|Writers||Charles Willeford (novel "Cockfighter")
Charles Willeford (screenplay)
|Cast||Warren Oates Richard B. Shull Harry Dean Stanton Ed Begley Jr. Laurie Bird Troy Donahue Warren Finnerty Robert Earl Jones Patricia Pearcy Millie Perkins Steve Railsback Tom Spratley Charles Willeford Pete Munro Kermit Echols Ed Smith Jimmy Williams John Trotter Lois Zeitlin Joe Bentley|
|Plot||Frank Mansfield has wanted to win the Cockfighter of the Year medal for ages. Frank never speaks. After shooting his mouth off one too many times then losing a champion rooster in a casual hotel room cockfight, he swore never to speak again until he's won that award... He makes a bet with old crony Jack to be settled at the upcoming meet. Frank puts his car and his trailer on the line; he loses. Jack gets the trailer, and Frank's part-time girlfriend who goes with it. Frank's long-time girlfriend Mary Elizabeth wants him to get serious and settle down. But Frank has to raise some money for a new cock - $500 - then he can form a partnership with fellow cocksman Omar Baradansky and make another try for that medal...... search for Cockfighter on IMDb|
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|Monte Hellman's Cockfighter, adapted by cult noir writer Charles Willeford from his novel, is a strange bird indeed, an art film for an exploitation audience. Set in the game-fighting pits of the Deep South, it follows a season on the circuit with Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates), a veteran fighter whose hubris has cost him everything and who rebuilds his stable and his reputation while honoring a vow of silence. Costars Harry Dean Stanton and Laurie Bird previously appeared with Oates in Hellman's cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop. There are also appearances by Millie Perkins, Steve Railsback, Richard B. Schull, and writer Willeford, who acquits himself nicely as a pit judge. |
Oates's portrayal of a determined, silent obsessive is almost minimalist yet beautifully expressive, accomplished with gestures, smiles, and nods. He's thoughtful and gentle yet dedicated to bloodsport, and his contradictions can be felt in the tension between the comic adventures and gritty stories of Willeford's script, with the meditative intensity of Hellman's often serene direction and cinematographer Nestor Almendros's lovely images of the Deep South's rural beauty.
Cockfighter was one of the few films produced by "King of the B's" Roger Corman that lost money, so he added a dream sequence full of nudity, created a trailer with action scenes nowhere to be found in the film, and rereleased the film under the title Born to Kill. Needless to say, Anchor Bay has returned to Hellman's original cut, which does contain footage of real and often savage cockfights. Animal lovers and squeamish viewers beware.
The accompanying documentary Warren Oates: Across the Border is a genial if ultimately lightweight portrait of the actor by friends and fellow performers Ben Johnson, Stacy Keach, Peter Fonda, and his Cockfighter compatriots Harry Dean Stanton, Millie Perkins, and Monte Hellman.
The DVD also features commentary by Hellman and production assistant Steven Gaydos, along with moderator Dennis Bartok. --Sean Axmaker
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