"There oughta be a law: you don't work, you don't drink!"
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 03/01/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Haven't seen JOE since 1970 but I remember it well and also once had the MERCURY Records soundtrack LP, JOE SPEAKS. This review's title is from an infamous barroom soliloquy heard on that album.
Peter Boyle as Joe is decidely not the jolly monster of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and he's far more acidic than Ray Romano's dad on TV's EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND.
Joe Curran is a blue collared New Yorker who's angry over the state of the world. When he gets a few beers under his belt Joe spouts hatred of blacks, hippies, social workers and even his own progeny ("I got a kid... ahhh, screw 'im!"). As Joe blows off steam in his favorite neighbohood tavern, Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick), a man who is his opposite in every possible way, wanders in.
Compton, a well-to-do businessman, has just done the unthinkable: he's murdered his daughter's junkie boyfriend after the guy caused Melissa (Susan Sarandon, in her first movie) to O.D.
Bill throws down a few stiff drinks and listens to Joe's ranting diatribe. When Joe says that he'd like to kill a hippie Bill slurs out, "I just did." Thus, an unlikely friendship is forged, based on Joe's desire to "off" a creep and Bill's having done so.
This strange duo explore the counter-culture while searching for Melissa, who disappeared after learning what her father did. They visit a macrobiotic restaurant, party with some kids and participate in an orgy. Ultimately, the story ends in an unforeseen tragedy for one of them.
John Avildsen's movie illustrates the dark, violent side of the Generation Gap. With an ongoing war in Southeast Asia and student protests that just a month before "Joe" was released culminated in the Kent State massacre, this film's shocking conclusion seems almost predestined.
Crazy and all over the place, but unforgettable
Muzzlehatch | the walls of Gormenghast | 09/14/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wow. What an awesome, unholy mess of a film this is. A mixture of pure trashy Cannon Group exploitation film - in the first 5 minutes we get the f-word (not so common yet in '69), Susan Sarandon's gorgeous firm 24-year-old naked tits, and her boyfriend Frank (Patrick McDermott) shooting up - and strange, not entirely consistent social commentary on the direction American society is going in. By the end of the film we've seen loads more nudity and a fairly extreme massacre sequence, plenty more drug usage, angry and resentful middle-aged white guys and stupid good-for-nothing hippies, with lots of racial expletives thrown in for good measure. Yep the Production Code had been lifted, the Summer of Love was past, and it was time to put it all out there...
So the film opens with Frank and girlfriend Melissa (Sarandon) in their rundown apartment in Manhattan. Frank is a drug dealer and makes mockery of Melissa's priveleged upbringing. They fight and Frank goes out to make some money for some big project he's got - Melissa runs after him, after taking too much speed, apparently, and ends up passing out in a drugstore. Taken to a hospital, she's cared for by her parents, advertising exec Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick) and Joan (Audrey Caire). Bill goes to Melissa's apartment to get her stuff, determined to remove her from Frank's influence, but is surprised by the boyfriend, who he fights with and accidentally kills. Shaken, he goes to a nearby bar to have a couple of drinks and is a party to a drunken rage by Joe (Peter Boyle), a working-class guy who hates minorities, hates the direction the country is going in, hates the hippies - an Archie Bunker type. They have a little interaction in which Joe talks about wanting to kill one of these worthless kids and Bill blurts out that he's done it - but then quickly backpedals. The next day though, Joe finds out that a dealer was killed near the bar, and puts two and two together. He's heard Bill's name and finds his number, calls his office and a strange "friendship" gets started.
JOE (the movie) goes in some interesting directions; it would be logical to assume that Joe (the character) intends to blackmail Bill, but he assures Bill that he's not interested in that. We the audience probably don't believe him at first any more than Bill does - but in fact, Joe doesn't seem to be interested in that. What Joe is in fact interested in is the bond that he shares with the wealthy and educated Bill - despite their class differences, Bill is every bit as conservative and hateful of the direction society is going in as Joe is. Or so Joe thinks - and so Bill is willing to pretend to be. They visit a hangout of Joe's - then a hangout of Bill's, where Bill talks about how stupid the people he works with are; Bill and Joan come to Joe's for dinner, and Joe shows Bill his extensive gun collection. It's an interesting look at the class differences, and how they are juxtaposed with the growing generational gaps - or at least, that's how the film goes for the first 2/3 or so of it's running time. Boyle is just phenomenal here and it's no surprise that this film boosted his reputation, though he shied away from similar roles afterwards for some pretty good reasons; in the last third of the film, as Joe and Bill try to find Melissa, who has disappeared, the film goes into places that so far had only been apparent in Joe's drunken rant.
The hippie scene isn't particularly well portrayed here and seems awfully stereotypical - everybody's all stoned and peace-love all the time - and the very young Sarandon and some of the other young actors aren't really that convincing; but the relationship between Bill and Joe is a fascinating and fairly well-drawn one, and the ending - even if it gets pretty darned silly, as the two Angry White Men confront the hippies and let all their prejudices out in spectacular fashion - retains a visceral power even if most viewers (I suspect) have the same "oh come on" reaction to the last few minutes that I did. I guess it works if one thinks of it in allegorical terms - but the film on the whole is too deliberately and brutally realistic for that option to seem intended. Norman Wexler's screenplay got an Oscar nomination; I'm not sure that was deserved though Peter Boyle definitely deserved some recognition here. Bobby Scott's music is pretty nice, and director/cinematographer John G. Avildsen's visuals of the various sides of wealthy and seedy Manhattan, and working-class Brooklyn are understated but very compelling.
All in all this is a must-see for anyone interested in where America was at in '69 I think. I'm not sure yet that I can say that it's a great film, but it was definitely a powerful and compelling experience.