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Memories of MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1 Viewer)

Dick

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It was 1969, and I had made one of my frequent trips into the city from Westchester, by passenger train, with a friend. We were both 19, and could legally go to an X-rated movie, which MIDNIGHT COWBOY was at that time (it has since been re-rated "R," with no cuts). Upon leaving the theater, I felt odd and empty. We were standing within easy walking distance of some of the locales used for shooting the film, and thoughts about the squalor that so many people lived through on a daily basis in that and every other American city (let along the rest of the world) seemed to hit me in a tangible way for the first time. I never walked through NYC as blithely again - somewhere behind so many of those windows and at the end of so many alleys and within the rubble of so many condemned tenements were people just like (or even worst off than) Ratso Rizzo. For me, the movie altered my perspective. It deflated me, so I would certainly not call it a feel-good movie - but also it did enlightened me. The sixties were a time when you could actually leave a movie feeling something - not merely that you had been assaulted by explosions and left exhausted by incompetent quick cutting and vacuous dialog, but that you had gained insight into something you hadn't given much thought to before. And, on top of the cruel aspect of poverty, MIDNIGHT COWBOY was a beautifully-made love story and one about loyalty and about courage. TCM is running the movie as I type this, in widescreen and completely unedited, and it brought back a few of the emotions I so strongly felt that afternoon. I wish more films made for current audiences aspired to these lofty heights, and that mass audiences would still be open to the challenges they assert.
 

Seth Paxton

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Good story. There is a lot to say about when and where you see a film, which is one reason I would like to see a few more of the classic movie palaces come back. It affects how you view a film, just like going during the summer, going to an arthouse, the part of town you are in, etc can effect your viewing.

I disagree that the effect of that film was exclusive to older films or that films of that era weren't often safe studio productions. This was the same era of films like Patton that represented much more classic Hollywood studio styles. Meanwhile you can still walk out of a film like Requiem for a Dream or City of God and feel affected like that.

MC is just a classic, pure and simple, and remains effective in other viewing settings and in other eras.
 

Mark Philp

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When I first saw it, I didn't like it, but as my taste has matured over the years, I've come to appreciate it for the fine film it is. The thing I remember most was how it was received around the country being the first "mainstream" X-rated film and the first one to play in many of the big first-run houses instead of the out-of-the-way adult theatres. Some newspapers refused to run advertising for it. Church groups picketed theatres and in some places politicians pressured theatre owners to pull it. After all the fuss it's now R-rated and runs uncut on cable.
 

Jesse Skeen

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I just watched this again a few days ago, and have to wonder why in the world it was rated X? There was a lot of implied naughty stuff, but nothing explicitly shown, not even by today's NC-17 standards. Seems strange when at the same time they were much more lenient with the G rating than they are today, with stuff like Planet Of The Apes and Airport getting G ratings- they'd definitely get a PG today.
 

Lew Crippen

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I can no longer remember all the reasons, but the opening shot of Jon Voight in the shower was one. How much that bit of nudity compared to his being a male prostitute I never really knew. Of course standards change, as this film was a bit of a test case for the ‘X’ rating (a serious film that is).

The results of the test are obvious.
 

Lew Crippen

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Not in the Planet of the Apes made in the 60s (as was Midnight Cowboy). At least not frontal nudity.

Remember this was a different era. And even today you don’t get very much frontal nudity in American movies—and very much less for male frontal nudity.
 

Jay E

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I think Dick is talking about films released by the major studios in Hollywood, which back in the late 60's & early 70's, were making challenging adult films unlike today. Nowadays, the major studios have given up on these films due to the risk they present and the Independent studios have instead taken up that banner.
 

Haggai

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Anyone know about possibilities for an SE release of this? I really want this one in a good anamorphic transfer.
 

Michael Reuben

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Inappropriate religious commentary (and responses thereto) has been eliminated from this thread. Please continue.

M.
 

Scott Leopold

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I watched this the other night for the first time in years and was astounded. The only time I'd seen it before was seven or eight years ago when my wife and I rented it on VHS. I heard the tail end of Nilsson's song on the radio earlier this week and just got a craving to see it. I picked it up Wednesday at Border's (taking advantage of their Buy 3, Get 1 Free sale), and we watched it that night. It didn't take long to realize that the video we rented all those years ago was highly edited.

The first time I saw this, I thought it was interesting, confusing, and not particularly good. I'm glad I had the urge to revisit it. This time made all the difference. There were numerous scenes I was seeing for the first time. The video we rented cut out all the scenes of Joe Buck and his grandma. It also cut out all the rape scenes, and most of the scene in the theater with the student (the video had him put his head on Joe's shoulder, then cut to him telling him he didn't have any money). There were several other minor scenes that were cut from the video (including most of the nudity and several other short parts of the party), but these were the big ones. The movie made a lot more sense this time, especially when it comes to the character of Joe Buck.

Regarding the rating, at least now I can understand why it received the X its first time out. The insert in the DVD explained that the X rating had just been implemented, and the ratings board wasn't sure exactly how to apply it. This was a decidedly adult film, and they felt the rating would direct it at the intended audience. I didn't realize before that it received an R the following year when it was rereleased (I thought the rating wasn't adjusted until much later). The subject matter that was cut from the video left a bland, confusing movie with very little objectionable material, so that version left me really confused about the rating.

I'm quite glad I gave this movie another chance. While it's not one of my favorites, Dustin Hoffman and John Voight's performances are phenomenal. It's something I'll definitely watch again, and I'm glad to have it in my collection.
 

Robert Ringwald

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Yeah, i don't recall any frontal nudity in the version I rented, but it claimed it was "R" on the box. But I have a feeling it was edited.

The DVD is the "X" version, with an "R" rating right? They just resubmitted it? Cause I've been wanting to pick this one up for a long time.

I loved this film, and it's been at least 2 years since I've seen it.
 

Lew Crippen

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I am pretty sure in the theatrical release we saw Jon Voight’s penis in the opening shower scene.

But since this was a very long time ago, I may be misremembering. BTW, I saw a rerun on TV (cable/satellite channel) and it was not included.
 

Rob Tomlin

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Nice post, Dick.

Midnight Cowboy is a masterpiece. I always found it a bit ironic that it took a foreign director to capture the landscape of America so perfectly.

One of my favorite films.
 

Jesse Skeen

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I watched it on an RCA Selectavision disc issued in 1983 with a R rating on the cover, so it must have been a cut version. That explains it.
 

Jesse Skeen

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I watched it on an RCA Selectavision disc issued in 1983 with a R rating on the cover, so it must have been a cut version. That explains it.
 

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