Plot: What’s it about?
Hal Ashby’s career as a director only lasted for sixteen years before his unfortunate death from cancer at the age of 59. In his career he directed a total of twelve feature films. He was not prolific. That said, if you scroll through his filmography from the seventies, it quickly reveals itself to be a fantastic body of work. I have not seen any of his films from the eighties, but listen to what he directed between 1970-1979: The Landlord, Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, Coming Home, and Being There. Many people say that Ashby, despite a great body of work, is not typically discussed because his film work varies in style and theme so much. Personally, the Ashby films I am most accustomed to are Being There and Harold and Maude. You can see the influence of those two films on future directors, especially Wes Anderson. Being a big fan of those films, I jumped at the chance to purchase Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray release of The Last Detail.
The Last Detail is not just significant for the person behind the camera. This marked the first pairing of Jack Nicholson with screenwriter Robert Towne. Their next project would be a small Roman Polanski directed film named Chinatown, considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time.
Now onto the movie itself…
Jack Nicholson plays “Badass” Buddusky and Otis Young plays “Mule” Mulhall, two Navy men that are asked to transport Meadows, a young prisoner (Randy Quaid,) to the brig in Portsmouth. Meadows is an eighteen year old that has been sentenced to eight years in the brig for stealing forty dollars from a charity box. Buddusky and Mulhall plan at first to transport him to Portsmouth quickly and take there time coming back, but after getting some time with Meadows they decide to show him a good time before he goes away.
The Last Detail was very controversial in its time for the amount of profanity in the film, and there is quite a bit of profanity, but by standards today it is pretty tame. This film is a perfect example of the American New Wave of the early Seventies. It is funny, sad, well shot, and well acted. Nicholson chews the scenery fantastically, and Otis Young and Randy Quaid are both great. It also serves as a great time capsule with Vietnam winding down and Watergate on the horizon. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie immensely. I must admit, I am somewhat biased as I tend to enjoy almost any movie from this era. But, if you are a fan of this era in American film like I am, this is pretty much a must own release, and a great film period. Check this one out!
Video: How’s it look?
Twilight Time did a very solid job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec. For a limited release of a forty three year old film, the transfer looks very good. There are a few small problems with the transfer, mostly showing up in some of the opening scenes, which can have a bit of a soft look. Considering that these problems are minor and barely register, I would say I was extremely happy with this release. It may not be Criterion collection perfection, but for a limited release for a relatively small fan base, I appreciate all the steps that Twilight Time took.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The audio treatment of The Last Detail was incredibly competent. Being a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track, it can be expected that range is severely limited, but Twilight Time delivers on the most important aspect: clarity. Every curse word that Badass speaks can be heard perfectly! That said, my wife complained from the other room about how loud the soundtrack would get when the soundtrack would play, but the soft/loud dynamic in this film did not bother me so much as in other films where it is done far less effectively. Solid work!
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical Trailer – that’s it folks.
The Bottom Line
The Last Detail is very entertaining and rides the line of comedy and drama with a near perfect balancing act. The film itself is fantastic, and I am thankful that Twilight Time exists to release these limited edition prints. That said, there are no special features to speak of, so if that is a major concern you may want to just hold onto your DVD. Personally, I will be holding onto and rewatching this copy. Highly recommended.
Note: On Amazon and other retailers I have seen crazy prices for this disk, but it is still currently available on the Twilight Time website at a great price. These editions are limited to 3,000 prints, so go get yours today!