Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Nickelodeon”

(Sony. 1976. Theatrical Color version, 122 minutes, rated PG. B&W Director’s Cut version, 125 minutes, not rated. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.) Ryan O’Neal (Leo Harrigan), Burt Reynolds (Buck Greenway), Tatum O’Neal (Alice Forsyte), Jane Hitchcock (Kathleen Cooke), Brian Keith (H.H. Cobb), Stella Stevens (Marty Reeves), John Ritter (Franklin Frank). Music by Richard Hazard.

Bogdanovich’s valentine to the early silent-movie era, now in two versions. I went to see a promotional screening of Nickelodeon in Manhattan in 1976 for 5 cents, just like moviegoers used to do in the time period depicted in the film (1910-15). The movie was in color; recently Bogdanovich “readjusted” it to the black-and-white he always wanted. Alas, it doesn’t make for a better film. Movies are lighted, processed, etc. depending on whether they’re in B&W or color. That’s why those 1980s “colorized” films always looked wrong. Bogdanovich and crew, taking advantage of modern techniques in doing a reverse of the colorization process, came up with a pretty good B&W print.

It’s still slightly off, though. So are O’Neal and Reynolds in their roles as a fledging film director and his rough-hewn leading man. Bogdanovich spent so much time on accurately detailing the period, he forgot about writing a story; instead he stitches together a series of vignettes based on stories he was told by real-life silent movie directors Allan Dwan, Raoul Walsh, and others. He spends a good deal of time in the commentary name-dropping (“I got that idea from John Ford”) or bemoaning the fact that his then-love and muse Cybill Shepherd wasn’t in the film. Bogdanovich peaked early in his career with his three hits The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon. Those were followed by three flops: Daisy Miller, At Long Last Love, and this. He was just a couple of years away from the Dorothy Stratten/”Star 80″ tragedy. Maybe his next project should be about himself and the other “maverick” 1970s directors; now that would be interesting. The two versions of Nickelodeon are paired in a 2-disc set with the director’s cut of the excellent, Oscar-winning Picture Show (1971), which also has Bogdanovich’s commentary, plus featurettes and a trailer.

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