Cockfighter (1974)

R  |   |  Drama  |  August 1974 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,432 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 33 critic

Southern action drama film about cockfighting.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Mansfield
Richard B. Shull ...
Omar Baradansky
Jack Burke
Tom Peeples
Dody White Burke
Randall Mansfield
Warren Finnerty ...
Robert Earl Jones ...
Mary Elizabeth
Frances Mansfield
Tom Spratley ...
Mister Peeples
Charles Willeford ...
Ed Middleton
Pete Munro ...
Kermit Echols ...
Fred Reed


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... Written by David Woodfield

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

August 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Born to Kill  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film has never been released in the UK and was recently banned from public showing at the 2006 Edinburgh Film Festival following intervention by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA). According to the BBFC the movie would never receive a UK certificate as the film contravened the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 because the cockfighting scenes were organized for the purpose of filming. See more »


Featured in Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 8 (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Existential Modern Western
5 October 2004 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

"Cockfighter" is one of a number of collaborations between Monte Hellman and Warren Oates, with a brilliant, austere script written by Charles Willeford (also author of the book) and equally simple yet elegant cinematography by Nestor Alemendros, D.P. of Malick's "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven".

This film really captures an emerging respect and relationship between Hellman and Oates, who barely utters a word through the whole film. Like "The Shooting", "Ride in the Whirlwind" and "Two-lane Blacktop", Hellman turns to Oates for a unique and character-driven performance.

It's qualities envoke a very specific 60s and 70s motif of existentialism, a rambling from place to place and between relationships. Oates' stoicism really carries the feel of the film, with very honest performances from supporting actors Harry Dean Stanton, Richard B. Shull and Laurie Bird.

While not wanting to ruin the plot, it must be stated that the "sport" of cockfighting, while playing a part in the plot and cinematography, is really the backdrop of the story. Oates' Frank Mansfield is the true subject of the film, who, from the beginning, is a broken man on a mission, willing to keep going against the odds for his small piece of redemption. His path is very idiosyncratic, yet empathy for his positions and desires is universal.

From the cover and other reviews, it may seem that "Cockfighter" is an adventure film, rife with shock value and violence. While there are distinctly beautiful and poignant images of cockfighting (animal lovers beware), it's pace and personality are more like that of an "art film". In an effort to market the film by famed "shock" producer Roger Corman, posters and alternate titles ("Born to Kill") depict a film for a mass, Middle-American audience ready to see blood drawn.

As a huge fan of Hellman and Oates, especially Cockfighter, my opinion is that the marketing of the film and it's outer "cover" (literally and figuratively) were designed to get it seen at any cost.

This is Independent Film before it had a name, when it was simply at any cost and by any means. "Cockfighter" is a film full of philosophy, humility and respect, underrated if one ever was.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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