director François Truffaut about the New Hollywood
- Selected-scene commentary featuring director Bob Rafelson
- Reflections of a Philosopher King, a 2009 video piece with Bob Rafelson and actress Ellen Burstyn
- Afterthoughts, a 2002 interview with Bob Rafelson, about the film, produced by Rafelson, Kovács, and actor Bruce Dern
- Theatrical trailer