It seems to me as though the attitudes and characters presented in this film would probably be a very close approximation of what you would find of men in that particular armed force in America in the early to mid 1970s. It’s an educated guess on my part, of course, but there just seemed to be an authenticity to the experiences that they encounter here. As a result of that, I think at times Hal Ashby, from whom this is the first film I’ve seen, slightly struggles to make parts of this film relevant to the rest of us.
Jack Nicholson may spend most of the film insisting that he wants to show Randy Quaid a good time, but it’s only towards the end where he stops thinking about himself and actually tries. Meanwhile Otis Young‘s insistence that he likes being in the navy and that it’s been good to him and seems completely sincere, meaning that his protestations about them taking a ‘scenic route’ mean more than him just being flagged as a killjoy.
But even Nicholson, practically comatose with boredom at his lot when we first see him, is eager to be seen to be good at his job and a good representative of the navy. Over-zealous and over-violent but driven by not wanting to be seen to have done his job badly before ranting and raving about incompetence in the services at the end.
He isn’t your usual movie dissenting military voice however, he doesn’t resent his position. It’s not surprising that he sees this as his best performance as he is able to put across the depth of his character so effectively whilst retaining his legendary gift of the gab.
It was only ever going to end brusquely and I wasn’t expecting a softened finish, but Ashby doesn’t relent from telling his uncompromising view of what fate awaits Quaid. It’s a harsh way to end an often very funny film but it also felt right – as so much of the rest of this excellent movie did.
Comedy,Drama | USA,1974 | 18 | 27th February 2017 (UK) | Powerhouse Films | Dir.Hal Ashby | Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Otis Young | Buy:The Last Detail [Dual Format] [Blu-ray]
* Two presentations of the feature: the original, uncut theatrical version, and the world exclusive home video presentation of the 1976 TV syndication cut
* An Introduction by filmmaker Alexander Payne.
* About a Trip : an appreciation by Alexander Payne
* A Search for Truth: an interview with editor Robert C. Jones
* An Interview with Michael Chapman: the acclaimed director of photography discusses his work on The Last Detail
* Isolated score track.
* Original theatrical trailer and image gallery
* Limited edition exclusive 28-page booklet with a new essay by Michael Pattison, and an examination of the 1976 TV cut