One can’t discuss the landscape of influential contemporary filmmakers without discussing Kathryn Bigelow. With Iraqi war drama The Hurt Locker, Bigelow became the first female Academy Award winner within the category of Best Director and her Keanu Reeves led action bromance Point Break was the unquestionable kickoff to the Fast and Furious franchise. But long before such cinematic hits as Zero Dark Thirty, the Near Dark director shared the filmmaking helm alongside David Lynch collaborator Monty Montgomery in her first feature film, 1981’s The Loveless.
The Loveles sis notable, not only as the directorial debut of Bigelow, but also as an initial staring vehicle for Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man). Whilst en route to Daytona, Vance (Dafoe) and his motley crew of biker brethren get sidetracked around a rural town composed of a truck-stop diner, a mechanic shop and a strip club (the waitress of the first moonlighting as a dancer at the last). When Vance crosses paths with trouble youth Telena, played by Marin Kanter (Endangered Species, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains), and her sexually abusive father Tarver (Maximum Overdrive’s J. Don Ferguson), tensions between the rube townsfolk and the greaser motorists come to a violent head.
Vance, as portrayed by Dafoe, is something of funhouse mirror version of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, a nightmarish re-rendering of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. From smothering his egg breakfast in ketchup to his harassment of a roadside stranded damsel, Vance is the poster child for Harley-Davidson delinquency (a warm up to his overtly antagonistic Raven Shaddock in Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire). Between the small town setting, the 50’s aesthetic and the largely instrumental jazz/rock soundtrack, the movie’s general tone is heavily reminiscent of early Twin Peaks (a likely credit to Montgomery’s involvement with the feature). While elements of the plot don’t entirely coalesce and the film’s climax could be considered a tad convoluted, this remains a relative norm amongst first-time filmmakers still finding their footing. Regardless, the overall finale still packs a powerful punch.
Arrow Video’s newly released 1080p Loveless Blu-ray features a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative co-director Montgomery and cinematographer Doyle Smith, a new audio commentary with Montgomery (moderated by film editor Elijah Drenner), “No Man’s Friend Today: Making The Loveless,”new video interviews with actors Willem Dafoe, Marin Kanter, Robert Gordon, Phillip Kimbrough, Lawrence Matarese as well as producers Grafton Nunes and A. Kitman Ho, “Chrome and Hot Leather: The Look of The Loveless,”Arrow’s requisite reversible sleeve and more. Even for owners of the once coveted Blue Underground DVD, Arrow’s latest Loveless release makes for a worthwhile addition to any cult film enthusiast’s home movie collection.