Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I wrote about Walter Hill's excellent 1981 film, Southern Comfort, a number of years ago on this blog, but since possibly no one bothered reading it and it was written before the advent (or at least popularity) of Youtube, I'm going to briefly write about it again. And if you don't care what I think about the film, maybe you should just watch the clips above. Walter Hill made a name for himself in 1979 with two major hits under his belt: Warriors, which he directed and wrote the screenplay for, and Alien, which he produced. You've likely seen both. I have: many, many times. I doubt I've ever met a male - always a male - of my age who at some point in their childhood, adolescence or even full-blown adulthood hasn't watched at least one of those two movies. They were both staple VHS/Beta rental favourites throughout the 1980s, as well as regular re-runs on late-night TV. They're both two of the finer, or perhaps finest, films of their day, Alien being the best sci-fi/horror film of them all, alongside John Carpenter's The Thing from 1982, and Warriors being a brilliant urban/comic-book update on the Samurai theme Hill often runs with in his pics. That Sumarai theme - the noble warriors making their way back home through hostile enemy turf - was revisited by Hill in Southern Comfort, and it's possibly a better film than Warriors, yet it doesn't hold the same notoriety or esteem from film nerds.
Hill wrote, produced and directed Southern Comfort, and even though it never did a whole lot of business, I'd rate it as one of the best movies of the 1980s bar none. Warriors didn't actually do huge business itself upon release, but later gained a following through video rentals. The same never really happened for Southern Comfort, a state of affairs which can perhaps be blamed on Reagan's America not wanting to be bummed out at the time by a downbeat tale which, through metaphor and allusion, was essentially an anti-Vietnam War film populated by a cast of pretty unsympathetic characters. It's set in the Louisiana swamps in 1973 and follows the adventures of a group of National Guardsmen on a weekend training exercise. The unit in question comprises of a crew of mostly brainless rednecks (including Fred Ward, who plays the sharp variety of redneck to a tee), a largely ineffective sergeant (played by ex-San Fran Digger/activist Peter Coyote) and the two main protagonists of the film, a college-educated city boy and his sidekick, played by stone-faced Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine.
Upsetting the local Cajuns through mindless blank-shooting tomfoolery, the unit find themselves on the run through the swamps of Louisiana trying to find their way back to civilisation. In a foreign and hostile environment, they're up against an enemy who knows the terrain, and is intent on disposing them by any means necessary. And, just like the Warriors, most of the good guys are semi-expendable as they're just as worthless as human beings as the enemy they're up against. The only two w/ any brains - the ones you're really rooting for - Boothe and Carradine, at least make it as far as the closest Cajun township. That's the second clip I've put up, and I rate it as the best closing 20 minutes (though only 7 are included above) to just about any film there be. It was shot in a real Cajun backwater town w/ a real Cajun band rockin' it out in real time as its soundtrack. The rest of the film's score is done by Ry Cooder, and it's equally as good. It's heart-thumping stuff, claustrophobic and highly realistic in its slightly washed-out look. I said in the post below, regarding Inception, that the last thing I wanted in an action film was intelligence. Don't take it literally: that's the best combination, and one rarely achieved or even attempted. My beef w/ Inception was that it simply tried to be "clever" but wound up a bore. Southern Comfort is a smart film w/ characters that make sense, great action scenes and comprises a rare glimpse into a culture not often seen in a major movie (or even minor one). Southern Comfort isn't available locally on DVD and never has been, so far as I know, though it used to be regularly played on late-night TV here in the early '90s. I have it on VHS cassette, though since one of my kids thought it would be amusing to stick a sandwich in the video player, it doesn't work anymore. I either gotta get a new video player or order a DVD version online, pronto. At this stage, my only option is watching these goddamn snippets on Youtube.

1 comment:

veganboyjosh said...

i once tracked this movie down, thinking it was another movie. the other movie was called "Shoot", and the only thing i remember from it was the last scene. i saw it as a young child, and the closing scene really creeped me out. i made my wife sit through the entirety of Southern Comfort explaining "don't worry, the end makes it all worth it." and then it wound up being the wrong movie altogether.

came across your blog just now linked from somewhere else. the inclusion of this, plus
Repo Men, plus Destroy all Movies equals a new subscriber.

happy new year!