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|Index||29 reviews in total|
Most descriptions of this movie read something like "psycho Vietnam
terrorizes roadside diner patrons" or "bad movie adaptation of Medoff's
stage play" and though these may be accurate surface descriptions, the
deserves far more comment than that. As the movie progresses, each
character's deepest motivations and fears are revealed and what is
is the shallow values, ignobleness and dark fears of mankind.
Marjoe Gortner's youthful rage manifest's itself strikingly as he rants on a each of the diner patrons. His cynism is directed at pretentious city intellectuals (Hal Linden and Lee Grant), small town folk (Stephanie Faracy), self-righteous do-gooder (Pat Hingle), bad-ass-wannabe (Peter Firth) and even the protagonist's girlfriend (Candy Clark). The film gives a whole new meaning to the American perception of machismo and much of this can be difficult as well as fascinating to watch.
The most interesting thing about this film however is that it has gone virtually unnoticed since the day it was released. It lasted in the theaters only a few weeks and the edited versions, which have only rarely appeared on non-cable TV, truly ruined the entire effect of RR. The movie was overlooked by the critics and the public for several reasons.
The critics labeled the movie "better as a stage play" and "it's been done before" and "overacted". For reasons that I have never completely understood, movie critics typically dislike stage plays made in to movies unless a lot of flashy camera work and new spirited locations make the play-now-a-movie fit more conventionally into the film art form. What critics fail to realize is that the general public does not have access to good theater and even if a movie is literally a play shot on film, one can now get the subtle nuances of close-up facial expressions and the quality dialogue that stage plays require and movies often go without. Some critics said the film was similar to other films such as The Petrified Forest yet these same critics can never seem to get enough gangster movies, boxer movies or movies about Hollywood professionals. Red Ryder has about as much in common with Petrified Forest as Platoon had in common with Green Berets. And the criticism that Gortner overacted ...... my god that WAS the point !!!
The public overlooked the movie mainly due to the marketing. A long non-descriptive title stunted audience draw and RR lacked the graphic exploitative violence that so often the public looks for in a movie that was touted as "he is getting even with every woman who slapped your face and every man that ....". A more accurate title (possibly "Unexamined Lives") and a descriptive byline like "he is here to prove to you that there is really nothing decent about anyone" may have at least got the right people in the movie house. Of all the mind pap available on video these days, such as Armageddon, it is a crime that this masterpiece has been lost to history.
Dont listen to the bad reviews, this is one of the greatest psychological dramas of all time, right up there with WHOSE AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLFE & THE ANNIVERSARY but with way more dark overtones and up dated by utilising the political confusion of the transition between the early 50s and late turbulent 60s. Marjoe Gortner is on fire here as the psychotic ex Nam vet Teddy who singlehandedly terroises the inahbitants and few customers at a roadside diner with psychological terror and intimidation. Sure, the movie drags a little in the first half hour, setting up the case scenarios of the players ala PULP FICTION but by golly when they all meet up at the deserted diner are you in for a treat in psychological warfare. Peter Firth is absolutely fantastic in the role as Stephen (Red) Ryder and this really can be seen as a coming of age film and a depressing view into the life of Jerry Springer style poor white trash in small country towns. There is a 90s movie titled ALBINO ALLIGATOR that borrows heavily from this movie but falls oh so short. Red Ryder improves with repeated viewings and starts to resmble a black comedy in places. Itll make you laugh, sigh, frightened and when it gets going will have you at the very edge of your seat.This movie is awesome and should be re-submitted for its deserved (but currently out of reach) cult status. My second favourite movie of all time. love it or hate it you wont regret it. For those who hated it I plead for you to check this out again. There is way more in this film that meets the eye.Although far from being first rate technically this is without doubt a brilliant film on many other rare untouched levels.Now can some one out there release this on DVD already!??? I also recommend seeing the MARJOE documentary..AFTER this movie....essential viewing.
It's been over 20 years since I've seen this movie and it's every bit as
good as I remember it. Marjoe Gortner is most convincing as a sociopath
tormenting small town folks and passersby with a touching love story in
background. Great soundtrack too! When You Coming Back Red Ryder?
to be rereleased on DVD.
