Code Red's Old Man's Place

Man, My Old Man's Place is one dark film. It's a drama that almost dips into horror, not unlike how other recent Code Red titles, i.e. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker and Lady Stay Dead, are horror flicks with a low enough body count and enough character study that they're almost dramas centered around a murder or two. Watching them close together, which I have been thanks to Code Red's concurrent releases, the line between them is tantalizingly thin. But being foremost a genuine drama, this film is definitely stronger in that department than those titles, while pretty much getting to the same dark places eventually.
1971's My Old Man's Place is a Vietnam movie that takes place 100% in America. All the horrors of that war are shown through the characters after they've gotten back home. It's also said in the extras that this is literally the first Vietnam anti-war film? If that's correct, that does make it all the more impressive; but either way it's a powerful and effective film that's finally debuting on DVD.
Based on a 1935 novel by John B. Sanford, the story is naturally updated from soldiers returning home from World War I. This film starts with Michael Moriarty landing on the runway back in the USA. He and his buddy come across their third friend beating up a transvestite in an alleyway, and that's when Moriarty has the idea to invite them both back to his old man's titular homestead for a little R&R. At first that seems like a ridiculously stupid idea, given the circumstances of their meeting, but soon you begin to realize Moriarty might've been aware of that all along and invited trouble deliberately...
This film has some terrific performances. Moriarity is a big part of the reason I took a chance on blind-buying this title, and he does not disappoint. This is some of his finest work, and Arthur Kennedy is equally impressively naturalistic and empathetic as his father. Meanwhile, Mitchell Ryan brings the perfect degree of 'classic Hollywood hard ass' to his role as Sgt. Flood. The soundtrack is sometimes disappointing, but the writing never betrays you. A few points early on may seem cheesy and at one point later on, you really think the film is veering off into some cheesy hippy-dippy conclusion, but faith in this film is rewarded. It actually has me curious now about the story the original novel was based on.
Like many of Code Red's recent releases, this is a "grindhouse" print. The downside is that means there's dirt, scratches and the increasingly familiar green lines running through most of the picture. It's worst, naturally, around the reel changes, where the scratches greatly increase and there's even a jump or two in the dialogue. But the benefit of seeing this widescreen from a real film print compared to the old VHS tapes which is what's only been available before is huge. This is a movie and it feels like one. Plus, the dirt and  scratches on the film match pretty well with the dirt and scratches of the film's location, so it all adds up to a quite satisfying watch.
It helps a lot that Code Red comes through with a few strong extras, primarily an roughly 20 minute interview with Mitchell Ryan. He talks about the film's production and the rest of the cast, then goes into a career retrospective, talking briefly about many of the other interesting films and television projects of his past. And he ultimately comes back around to some more thoughts on My Old Man's Place.
But you also shouldn't skip the 3 different trailers for the film. Shown in sequence, you see the film marketed under three different titles and styles. An earnest and effective original trailer using the film's original title and referencing the novel is followed by a slightly more boisterous one which re-titles the film to Glory Boy (named after the theme song played during the opening credits). And finally the third one winds up taking so many liberties, I was laughing out loud.
Like Code Red's other DVDs released at the same time, it opens with a trailer for Brotherhood of Death. Also included are bonus trailers for Zebra Force, Changes, Top Of the Heap - which I now want to see - and This Is a Hijack.
This is one I don't think anyone saw coming. And I'm just happy we've got Code Red around preserving films like this. It's just an old school good movie.

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