Easy Rider (1969)

on July 14, 1969 by BOXOFFICE Staff
  With this joint venture from two of Hollywood's anti-establishment children, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, Columbia undoubtedly has one of the major youth market attractions of the year. It will be easy for many to misinterpret this "drug" store fantasy about two long-haired motorcyclists on a fatal American odyssey as one of those facile crucifixion tales about the "good guys" who must be destroyed by a corrupt and backward society, but there is a much more significant and frightening sub-surface here that is never sufficiently developed and thus will be missed by the very audience that might have found it relevant. It's an ambitious effort from producer Fonda and director Hopper, who co-wrote with Terry Southern as well as star, and they wisely chose ace cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs to helm the agile color cameras. "Easy Rider" also features a splendid performance by Jack Nicholson as the languid, drunken scion of a wealthy southern family who buys the myth of freedom at the cost of his life. Drugs are used throughout, more truthfully presented than ever before, although pot party conversations in which grunts pass as profundities will probably drive the uninitiated up the wall. Color processing and prints are by CFI.

In order to get enough money to be free of the restrictions of society and undertake a motorcycle trip to the Mardi Gras, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper act as go-betweens in the sale of a large quantity of dope. On the trip they pick up a hitchhiker who takes them to a small hippie settlement where they frolic with a couple of girls. Later they are arrested in a southern town where they meet lawyer-alcoholic Jack Nicholson who is intrigued by their "freedom" and joins them. One night they are attacked by local toughs, and Nicholson is killed. When Hopper and Fonda reach New Orleans they visit a brothel that was high on Nicholson's agenda where they pick up a couple of prostitutes and take an acid trip in a cemetery. The trip is a bad one, and, although Hopper feels the two have succeeded, Fonda tells him that "we blew it." Outside of town the two young men are shot to death by a tobacco-chewing hillbilly.

The youth market seems to have its own jungle-drum communication system, and word is out on "Easy Rider" already. The extensive pop score will get air play, the hippie costumes and Fonda's Captain America outfit are exploitable. Screenings for school groups etc., should spark discussions on drugs, the generation gap, etc.

A man went looking for America... and couldn't find it anywhere! Columbia 94 mins.

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