Ratings (out of 5)
Audio – 4
Video – 5
Extras – 4
Program – 4
Overall – 4
“A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere.” – tagline on the original theatrical poster of Easy Rider
Easy Rider is an unconventional yet compelling combination of road movie, rock music, drugs, sex and politics. Audiences responded to this mix as well as the dynamic performances of Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper (who also directed) and Jack Nicholson, turning Easy Rider into one of 1969’s biggest hits. Easy Rider was the seminal film experience of its time and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for its screenplay by Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern. Lazlo Kovacs’ stunning cinematography captures America vividly - from the vistas of Monument Valley to the craziness of Mardi Gras. While some of the film’s themes are dated, much of it still resonates with audiences today. The violence and downbeat ending still pack a wallop.
Columbia’s DVD of this groundbreaking film is terrific. Featuring a widescreen presentation (enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions), the video transfer captures the theatrical look of the film precisely. Color and sharpness are exemplary with one exception: the New Orleans ‘acid trip’ sequence. However since amateur cinematographers shot that sequence on 16mm film, the DVD is only reproducing the quality of the original material. The original mono sound has been remixed to Dolby Digital 5.1 and really does justice to film’s dynamite rock soundtrack. Most of the dialogue is firmly centered and has a dated fidelity, but the music sounds superb.
DVD extras include a one-hour documentary about the making of the film from conception to release. This insightful piece includes interviews with Hopper, Fonda and most of the key participants. Director Hopper also provides an informative – if sporadic – audio commentary. Between the documentary and the commentary, it is revealed that the film was originally conceived as a non-scripted improvised affair. It’s interesting to speculate what the film would have been like if that strategy continued. Strangely, the DVD does not include a theatrical trailer.