Neglected Virtues: Cockfighter (1974)
Banned in the UK!
Publication date: 01/12/2017
Director Monte Hellman is considered one of the finest auteurs to emerge from American independent cinema in the 1970s. In particular, two of his several films made with actor Warren Oates stand as amongst the finest achievements of that most invigorating and adventurous of film decades. These films, Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter, are staggering works. But although Two Lane Blacktop in particular has gone on to major cult recognition, Cockfighter remains something of an obscurity. Part of the ill repute into which the movie drifted was due to the subject matter and the supposed use of actual cockfights for dramatic effect, something which angered animal rights activists and perhaps even offended the public, who stayed away from the film, making it at the time one of the few box-office failures to emerge from the auspices of legendary exploitation producer Roger Corman. The movie was retitled and re-released several times, but to no avail. Its reputation fared better in Europe although the explicit animal cruelty resulted in the film being banned in England. Nevertheless, whatever moral objections may be leveled against the authenticity, Cockfighter remains an unforgettable film, and Warren Oates’ most accomplished work, outside of his relationship to Sam Peckinpah, which peaked in the equally extraordinary Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
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