Review by Rod
= Highest Rating
characters are something you can always count on in a Larry
Cohen film. No matter what genre the film may be, you can be
sure that there will be very interesting people on screen doing
things that surprise you. Cohen has made many different types
of movies but no matter how outrageous the plot, the moments
you end up remembering forever are the ones revolving around
the human characters and their sharp dialog. I always look forward
to seeing one of his films — even if he only wrote the screenplay
— because I know that even if it turns out poorly, there will
be moments that will stick with me for years. When I heard that
his hard-to-find first film Bone
was coming out on DVD my first reaction was "Huh? What's
Bone? Never heard of it."
Truth is, not many people have heard of it but I think
that may change now. This 30 year old film is as vibrant and
entertaining as anything you're likely to see and more daring
than most films made in this studio-safe era we live in
Wealthy white couple Bill (Andrew Duggan) and Bernadette (Joyce
Van Patten) are lounging poolside at their Beverly Hills home
when an African-American man (Yaphet Kotto) appears in their
yard. Forcing his way into their house he terrorizes them in
a search for money and when no ready cash is found the intruder
devises a plan. Bill will go into town, empty a private bank
account of $5000 and return with the cash or Bone (as he's later
called) will rape Bernadette and then kill her. Bill rushes
to the bank but once inside he has second thoughts and leaves
without withdrawing the money. Wandering along the streets and
into a bar it becomes evident that he's considering the possibility
of letting his wife die and claiming no knowledge of the circumstances.
Back at the house Bernadette is drinking and trying desperately
to keep her captor from hurting her. When it becomes obvious
that Bill isn't coming back, Bone attempts to rape her but stops
once she gives in and refuses to fight him off. He explains
that he's unable to have sex unless the woman actively resists.
This shocking revelation causes Bernadette to sympathize with
Bone and in a surprisingly funny and touching scene she shows
him that making love doesn't have to be violent. Meanwhile,
Bill has had an interesting encounter himself with an odd, freespirited
woman (Jeannie Berlin). He decides to give himself an alibi
for the afternoon by going to see a business partner. But when
Bone and Bernadette track the conniving husband down and explain
that his life insurance is going to fund their future together,
the end is in sight.
small discoveries like this movie that make me realize I really
haven't seen it all. Aptly described as the blackest of black
comedies, Bone is a truly unique
piece of cinema. As a director's first film it's amazing, as
a drama it's brilliant and as a comedy it is chillingly sharp.
Cohen's screenplay has the feel of a three-act play; indeed,
the minimal locations and small number of actors lead me to
believe that a stage adaptation wouldn't be impossible. The
story is shot through with brilliant dialog and several great
speeches that whip from funny to scary in a matter of seconds.
The film is punctuated with several nightmare moments from the
perspective of Bill and it's possible to read the film as his
fantasy about getting rid of his wife — a fantasy that goes
horribly wrong. Of course, it is also possible to see the film
as being nothing but a series of fantasies had by the various
characters (as Cohen himself points out in the audio commentary).
Perhaps, in the final analysis, the story is a stylized look
at race relations in America, one that only seems more upsetting
today because so little has changed in the 30 years since
it was made. The acting is simply brilliant, with Yaphet Kotto
(Live and Let Die) taking
the honors, but there isn't a false moment in the entire piece.
Every single performance is good, as the cast pulls us through
several twists that in lesser hands could've derailed the entire
movie. I highly recommend seeing the quirky and decidedly offbeat
Bone. Any film fan should find
it eye-opening on a number of levels.
looks very sharp, letterboxed at 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement
(more on this later). There has been no remix of the original
mono soundtrack and it's just fine. Included on the disc is a
great commentary track by writer/director Cohen along with BU
head honcho Bill Lustig. The track is a blast from beginning to
end, with Cohen full of great anecdotes and rarely needing prompting.
At times he may come off as overly proud of the film, but he should
be. There is also a short interview with Jack Harris detailing
the many ways they tried to market the film to make it a hit.
In addition, Cohen has given BU footage from his first attempt
to film the story with a slightly different cast. It's interesting
to see this but it's also readily apparent why he started over.
Rounding out the extras are a still gallery, trailers, a radio
spot (using one of the film's alternate titles, Housewife)
and a text bio of Cohen. Look for a neat Easter egg on the Special
Features menu; it's worth seeking out for those curious about
the director's early TV work. Altogether a fine DVD, but I did
have one problem with the presentation of the movie. As I mentioned
before, the film is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and for all I know that
is the correct aspect ratio BUT... I believe the image
is over-matted. Several times I noticed that the top matte seemed
too low. There are too many shots in which a character's head
is clipped too tight or off-screen entirely for me to feel that
Bone wouldn't look better at 1.66:1
instead. This is my only complaint about the disc.