By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 28, 2009)
Carny – Warner Archives DVD
This character study/road movie/romantic triangle is an oddball affair (Freaks meets Toby Tyler in Nightmare Alley) yet one of my favorite films of the 1980s. Set in the seedy milieu of a traveling carnival, it stars the Band’s Robbie Robertson as the carny manager, Gary Busey as his best pal and Jodie Foster as a teenage runaway who is swept into their world of con games and hustle.
The story is elevated above its inherently sleazy nature by excellent performances. Whenever he inhabits the dunk tank clown persona, Busey reminds us that at one time, he was one of the most promising young actors around (at least up until the unfortunate motorcycle mishap). Director/co-writer Robert Kaylor also showed promise, but has an enigmatic resume; a film in 1970, one in 1971, Carny in 1980, a nondescript Chad Lowe vehicle in 1989, then…he’s off the radar.
The reissue is part of the Warner Archive Series, which is a good news/bad news proposition for film buffs. Bad news first: These are bare-bones editions (they are burning them “on demand” based on number of orders placed on their website). Also, these are not necessarily restored prints (making the $19.99 list price a bit dubious). But the good news is that Warner claims to be utilizing this new product line as an excuse to eventually clean out everything languishing in their vaults that was previously unavailable on DVD.