William H. Macy as Narrator
Peter Bogdanovich as Himself
Ellen Burstyn as Herself
Roger Corman as Himself
Micky Dolenz as Himself
Richard Dreyfuss as Himself
Peter Fonda as Himself
Carl Gottlieb as Himself
Dennis Hopper as Himself
Willard Huyck as Himself
Gloria Katz as Herself
Margot Kidder as Herself
Kris Kristofferson as Himself
John Milius as Himself
Cybill Shepherd as Herself
Fred Weintraub as Himself
Bonus Disc More Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll A full disc’s worth of additional “mini-docs” featuring Dennis Hopper, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader, John Milius, Peter Bart, and more.
Running Time: 118 Minutes
This documentary is based on the book by Peter Biskind.
“Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” tells the story of the rise and fall of some of America’s most notable directors from the 60’s and 70’s. As studios began to lose their audiences in the early 60’s, they turned to hot young directors that tapped into the interests of America’s youth in order to make money. This marked a dramatic shift in tone and content in American films. And as they made more money, the directors grew in fame and power. These directors included Dennis Hopper, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius, Peter Bogdanovich, and many more. But as these directors were given more and more freedom, they found the stakes became higher. Eventually some found their downfall in drugs. Others found their movies bomb and become financial failures. Still others found power that they still hold over Hollywood today.
This documentary is a candid look at those days that changed movie making and an honest look at some of the infamous escapades of these power players. You may be surprised to find out what your favorite actors and directors were up to early in their careers.
“Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” is rated TV-14.
First off, I have to say that this is not a documentary for everyone. General audiences will probably be bored by it. This is a documentary for the hard core movie fan. This is also one for fans of Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Milius, and the like. It’s also for fans of Easy Rider, The Godfather, Star Wars, Jaws, and the big films of the 60’s and 70’s. This film tells the long history behind these films getting made and lets you into the private world of the “movie brats” that created them in a way rarely seen.
Through a series of interviews, these directors, producers, and actors tell what it was like “back in the day”. They describe what it was like taking power from the studios. They discuss how French films influenced their styles. They talk about their friendships. They also talk in loving detail about their drug addictions, alcoholism, and various tragedies. While there’s an awful lot of gossip here, it’s still important to discuss since it influenced their careers and shaped their movies. I was amazed to hear how the whole cast and crew of one Dennis Hopper film was stoned out of their minds while making a movie. I also had no idea Margot Kidder was part of a tight circle of young, well-known directors like Spielberg and Scorsese. There are little revelations like that throughout the documentary.
I’m a big Star Wars fan, so I was particularly interested in the discussion about George Lucas. There’s vintage footage of him included here as a young friend of Francis Ford Coppola. They discuss how the failure of THX-1138 ruined Coppola’s production company. They talk about American Graffiti, Star Wars, and more. While I had heard most of this before, it was still interesting to see how all of this affected other films, other directors, and the overall studio system. There were a few surprises, too. John Milius says at one point that he thought George Lucas was going to get into making pornography because it was less stressful and more lucrative than working in the Hollywood system. That was a bit of a shocker. I’m also a big fan of Steven Spielberg and he gets a ton of coverage in this film as well.
This documentary features tons of interviews by well-known Hollywood talents. You can see their names above. But the big name players like Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg, and Coppola are nowhere to be found due to this movie airing their dirty laundry. It would have been more interesting if they had given their side of the story, but we have to settle for footage from vintage interviews with them.
I guess the thing that I ultimately come away with after watching this movie is a sense of amazement that anything good came out of Hollywood during this era considering how many drugs and how much partying was going on. The most successful ones seem to be the folks that got their acts together early in their careers while many of the others flamed out and ended up giving interviews in this documentary.
There’s a second disc included on this DVD and it’s filled with more clips of the interviews with Dennis Hopper, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader, John Milius, Peter Bart, and more. It’s almost like a sequel to the first disc. There’s over an hour and a half of footage here. The director also gives these folks the chance to fire back at Peter Biskind, author of the book that inspired this documentary. They say what they think he got right, what he got wrong, and how they reacted when they first read what he had to say. Biskind also comes on and talks about how he got the book written and the resulting reaction to it by the folks he wrote about. His account of meeting Francis Ford Coppola after the book came out is particularly funny. If you liked the movie, the extras are equally worth checking out.
The Bottom Line:
This is a documentary well worth viewing for any movie fan.