Written by: Nick Frame on June 8th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1972
Director: Larry Cohen
Cast: Yaphet Kotto, Andrew Duggan, Joyce van Patten, Jeannie Berlin
DVD released: 19th June 2006
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: English DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release: Anchor Bay UK
Region Coding: 2
Retail Price: £16.99
“The year is 1970, the most powerful nation on earth wages war against one of the poorest countries – which it finds impossible to defeat. And in this great and affluent nation exists its smallest richest city…And it is called Beverley Hills”
This is the brief text intro before the movie begins, and then we meet Bill (Andrew Duggan), a car salesman, in an odd, dreamlike car commercial selling wrecked automobiles with the bodies still inside. We see more of these strange commercials interspersed throughout the movie. We are then taken to his plush Beverley Hills mansion where we meet his wife Bernadette (Joyce van Patten) relaxing by the pool, but their peace and quiet is interrupted by the discovery of a rat in their drainages system followed by the appearance of a tall black man, Bone (Yaphet Kotto). Although he gets the rat for them, he is looking for a little more than they bargained for. He forces them back to the house and starts looking for money, but to his dismay he finds only bills and evidence that they are in a lot of financial debt. He heads to the upstairs bedroom and is about to leave empty handed after another fruitless search when he discovers a bank book with $5000 in the account. Unfortunately for Bill he had not told his wife about it and she is more than a little pissed! Bone gives Bill an ultimatum – go to the bank and get the money or his wife will be raped and murdered!
Sounds like your regular 70’s exploitation fare, right? Wrong! From the moment Bill leaves the house, “Bone” is unlike anything you’ve seen before or since, as the main protagonists are forced to face their fears, emotions, hidden agendas and secret desires. Amazingly it’s a film that is totally unclassifiable – there are elements of blaxploitation, sexploitation, part drama, part deeply black comedy and anything else you can think of. Ultimately its one of director Larry Cohen’s (“Q, the Winged Serpent”, “God told me to” and he also wrote the screenplay for “Phone Booth”) finest (indeed his first) and most underrated pieces of work, and it paints a picture of America’s hypocrisy and corruption that strangely enough is just as relevant now as it was then.
Performances are pretty good all round with Yaphet Kotto as Bone, the real standout. I’ve always loved him as an actor and he really underlines his talent here. Van Patten and Duggan too are excellent as the white couple having to face their deep bubbling problems, forced on them by this “big black buck”. Jeanne Berlin as the shoplifter that Bill runs into while in the bank is also excellent and I would love to see more of her. Cinematography and editing by George Folsey Jr also contribute hugely to the style and the look of this mesmerising film.
Overall I heartily recommend checking this out, a film that despite its age still packs a really mean punch.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic image is fantastic for a 34 year old movie, with very little evidence of print damage. It’s vibrant and bright and has that distinctive 70’s look that I love but is very difficult to replicate these days. Audio too is fine with the DTS track I listened too sounding good but the stereo track would have sufficed. Only the front speakers are really utilised as it’s a dialogue driven film and one feels the remixes are purely for marketing purposes as the Region 1 came with only the original mono.
The extras are really good as well, which is great as “Bone” is a film that needs to be explored a little more deeply. We begin with a director’s commentary with Larry Cohen accompanied by Blue Underground’s Bill Lustig (who released “Bone” on Region 1). A really great listen as both Lustig and Cohen are both fascinating. This is followed with an interview with producer Jack H Harris who talks about the difficulty of getting “Bone” into theatres. Next is a featurette entitled “Unreal” showing early 16mm footage with a different actress playing Bernadette before Cohen stopped filming and started again. Really well thought and interesting addition to the DVD. The disc is rounded off with the original theatrical trailer, radio spots, poster and stills gallery and a Larry Cohen bio.
A great film and superb DVD well worth picking up. If you like what you see from Cohen then try and track down “God Told Me Too” and “Q, the Winged Serpent”.
For more information about Bone visit Anchor Bay UK here.