Badlands


Viewed – 25 May 2019. Blu-ray

When I heard this 1973 drama was getting a release on the UK division of The Criterion Collection, for a film I had always wanted to see in its entirety – I jumped at the chance. Loosely based on the true story of the state-to-state murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate … this changes the names and certain incidents to explore an unconventional love story between Martin Sheen’s Kit and Sissy Spacek’s Holly as they go on the run across the badlands of Montana.

Director Terence Malick, a celebrated auteur delivers an atmospheric, particularly artsy drama that’s never quite as exciting or eventful as it’s premise suggests, going more for a love letter to the American wilderness, some rather gorgeous vistas and an exploration of young love with the backdrop of gradually increasing violence. Spacek narrates like a love sick school kid and her reactions to Kit’s murderous ways are naive and dismissive, which creates a bit of a weird vibe. The influences this later had on movies like True Romance and Natural Born Killers are obvious, but its not quite as entertaining as those movies and is more a movie of ‘it’s time’ and should probably be appreciated as such.

Sheen & Spacek are both very watchable and Sheen has probably never been more iconic what with his James Dean swagger. The movie also has an enjoyably whimsical atmosphere, which I suppose gives the whole thing its own identity. Worth a watch then, but for me hardly essential.

The Criterion Collection once again delivers. The movie whilst often rather soft focus has had the full 4k restoration treatment, and looks great, showcasing the movies naturalistic photography well. The soundtrack whilst only in uncompressed mono is clear and effective-enough. Extras although nearly all archive are plentiful with a 42 minute making of, interviews and an episode of American Justice exploring the real-life crimes of Charles Starkweather. There’s also detailed booklet included, boasting an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. No audio commentary is a bit of a shame but this is otherwise solid treatment for a cult favourite that’s fascinating and enjoyable but not quite the ‘classic’ it’s often celebrated as.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

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3 thoughts on “Badlands

  1. I first watched this decades ago when it was aired on television, and not seen it since so like you I jumped on this when the Criterion edition came out over here. I’m probably watching it tonight, so your post is timely!

    Like

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