Being a major fan of American movies of the 1970s 'Cockfighter' has been like a Holy Grail for me for as long as I can remember. When I finally got a hold of a copy I'm happy to say it more than lived up to my expectations. I think it's one of the most extraordinary movies of the decade, and further proof that Monte Hellman is one of the most underrated directors of all time. Hellman, like many other film makers, got his first big break working for Roger Corman, directing 'Beast From Haunted Cave' in the 1950s. He then went on to work on Corman's 'The Terror' alongside Coppola and Jack Hill, and edited the biker classic 'The Wild Angels'. Hellman never became a Hollywood legend like Coppola, or a much loved exploitation cult hero like Jack Hill, and has always had difficulties getting his movies made. Why, I really don't know, just watch 'The Shooting', 'Two-Lane Blacktop' and 'Cockfighter' back to back and tell me that he isn't a major talent. After going their separate ways for some time Corman and Hellman reunited for 'Cockfighter'. Apparently Corman hated the ending and the movie is supposedly one of the very few that lost him money, but I think it's an amazing achievement. The controversial bird fighting sequences are very brutal and very beautiful. Animal lovers will abhor the movie for this reason. The morality of filming them is very problematic, even Hellman admits he was disgusted doing it. Aside from that can of worms 'Cockfighter' features a superb performance from Warren Oates, one of his very best ever, so if you are an Oates fan you MUST try and see this movie! Hellman and Oates worked on four movies altogether, and the supporting cast also includes Harry Dean Stanton and Millie Perkins, who had three Hellman movies apiece, and Laurie Bird who co-starred in 'Two-Lane Blacktop'. On top of that you have some strong performances by a whole bunch of character actors like Warren Finnerty ('Cool Hand Luke'), Ed Begley Jr, Steve Railsback (in one of my favourite scenes) and - one of the biggest surprises - Troy Donahue, who has a memorable cameo as Oates alcoholic brother. Richard B. Shull is great as Oates' partner, as is Patricia Pearcy who plays his love interest. Even Charles Willeford who wrote both the movie script and the original novel it was based on has a great bit as a fight official. 'Cockfighter's explicit fight sequences will repel most people but if you persevere you'll witness some brilliant acting, especially from Warren Oates. 'Cockfighter' has immediately rocketed into my all time favourite movies list.