Left alone to watch my Grandfather's Florida home sometime during the early 80's, I stumbled across this lost classic on one of the cable movie channels and found myself drawn in by the mesmerizing performance of Marjoe Gortner. For seven consecutive days I continued to be moved during repeated viewings by the powerful, yet tragic vision of Marjoe's Teddy, a disgruntled, disillusioned child of the 50's and victim of his service in a war that no one has quite learned to come to terms with. Teddy lashes out against the lies, the corruption, the restrictions, and the myths that shaped many of his generation which, when applied to the darker, cynical realities that he and his brethren met upon their coming of age, fell woefully short of the truth. Added to the terrors that Teddy subjects his fellow cast members and viewers to are glimpses into the psyche of an America not yet ready to confront itself, but standing on the cusp of discovery. They are in need of push which they get in the form a good swift kick (actually many repeated kicks) by the verbally, physically, and psychologically abusive young rebel. In the end, each one is held up to the mirror and confronts the reflection that his or her reality. I took the ride along with them from opening to closing scene for that long week of viewing and haven't forgotten the film's affect on me for a single day since. Gortner's performance may have indeed been too powerful, too real, and too biting for release on video and DVD. It's really too bad because we need to confront ourselves now every bit as much as we did in the days following that war that no one wants to remember, but none of us will ever forget. When, you coming back Red Ryder? We sure could use you.
I recall thinking this movie would be uninteresting when I first saw it on HBO back in 1984, but this in not the kind of movie I could forget about a month later. No wonder so many stage recreations have been done. The many characters are so identifiable, so authentic in their behavior. I have to wonder where the writers got their material. As one who was born and spent many years in west Texas, this is like a compressed version of many years of my life. Thank God, the extreme bad guys like Teddy are rare, but they do exist. I recall a guy like him who started a serious fire at the school during the summer. It's too bad that this movie is not available anywhere or ever shown these days.
This unique psychological thriller is a decent adaptation of Mark Medoff's
brilliant play in which a psychopathic Viet-Nam vet holds a diverse group
individuals hostage in an isolated New Mexico diner in 1968. He then slowly
exposes each of the their fears, faults, desires and ulterior motives while
challenging American ideals, morals and heroism in transition.
This rarely seen film's box office was marred its long title, difficult to market subject matter and lack of well-known stars. However, each of the half dozen or so actors turn in brilliant performances as their fascades are slowly torn down by the vet (played by former child evangelist, Marjoe Gortner) whose intuition and captivating rants are exceeded only by his intimidating demeanor, and mind-blowing innuendo - the crux of which is born upon Red whose James Dean persona makes him an easy target considering the timeframe.
Comparatively speaking, this film can best be be described as a darker, grown up version of "The Breakfast Club" although much more fascinating and thought-provoking.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently paid up on eBay to purchase this film after my interest was
piqued by what I read on the web and IMDB. I had stumbled across it during
search for pictures of Candy Clark that didn't quite pay off, but that's
I liked this film. I'm glad I watched it. It isn't easily "recommended" because it isn't exactly "pleasant" or "fun", but I think it's worth seeing for the subject matter and message.
After the fact, I no longer agree that the first half-hour was bad. It might have unfolded slowly, but I relished the vignettes on the night before the action started. I then realized that the characterizations trotted out, which seemed one-dimensional at first, were actually comments on the lives that these people were dealt (Angel, Red, Red's mom) or themselves pursued (the Ethridges). I think it set up the understanding of who these people were and how they would react to the goings-on in the diner.
I found Teddy's initial discourse, when he's warming up and testing the crowd, to be more rewarding than the showy exposition that developed afterwards. Still, it was the latter part that forced the gang to face (what *Teddy believed* were) their weaknesses and failings. For Angel, Red and Lyle it was the first time they had been brought to their attention. It was clear, though, that the Ethridges knew exactly what Teddy was talking about. This dichotomy drove my opinion about what the film's message is.
What I found most interesting is that, as intelligent as Teddy is portrayed to be (rage notwithstanding), he gets it dead wrong on Angel, Red, and Lyle. I believe this is the point of the film.
