Monday, July 02, 2007


STRAIGHT TIME, as the title for the 1978 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, is a misnomer. Straight time refers to prison time served without parole. This movie, however depicts the criminal escapades of a parolee. Other than that, Straight Time is the most accurate movie I have ever seen about criminals and probably the very best movie I have seen in the past thirty years since it was made.

It was mostly ignored and/or poorly reviewed when released--with the notable exception of Vincent Canby in The New York Times. Most of the other reviewers were dismayed that Dustin's characterization of convict/author Edward Bunker's alter ego, Max Denbo was more of a criminal sociopath than a sympathetic victim of of an insensitive society. I actually thrilled to the revelation of leading man Hoffman's unblinking portrayal of Denbo's amoral criminality. And I was totally enthralled by the eccentric layers of humanity created by Harry Dean Stanton, Theresa Russell, M. Emmet Walsh, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates and the rest of a great ensemble.

An invisible character in the film is the haunting country/jazz score by David Shire. As much as I love Straight Time, I can't begin to imagine it without Shire's highly emotionally involving music.

Straight Time is now finally available on DVD.
I was gratified to see how terrifically it holds up. In some respects, it may even have certain advantages on the Personal Screen, assuming, of course, full HD DVD and LCD equipment. I prefer screening movies alone, even in a stadium seating venue, but home theaters, with equipment now being about equal with that of private studio screening rooms, has become not only a satisfactory alternative, but realistically, the only venue left for classic films like Straight Time. Plus, you get a very candid and revealing commentary from Hoffman and director Ulu Grosbard on interesting aspects of the production and its development.

Essentially, a cineaste's dream come true.


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