Editor’s Notes: Don’t Look Back and The Badger Gamer are out on their respective formats November 24th.
Don’t Look Back
Don’t Look Back (The Criterion Collection) is a documentary by D.A. Pennebaker of Bob Dylan’s three-week tour of England in 1965, his last as an acoustic performer. The film captures the 24-year-old Dylan at a time when the public was beginning to realize that he had some important, timely things to say. Using cinema verite techniques — hand-held cameras, existing lighting, no bulky and obtrusive moviemaking equipment — Pennebaker was able to squeeze into corners of hotel rooms, backstage areas, press conferences, and onto stages themselves. Because the film is not narrated, the viewer does not rely on subjective commentary. Instead, an unfiltered portrait of Dylan emerges. We see him creating, lounging around, being playful, losing his temper with his entourage, refusing to answer questions posed by British journalists, and performing in concert. The movie shows the contrast between Dylan’s sweet stage persona and his off-stage, tightly wound self. Joan Baez, Donovan, and Alan Price also appear in the movie but Dylan clearly dominates.
Songs include “The Times They Are A-Changin,” “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” “The Gates of Eden,” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” One of the movie’s most famous sequences shows Dylan holding cards on which the lyrics to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” are written. As the song plays on the soundtrack, Dylan reveals one card after another with key lyrics. This was the singer’s suggestion, and makes for a one-of-a-kind moment.
The new Blu-ray release contains a restored digital transfer, but since the film dates back to 1967, it is not in the pristine condition usually associated with Blu-ray. Bonus content includes 1999 audio commentary with Pennebaker and tour manager Bob Neuwirth; “65 Revisited,” a 2006 documentary by Pennebaker; audio excerpt from a 2000 interview with Bob Dylan; featurettes tracing the evolution of Pennebaker’s filming style; 3 short films by Pennebaker, outtakes from Don’t Look Now, alternate version of the film’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” cue card sequence; 5 recordings of Dylan songs not used in the film; and a booklet with a critical essay.
The Badger Gamer
The Badger Gamer (InterVision) is about a blackmail plan gone wrong. Liam (Sam Boxleitner) is a successful businessman whose girlfriend, Alex (Augie Duke), discovers that he’s married with a family and resolves to exact revenge. Enlisting the aid of her brother, Kip (Patrick Cronen), her former best friend, Shelly (Jillian Leigh), and another of Liam’s mistresses Jane (Sasha Higgins), Alex comes up with a scheme to kidnap Liam and extort $2 million from his private accounts. The title of the film refers to a method of blackmailing married men by intentionally placing them in a compromising situation.
Since none of the kidnappers is a professional criminal, things backfire from the outset, spiraling from one wrong move to another. What appeared to be a simple plan becomes complicated by the various relationships between Liam and each of the kidnappers, the original plan changes, and things turn violent.
Directors Josh Wagner and Thomas Zambeck provide greater depth of character than one customarily finds in low-budget horror flicks and lace the proceedings with generous helpings of dark humor. The unrated film becomes jarring when splashes of blood and other graphic images are introduced, but the blend of violence and humor works, and the plot creates enough suspense to keep the viewer on edge and involved.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary with writer/directors Wagner and Dambeck and stars Augie Duke, Jillian Leigh and Sasha Higgins, and cast and crew interviews from the Los Angeles premiere.