Warren Oates: ACROSS THE BORDER (Tom Thurman, 1993) **1/2
A serviceable documentary about the beloved character actor who succumbed to a heart attack at the relatively young age of 53 in 1982. Though we are given a lot of detail about his youth (there are interjections from family members and childhood pals), we get little insight into his acting style per se. That said, a number of his colleagues (some, like Robert Culp, dating from his very early years in TV and others, like fellow Southerner Stacy Keach, who had just played alongside him) offer their fond recollections of Oates, who never quite became a star name but did occasionally land leading roles notably Monte Hellman's COCKFIGHTER (on whose DVD this was actually included) and Sam Peckinpah's BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (both 1974) which he carried off with assurance and depth (for an actor often associated with uncouth/simpleton/comical figures). He appeared four times in all for each director and, yet, the best film he made with either TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971) and THE WILD BUNCH (1969) respectively are barely touched upon and, crucially, no footage from them is shown here! His relationship with the volatile Peckinpah is treated at length (he died in 1984), while Hellman appears in person to speak of his friend (poignantly, he recounts how the actor contacted him the day before he passed away complaining of chest pains, but which he had shrugged off as indigestion: in retrospect, the director felt angry yet helpless at Oates for refusing to see a doctor!). His immediate family (ex-wife and three children) also contribute to the documentary, as do actors Ned Beatty, Peter Fonda (another touching moment has the actor recalling he was expecting to receive news of his even more renowned, and by this time gravely ill, father Henry's death but not that of his co-star in no less than 3 films!) and Harry Dean Stanton, as well as writer-director Thomas McGuane.
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