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DVD Review

DVD cover

Joe (1970)


Starring: Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick and Audrey Caire
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Available 12 January 2009

Bill and his wife live a pleasant upper middleclass life, whereas his daughter has embraced the hippy lifestyle, including the drug taking. When she overdoses and is committed to a psychiatric hospital Bill goes to get her some clothes only to be confronted by her drug dealing boyfriend Frank, in a fit of rage Bill kills the boyfriend. Escaping from the deed he meet Joe in a local bar, Joe hates just about everyone, the two start an unlikely friendship a friendship which will end in tragedy...

Joe (1970, 102 min) was directed by John G. Avildsen, who is better known as the director of Rocky and Rocky V. The script by Norman Wexler was nominated for an Oscar.  

It’s difficult to find much that is likable about all the characters in the film. Joe, played by Peter Boyle is so right wing that he makes Alf Garnet look like a flaccid liberal. This guy hates just about everybody and is not afraid to express his views in the most unpleasant language, as a character there is little, if anything to sympathise here with.

Bill, played by Dennis Partrick, likewise seems to be able to circumvent the moral problems of having just murdered his daughter's boyfriend, partly because Joe keeps feeding him endless justifications about why the generation who fought in World War II should look down with nothing but disdain for the children of the sixties, but mostly because underneath his respectable facade, his ideology is not that far removed from Joe’s.

The film was also Susan Sarandon’s first major role, playing Bill's hippy daughter, Mellisa. She also seems heedless of the consequences of her actions. In fact the only character who remains true to his core is Joe, though that core is blackened with hate. When the two men go hunting for Melissa, having escaped the psychiatric ward, their journey into a world that they despise, ends in the only way it can.

I’m sure that for an American audience this once held great significance, and may still do so today, but for an English audience, who suffered a similar clash of cultures and just felt the young people should cut their hair, the divide will seem strange indeed.

As a character study of a really unpleasant individual Joe fails to really give the actors much to do for most of the film, making the ending seem inevitable and pointless, such a grotesque deserved a better script.

The film is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with a mono audio track. The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.

This is certainly not a film that’s going to be watched by all the family and the social comment now seems a little old, but as a document about the social tensions between the generations in sixties America it still holds some merit.


Charles Packer

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