Andrew Earles

Bruce Dern Scene-Chewing Hall of Greatness

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Earles on September 24, 2007

1. The Laughing Policeman (1973) – A weird little movie. There’s possibly two people reading right now that have seen it. Dern plays Matthau’s short-fuse, talk-the-paint-from-the-walls partner. Contains what is easily the best line of Dern’s career: (to an overweight cop) “I see that you’ve been putting in some overtime with the ‘ol knife and fork.” 

2. The Driver (1978) – Nothing beats Dern as an obsessed cop, and he played a lot of them. If you’ve yet to see a good Walter Hill film, here’s a great place to start. Good example of the tail end of great American 70’s cinema. You can have your French New-Wave (granted, probably the biggest influence on American 70’s cinema), your post-1990 indie bullshit, and whatever quasi-intellectual concerns that you don’t understand but claim to. In the 70’s, with a year or two of before-and-after wiggle room, American directors, writers, and cinematographers created the greatest genre/period of film EVER. Disagree? Welcome to WRONG MOUNTAIN, start climbing! Wow, that was a stupid closing line. 

3. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) – Dern is the only redeeming quality of this misguided (and unofficial) Five Easy Pieces sequel. 

4. Silent Running (1972) – My favorite Rated-G movie. Not sure it’s ever a good idea to confine a mouthy character actor alone in a space station. 

5. Coming Home (1978) – Next time I get tempted to watch this Vietnam vet emotional holocaust, I’ll stick my head in the oven instead. 

6. Black Sunday (1978) – The blimp-over-the-stadium scene still kills. As paranoia films go, this has a 50% hit-rate. 

7. “Big Love” (an HBO original series, coz!!) – I once said that a show with Harry Dean Stanton, Bill Paxton, and Bruce Dern must be VERY bad to keep me away. That definitive comment has since met with some trademark Earles apathy. I am not passionate about it. That last sentence serves to state that there ARE television shows that pull the passion right out of my stomach, leaving the butterflies to deal with the bleeding peptic ulcer (no brown/tree liquor, no gin, no rum, no tequila…..conversely, vodka, beer, wine, and some liqueurs make the cut). Well, there’s one, and it’s called “The Wire.” Communicating any degree of distaste for “The Wire” gets one a coupon for a free exit from my life. There are those that do, and those that don’t. What all of this means is….I’ve watched and enjoyed 6 or 7 episodes of “Big Love.” It lacks, or I lack, that very special something. 

8. Thumb Tripping (1972) – Bad Movie + Dern = Watch It!! (Remember this equation) 


6 Responses

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  1. Niklas said, on September 24, 2007 at 5:43 am

    What about the ‘burbs?!

  2. Jimmy Jazz said, on September 24, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I hope one of the 6 or 7 episodes of Big Love you saw was the one where Bruce Dern’s disgusting slobbiness was a central plot point. He kept peeing in the sink and being rude to everybody, and for a minute it was like the show was taking advantage of its intense array of character-actor talent instead of being a limp domestic melodrama.

    Actually I like the show. It’s just frustrating that the writing never lives up to the acting.

    P.S. It also bears mentioning that Bruce Dern has a great crazy-eyed tangential role in “Down In The Valley” (2005). Edward Norton stole his horses and he is NOT happy about it.

  3. d. mosurock said, on September 24, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Dernin’ it.

    He’s great in “The Cycle Savages” as Keeg, the ruthless leader of a biker gang who is about as dumb as his name. He tries to break an artist’s hands for DRAWING A PICTURE OF HIM at a drive-in restaurant, then kidnaps the guy’s sister or girlfriend or whatever and gets her hooked on smack. His brother is played by Casey Kasem, a Mr. Big role for him (his character is named “Keeg’s Brother”).

    I remember “Tattoo” as one of the first R-rated movies that, to me as a child, seemed really dirty. I hear it’s crap, but would watch it to verify. Dern’s top-billed.

    In later roles, I gotta give it to him for “The ‘Burbs,” which is way better than I remembered it. Certainly better than watery roles in crap like “1969.”

    Dern’s on the featurette to either “The Trip” or “Psych-Out” (they’re on the same DVD, no big deal) and goes on to say that he was vehemently anti-drugs throughout the ’60s. Oooooohhhhhhhhhhhkaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy.

  4. Bruce said, on September 26, 2007 at 5:45 am

    Not only have I seen the Laughing Policeman, but just recently read the book. Which is vastly different from the film, yeah I know your shocked by that.

  5. Kaspar Szumlak said, on September 26, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I like Dern in Smile. I wanted to see Tattoo for Maude Adams but we didn’t have Showtime.

  6. Patrick said, on October 3, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    I sorta hate to say it, but I think “High Rolling in a Hot Corvette” is a gem. It’s sort of like seeing what’s going on in Australia, at the same time that “History of Violence” and “Mulholland Drive” is happening in America. But funnier. Will thwart your expectations of normal movie plotting, and is a lot like watching Hekyll & Jekyll. But not racist or anything. We are the last generation who’s parents were culturally insensitive to let their children watch Hekyll & Jekyll. Speaking of, how many states did they not show those cowboy commercials where they lynch dorks who use yankee salsa, instead of pace pecante from San Antonio? I’ve been polling folks informally, and apparently NY & NJ missed out.

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