When Teddy finally turns upon Angel in the simple terms she can understand, his comments are certainly cruel and "revealing" of things she never considered or talked about -- but his points are not character failings. He calls her fat. So what? It runs in her family, she is neither in denial nor sad because of it, and it does not bother her or inhibit her self-awareness. Is she "too sweet" for him? Is she wrong for being genuinely nice to people in a place where - until Teddy showed up -- the ugliness of the "real world" hadn't tarnished everyone's view of it? Should she distrust others more? He's off base. There's nothing wrong with how she lives her life, other than that (he thinks) she hasn't reached high enough. If she hasn't, it's because she doesn't really know what's out there, but she's giving it her best shot here.
Next, Red is clearly Teddy's main target. He's the first to flash an attitude when Teddy enters the diner, but that's the same look he shows everyone. More important is that Teddy doesn't think Red's rebel act is justified by having suffered the pains of the "real world" first-hand. So Red has a tattoo that Teddy thinks he hasn't earned? What would make Red's persona "legitimate" -- going to Vietnam and coming back a psychotic killer? Is that `better'? Another thing about Red is that, of all the characters, he knows his future lies somewhere outside of town, and he knows it may be difficult or even impossible to pursue it. But he's realistic and responsible about it -- he wants to replace his mother's car before he can leave, and (until the events in the diner) he doesn't want the assistance that Lyle offers in that regard. He'll do it all himself, even if he doesn't know quite how. He might not have the answers, but he's asking the questions, so is he really such a failure?
(Even Lyle might not look like he's got a lot left in the tank, but he still manages to successfully direct the confused girlfriend away from Teddy, and he rigs the VW to break down just outside of town.)
Meanwhile, the outlook for the Ethridges is uncertain. They are going home to their young child, but are they willing to jettison the superficial routine that consists of his management of her music career? Will they decide whether something really exists between them or not? Difficult to say, but not by accident is their future least clear -- of the main players, they are the only ones who *knowingly* live a lie. I believe this is why they have the least reward awaiting them after having been forced to face their reality.
This is the irony of the film. Teddy seems to be the worst nightmare for these people, an unstoppable force who knows what's wrong with their lives and punishes them for it. Then it becomes clear that his assault has only served to motivate the dreamers, the ones who wanted more (whether they knew it or not), to try to improve their lives. They have nothing but upside. The ones who knew the truth but didn't care to improve don't get quite the rosy outlook -- they disappear.
Much credit goes to the lead actors who agreed to play in this film, because they either understood or came to understand what the meaning of the movie would be. It sure as hell wasn't because they thought it was going to land them that Oscar. And if Gortner, as producer, was the driving force behind the film's creation, then he gets props as well because he had to realize there wouldn't be measurable upside from it, only a lesson that he wanted to tell.
Thanks for reading my take on the film. I hope you found it of interest. See also the "message forum" for a question I have about one part of the flick; perhaps you wondered about it as well.
Every actor and actress delivered powerful performances, especially Peter Firth and Marjoe Gortner. It was a stirring, disturbing plot that let you see the affect on people by someone who truly does not care for people or even himself. In fact he cares for nothing in the world. I would recommend it to anyone. If someone would get this movie on video, many more people could enjoy this work of art.
Marjoe Gortner's performance in this film will amaze you. He holds your
attention the way a snake will stare down its prey to keep it docile
and thoroughly cowed until dying time. One gets a taste of the
incredible reserves of passion and energy he exuded as a preacher in
his performance here as a scruffy criminal who holds a disparate group
of characters hostage in a roadside diner in the middle of New
Mexico.(For more on this amazing man watch 1972's Oscar-winning MARJOE)
Gortner is supported by a fine cast which includes Hal Linden, Lee Grant,Peter Firth and Pat Hingle, among others. This is another one of those undeservedly unknown movies that will really knock your socks off if you can manage to see it anywhere. Highly recommended.
A drifter of sorts comes into town and grips the minds of a local diner's occupants. He wreaks havoc on the people who he holds captive. Acted beautifully. One of those films where the character is played so brilliantly that you hate him from the start. Check this one out!
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