One of the most difficult acts to follow from 20th Century film history, the great Gene Hackman returns to astonish classic filmgoers (and maybe a few Millennials curious as to why everyone else shakes their head over the mere mention of Welcome to Mooseport or Heartbreakers) in two recent Blu-ray releases from the Warner Archive Collection.
Night Moves (1975, Warner Bros.)
The inimitable Mr. Hackman ‒ at the height of his career as a leading man here ‒ stars in this gripping neo-noir from director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, The Chase). One of several thrillers written for the silver screen by Scottish novelist Alan Sharp (Sam Peckinpah's The Osterman Weekend), Night Moves finds Hackman as a former professional football player who now works as a private detective in Los Angeles, where there is certainly never a shortage of sleazy characters to sort through. Indeed, his latest assignment ‒ tracking down a missing underage actress, as played by young (and sometimes nekkid) Melanie Griffith ‒ he discovers there is, quite literally, more lurking below the surface than he initially realizes. Susan Clark (as Hackman's unfaithful wife), Jennifer Warren, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, John Crawford, and a young James Woods co-star.
A commercial failure when first released in 1975, Night Moves has gained more attention (and with it, acclaim) over the years. In fact, Penn's mini-masterpiece was one of the most commonly requested titles when the Warner Archive began manufacturing Blu-rays several years ago. Now, thanks to the diligence of the WAC, Night Moves has received a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, which had to be meticulously restored for this release. Fortunately, all of their hard work was well worth it, as Night Moves looks fresher than ever. The feature film's accompanying DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack is just as magnificent, and English (SDH) subtitles are included in case Gene's big fuzzy 'stache proves too distracting. Extras for this must-own downer of a detective story consist of a vintage promotional featurette and the original theatrical trailer (the latter of which is also presented in 1080p).
Scarecrow (1973, Warner Bros.)
One might expect the only cinematic pairing of Gene Hackman and Al Pacino to become an instant hit across the nation. And, while Jerry (The Panic in Needle Park) Schatzberg's road picture may have done just that internationally (it shared the grand prize at Cannes that year along with Alan Bridges' The Hireling), Scarecrow bombed in America. Fortunately ‒ like Night Moves ‒ it has managed to eke its way into cult status over the years, and definitely deserves a look. The story centers on two drifters ‒ an abrasive Hackman and a surprisingly innocent Pacino ‒ agreeing to start a car wash in Pittsburgh. But first they have to make it there from California, which proves to be harder than it sounds as they encounter several setbacks along the way, most notably a brief prison farm stint, where classic B-movie villain extraordinaire Richard Lynch (The Premonition) tries to rape Pacino!
Though it may echo a few other films throughout its rather slow-moving 112-minute running time, Scarecrow nevertheless deserves a spot on the '70s road movie map (for Hackman's hilarious, impromtu striptease in a bar if nothing else), so the recent Blu-ray appearance of the title from the Warner Archive Collection is nothing short of a godsend in that sense. Better still is this WAC encode itself, presenting us with a beautiful new 2K transfer from a recently struck and restored interpositive. Photographed by cinematography god Vilmos Zsigmond, Scarecrow has never looked better, and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack is just as perfect ‒ which is really saying something considering the audio was recorded on the spot. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included with this release, along with a vintage making-of promo piece and the original theatrical trailer rounding things up.
(For even more Gene Hackman from the Warner Archive Collection, be sure to check out the newly restored three-hour widescreen TV cut of Richard Donner's Superman.)
Recommended. The both of 'em.