I saw this movie when it was released and just watched it again, in its
entirety, for the first time since. This means that I'm completely
discounting the horribly butchered version I saw on Bravo (for shame!)
a year or so ago. They didn't just bleep out the expletives as you
would expect, whole scenes were cut, leaving the work so diluted I
almost forgot why I had loved it. It was like Jaws without teeth!
Revisiting books, films or any work of art first experienced in youth can be very interesting, and I found that watching The Last Detail through my now (# unspecified!) year-old eyes was one of the many times something turned out to be even better the second time around. I guess that makes it a classic.
For those that don't know, this is the story of two career enlisted Navy men who are assigned the dreary detail of delivering a young seaman to prison in Portsmouth, NH, where he will serve an eight year sentence for attempting to swipe $40 from their commanding officer's wife's favorite charity box. It's obvious that poor Meadows, played by Randy Quaid, has been thrown to the dogs for his offense, receiving a dishonorable discharge from the service in addition to the excessive prison term, but this is the Navy and our boys must do as ordered. It's a sh*t detail, but it will take them out of their insulated and listless existence on base "in transition" - that is, waiting for assignment to sea duty - and they quickly formulate a plan to relieve themselves of their charge as fast as possible and spend the bulk of the allotted time and money remaining to party the way good sailors do, namely drinking and whoring.
Enter young Meadows, and the master plan takes on a life of its own as the seemingly hardened "Bad Ass" Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and "Mule" Mulhall (Otis Young) find themselves caught up in Naval-infused fraternity with the childlike Meadows. Resigned to his fate, the hapless swabbie's frustrating passivity is fuel to Baddusky's pugnacious nature, and Mulhall and Meadows are swept along with Chief Signalman Bad Ass on a journey of discovery. From teaching him how to get his hamburger served the way he likes it (with the cheese MELTED, thank you very much), to facilitating the loss of his virginity (Carol Kane is perfect as the young prostitute), this is really a "buddy" movie at its finest.
In the final frames, we watch the two lifers stroll out of the shot in lock-step, "Anchors Aweigh" piping, as they're off to reestablish themselves as individuals for a brief moment before returning to the shelter of their sacred family that is the US Navy.
There's nothing sappy about this film, don't get me wrong. There's a definite hard edge to it and life as a Naval enlisted man is not romanticized in any way. Visually, it's quite somber from our side of the screen, and the military music in the score is to music, as the military justice in the story is to justice. There are some fabulously funny moments, and of course, Nicholson kills in this part that no one could have played better. Otis Young is really good as the "cooler head" who doesn't want to get himself jammed up in any way but who is none the less down with showing Meadows a good time. It's Randy Quaid though, who impressed me most on this viewing. He played the ingenuous, candy bar-filching boy just right, and I'm afraid in retrospect that he got typecast as the big, goofy dumb guy as a result of his work in this picture.
I loved everything about this movie, wouldn't change a thing.
Oh, and just for the heck of it... here's a little movie/Navy trivia tidbit I found online when I looked up Portsmouth Naval Prison. I have no idea whether there's any truth to it or not, but when I came across it three different times, I decided to add it here. This is from "Humphrey Bogart: To Have and Have Not", by Daniel Bubbeo.
"...Bogart's long time friend, author Nathaniel Benchley, claims it is true that Bogart was injured while on assignment to take a naval prisoner to Portsmouth Naval Prison in New Hampshire. Supposedly, while changing trains in Boston, the handcuffed prisoner asked Bogart for a cigarette and while Bogart looked for a match, the prisoner raised his hands, smashed Bogart across the mouth with his cuffs, cutting Bogart's lip, and fled. Bogart used his .45 to drop the prisoner, who was eventually taken to Portsmouth. By the time Bogie was treated by a doctor, the scar that caused him to lisp had already formed."
Wow, huh? SO much better than say, getting hit in the mouth with a tennis racket or something.
The Last Detail
Action / Comedy / Drama
The Last Detail
Action / Comedy / Drama
Two bawdy, tough looking navy lifers - "Bad-Ass" Buddusky, and "Mule" Mulhall - are commissioned to escort a young pilferer named Meadows to the brig in Portsmouth. Meadows is not much of a thief. Indeed, in his late teens, he is not much of a man at all. His great crime was to try to steal forty dollars from the admiral's wife's pet charity. For this, he's been sentenced to eight years behind bars. At first, Buddusky and Mulhall view the journey as a paid vacation, but their holiday spirits are quickly depressed by the prisoner, who looks prepared to break into tears at any moment. And he has the lowest self-image imaginable. Buddusky gets it into his head to give Meadows a good time and teach him a bit about getting on in the world. Lesson one: Don't take every card life deals you. Next, he teaches Meadows to drink, and, as a coup de grace, finds a nice young whore to instruct him in lovemaking. Mule, who worries aloud about his own position with military authority, seems pleased ...
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January 24, 2016 at 01:33 AM