Written by / 5/30/2016 / No comments / , , , , ,

JACK NICHOLSON IN THE LAST DETAIL

Our Official 2016 Memorial Weekend Post will center on a 1973 Navy Film, Kinda, starring Jack Nicholson, never better
While Burt Reynolds is no Jack Nicholson, before the A-List superstar became a jovial Trans Am driving icon, he had no mustache and, especially in DELIVERANCE, could really act... And it's interesting to learn that, supposedly, in two projects... both winding up being Jack Nicholson's best roles... Burt was considered for the lead...

Blu Ray Cover... Friends think this image looks gay!
Of all his work, THE LAST DETAIL is, arguably, Jack's best performance ever caught on film, and that's saying something, playing one of two Navy "lifers" given a "Detail" to take a young hopeless crook to jail, and, given five days for a two-day job, they make an adventurous journey of it... Or rather, Jack does and the others follow suit, and not without hesitation.

So it's been said this role was originally, like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (Milos Forman was a DELIVERANCE fan), intended for Burt Reynolds... And Burt's co-stars were to be blaxploitation icon/football legend Jim Brown and, get this, an up-in-coming young actor named John Travolta! As cool as those cats are in their own thing, thankfully, as pop culture luck would have it, Jack... having already starred in FIVE EASY PIECES after his game-changing shift from b-movie actor to superstar in EASY RIDER... jumped on board. So this classic starred who it starred... And although the mellow, hulking, handsome black actor Otis Young is superb beside the energetic lead, Jack wanted his friend Rupert Grosse in the role, who died before he could even be considered. Grosse, a talented actor and far more versatile and edgy than Young... you can say, a black Jack Nicholson... would have made the movie much different, and perhaps a lot of the dynamic would center on the two Navy guys instead of what Otis and their captor, a somewhat dim-witted and surprisingly subdued Randy Quaid (who'd go overboard in almost every role thereafter) gave to Jack: a cinematic stage play that he, practically alone, reigned within the streets of New York, Boston, and Philly on the way to delivering the poor kid to a Marine prison, a reluctant job for Nicholson's Bad Ass (his character's nickname). Some great division is had between polar opposites Jack and Otis, like a principal lecturing a wily student while Quaid's mild Meadows, other than a few escape attempts, is to the movie what any virgin is to an odyssey concerning world-weary fellas; in this case sailors who've literally been "all over" and want this kid to share in that wisdom.

Inside the Twilight Time Blu Ray
DETAIL is set at the tail-end of the counter-culture era when President Richard Nixon wasn't very popular with the youth, nor was the Vietnam war. And yet, there's a refreshing party scene where a wild-haired political hippie asks Bull whether he hates Nixon, eventually annoying a hippie chick whose main concern is whether Bull wanted to go to Vietnam. After repeatedly ignoring the dude, his answer to her is, "When the man says go, you gotta go since," paraphrasing slightly, "we live in the man's world?" Making the girl respond with a quiet yet shocked, "Oh... wow," which is how Hollywood felt...

Movie Rating/Score: *****
But his honest, genuine and nonchalant reaction to her reaction belongs to an extremely subtle expression – a roll of the eyes without really doing so, putting the perspective not on what was popular at the time to cater to the audience, but the fact these earthy characters weren't a result of that era, but could have come from any war, at any time: making THE LAST DETAIL a timeless capsule that, owned by an almost too-forced military soundtrack (bordering on satire) blasting the trio from locale to locale, inside and outside alleyways, arcades, diners, cafes, motel rooms (Jack's best scene!) and a brothel, providing a glimpse into the past without rose-colored glasses... In fact DETAIL has no particular agenda and is nearly perfect viewing. And yet, to some, Nicholson's performance is viewed as another "Jack doing his Jack thing," but keep in mind it's his second strategic (after becoming A-List) role, and that devilish charm is what made his EASY RIDER character stand out in the first place. But here, Jack's a budding phenom building momentum with each and every step...

The Other Guys
And this character exceeds most of his others by how he goes all-out without seeming overwhelming or what he actually is – hypnotic and scene-stealing. Sure, it's his stage since he's the loudest and most independent and resourceful of the three, and yet Young and Quaid get their own time to shine – if not by their equally important reactions. Also, this is perhaps director Hal Ashby's greatest motion picture, and, based on an underwhelming novel improved upon by future CHINATOWN scribe Robert Towne, it's a perfect synergy with all involved: cast and crew alike.

Nancy Allen
Ashby's eclectic and electric filmography ranges from a March/December Romance to a womanizing hairdresser to a folk music icon to an all-out Anti-Vietnam flick to a man of limited intelligence mistaken as a worldwide genius to a widescreen Rock N' Roll Concert, but never has the spontaneous auteur... an improvisational maverick the creative likes of Robert Altman... been so sparse and effective. His penchant for DETAIL is pure in essence without having to snare the culture outright. Instead, he allows the now historic time in which the story's told to be experienced like you're right there, alongside the trio – and after watching it for the first time, or the hundredth, you can make what you want of the whole damn motherf---ing thing!

RATING: *****
OTHER STUFF: Randy Quaid, as mentioned in the review, would go on to many roles, most of them overboard and yet he works again under Ashby's direction in BOUND FOR GLORY and is wonderfully even-keeled... But, not all's perfect in the jungle, for in Hal's worst movie, and perhaps one of the most horrendously awful motion pictures ever made, THE SLUGGER'S WIFE, Randy returns to hammy form, and then some • As shown in the photo above, a young Nancy Allen appears (if Travolta were in Randy's shoes, they'd have beat CARRIE to the punch)... She listens to Jack rant at a party about his... well you just have to be there • At a Buddhist get-together, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE original Gilda Radner can be seen behind beads as well as an obscure actor, Derek McGrath, who ruled an episode of CHEERS, attempting to kill Diane Chambers while doing Shakespeare • Nicholson starlets Carol Kane, from CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, and LUANA ANDERS, from EASY RIDER, are in this as well as one of Michael Moriarty's greatest cameo roles: that you have to wait for • And many years later, EASY RIDER legend Dennis Hopper would direct a horrific PIECES remake titled CHASERS... avoid this catastrophe unless you enjoy that kinda thing.
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