America Lost And Found: The BBS Story – Seven Films from the Revolution

America Lost And Found: The BBS Story (Criterion)

It’s no exaggeration to call BBS—named for its partners Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider and Steve Blauner—a defining creative force in the volatile Hollywood culture that was in the midst of identity crisis between 1968 to 1972, despite producing only seven features (eight if you count financing the Oscar-winning documentary Hearts and Minds, not included in this set). The partners were Hollywood insiders with aspirations to do something different, and these films, which they produced autonomously for Columbia Pictures (their contract gave them final cut), were just that. They weren’t all hits, but some of those features caught the wave of the youth market and created a model for personal filmmaking with commercial appeal. Most of the films in this collection have been previously released but this Criterion box set pulls them all together and adds its own collection of new and archival interviews and featurettes and commentary tracks along with those supplements carried over from previous releases, and puts them all on Blu-ray.

Heading down the highway

Easy Rider (1969), the only film here previously available on Blu-ray, is the quintessential counterculture blast of the late sixties it became a film of legendary proportions, from the stories of the chaotic production to its reverberations through contemporary culture. Directed by Dennis Hopper from an Oscar nominated script written by Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Terry Southern (which was extensively re-written during the production), and beautifully shot on location by Laszlo Kovaks on location, the low-budget production became a countercultural shot across the bow of an out-of-touch Hollywood system. From the opening blast of the biker anthem “Born to Be Wild” to the grim disillusion of the climax, it tapped into the pulse of American youth, became a runaway hit and, for better or worse, was the defining film of a generation.

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Head, the Bob Rafelson-directed and Jack Nicholson-scripted film starring The Monkees, arrives in a new special edition Blu-ray set from Criterion, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, this week. I only just received the set this week so my review will have to wait, but until then I offer this essay written for a screening at Seattle’s Grand Illusion in the late 1990s.

Teri Garr is fond of telling the story of how Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson came to name their Monkees feature: they hoped for a sequel so they could advertise it as “from the people who gave you Head.”

The porpoise is laughing goodbye, goodbye

Rafelson had helped create the Monkees, TV’s veritable pre-fab four, but by the time the feature came around the goofy lads had learned to play their instruments, started writing their own songs, and took themselves seriously enough to take a chance with their image. Legend has it that the script was written one weekend with the Monkees, Bob Rafelson, Jack Nicholson, a tape recorder, and a bag of Acapulco Gold. The result was more than an extension of the TV show, it was a complete reworking of the show’s style and sensibility, and Rafelson took the opportunity to make his feature filmmaking debut.

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