By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 11, 2010)
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story – Criterion Blu-ray (6-disc set)
Back in the late 60s, Bob Rafelson, Burt Schneider and Steve Blauner capitalized on the success of their very profitable brainchild, The Monkees (referring to both the band and the associated hit TV series) by forming a movie production company called BBS Productions. The name may not ring a bell, but some of the films released by the company between 1968 and 1974 certainly will: Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show. These are but three of the seven titles included in this collection from Criterion, which I would consider the box set of the year. Two genuine rarities are here as well-Drive, He Said (Jack Nicholson’s 1971 directorial debut), and the very first film by Henry Jaglom, A Safe Place.
For my money, the real jewels here are the Blu-ray debuts for Head, the surreal music-biz satire starring The Monkees, and Rafelson’s bittersweet character study about beautiful losers and the dark side of the American dream, The King of Marvin Gardens. In purely visual terms, the latter film is a revelation in this format; the transcendent camera work by the late great Laszlo Kovacs can now be fully appreciated. All of the prints are sparkling and beautifully restored, and feature commentary tracks. It’s a bit puzzling that they didn’t include one of the more notable BBS productions…the classic Vietnam doc, Hearts and Minds-but hey, you can’t have everything. This is still an essential collection of important American films.