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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 12/20/99



Easy Rider
30th Anniversary Special Edition - 1969 (1999) Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Easy Rider: 30th Anniversary Special Edition Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B+

Specs and Features

95 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85.1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (extra layer for the documentary), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary with director Dennis Hopper, documentary Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage, cast and crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai, Close Captioned


When I first started studying film, I could never figure out why so many people put Easy Rider on a pedestal. I liked the film well enough, and I understood the cultural significance. I even understood the pioneering nature of the film. But try as I might, I never really understood why it was considered such a great film. It just seemed so dated to me at the time. That was early on in my appreciation of film as art. Now, however, I think I see it. If you watch Easy Rider with even an ounce of filmmaking knowledge, you see just how incredible this film is. Take a look at the editing choices made by Hopper and his team, the differing film stocks, use of telephoto lenses as the primary camera lens - even the way cinematographer Lazlo Kovaks and Hopper seemed to work together without any communication (just watch how Hopper weaves in and out of formation on his bike, and how Kovaks always seems to follow him while keeping the composition). It's simply magical. Now that Easy Rider is on DVD, I can only hope that a new generation of film fanatics might discover and embrace this film without any prejudices.

Easy Rider is film about the American dream. Two would-be entrepreneurs score big time, by buying and selling some "mysterious" white powder. They then invest some of the money into a couple of suped-up Harleys, and head across the American landscape en-route to retirement in Florida with the rest of their haul. Along the way, they meet a gaggle of hippies, rednecks, whores and lawyers, only to find that the American dream may just be a nightmare in disguise. Dennis Hopper plays Billy and Peter Fonda plays Wyatt (aka Captain America), the two main characters of our story. To the uninformed eye, the film, its symbolism and underlying themes may be lost. But thanks to a beautiful documentary and a really wonderful commentary (even though it's way too gapped-filled), you newbies will find plenty of help in navigating through the meanings of the film.

The disc itself looks and sounds great. I was really shocked to see how well this film has been kept over the years. The 35mm shots look appropriately grainy - not as grainy as the 16mm Mardi Gras scenes, but all really colorful. There are deep full blacks, and you'll experience lots of great landscape imagery and interesting "motion" shots. The latter are the shots that can sometimes come out poorly on DVD - lots of complex motion that MPEG-2 has trouble with. But surprise of all surprises, this is a very well-mastered disc and none of those problems appear. The audio is also nice with a remastered DD 5.1 and the original stereo mix preserved on the disc. I actually liked the DD 5.1 better than the 2.0, because of the heavy use of 60's music in the film. It just booms out of the speakers in the new mix. This disc is simply eye and ear candy.

On the special edition side, you'll find the documentary I was talking about -- and it's a dandy of a documentary. Pretty much everyone but Jack Nicholson talks about the making of the film. There are some wild stories about every aspect of the making of this film, and no punches are pulled. You'll laugh at some of this stuff, and just shake your head at other things. The commentary track is just as good. It slightly overlaps the information in the documentary, but what Dennis Hopper has to say really helps round out the rest of the disc. Hopper talks more about what things mean, and how different shots where pulled from expressionistic art films of the 50's and early 60's. A reference to the work of Luis Buñuel may have gone unnoticed without a comment by Hopper here in the commentary, and I for one appreciate the knowledge. I would have liked a commentary track with Peter Fonda & Jack Nicholson (as well as more of them in the documentary), and a theatrical trailer (the only other extra here is a cast and crew bio section), but those are small nits to pick. For what it is, this is a pretty special disc.

If you have a love of biker flicks, the 1960's, or independent film, this is the flick for you. You'll learn something, see a really well made avant-garde film, and maybe even discover a new favorite movie. I know that I've pushed Easy Rider away for years. But now, upon giving it a second chance, I'm finding that I want to pop this disc in again and again. Check out this DVD if you can, and you'll be glad you did.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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