❉ Nick Clement reviews Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-Ray titles. 1978’s ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ has been given the Blu-ray treatment.
A thrilling chase movie, an affecting romance, an anti-war statement, a rousing action picture, and a sturdy drama about drugs and addiction, Karl Reisz’s 1978 film Who’ll Stop the Rain is a film that would never get made in today’s Hollywood studio system. It effortlessly blended multiple genres into a complicated, provocative mix, and it’s a film that I’ve viewed a few times this year after not being familiar with it. Released as the Vietnam war was coming to a close, it’s a work that boldly explored the fresh societal wounds that were still raw and exposed after a decade of fighting, and the power that the film ultimately achieves extends to any number of sequences that may feel jumbled together at times, but finally coalesces into something unique and satisfying and distinctly 70’s in feeling, atmosphere, and style. And thanks to the fine people at Twilight Time, this oft-forgotten gem has been given the Blu-ray treatment, with a splendid picture transfer that totally retains that special celluloid look.
Reisz, a Czech-born British filmmaker with an interesting array of credits which included The Gambler with James Caan and The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Meryl Steep and Jeremy Irons, weaves this compelling film via an intricate narrative which was based on the Robert Stone novel Dog Soldiers, and adapted by Stone himself and screenwriter Judith Rascoe (Havana, Endless Love). When the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, it screened under the novel’s original title, but the studio later changed it due to fears that the public wouldn’t be interested in a “war” film so close to the end of Vietnam, and also probably to cash in on the popularity of the Credence Clear Water Revival smash hit that plays repeatedly throughout the film. This is an angry film, critical of its government, and the role it played in extending the Vietnam conflict, and while Who’ll Stop the Rain didn’t find the audience support at the time of its release (or overwhelming critical support despite some passionate champions), it’s just the sort of film that demands rediscovery decades later.
With the war raging on, a jaded and tired journalist named John Converse (a sweaty, paranoid Michael Moriarty) crosses paths with an old buddy, a Marine named Ray Hicks (Nick Nolte, who was fresh off The Deep, and made his first big attempt with this film as a serious dramatic leading man after years in the TV trenches), and asks him if he’ll help smuggle heroin from the jungles of Vietnam to the streets of San Francisco. A one-time score; let’s get rich quick and Fuck the Man. Hicks will meet up with Converse’s wife, Marge (Tuesday Weld, excellent), make the drugs/cash exchange, and be on his way. But when Hicks shows up to meet her, he discovers that she’s been popping pills while her husband has been overseas, and before long, Hicks realizes that he’s being followed by a pair of goons (Richard Masur and Ray Sharkey) who are either connected to Converse or to the drug suppliers. Hicks and Marge form an unlikely partnership with the potential for unexpected romance, and the two of them hit the road just as they become pursued by a corrupt DEA agent played by Anthony Zerbe. Marge suffers withdrawal as she becomes cut off from her pill stash; it’s then that Hicks decides to use some of the heroin to ease Marge out of her volatile state. After a series of well-staged action sequences and chases, Converse re-appears in the story, and the film climaxes with an elaborate and extremely cool shoot-out. The film’s final moments are tough and sad in the ways that the best films from the 70’s were. And the Neal Cassady connection to author Stone informs the story in many ways which make it an even richer experience in retrospect.
While well respected critically at the time of its release, Who’ll Stop the Rain failed to garner attention from the Academy, though it was up for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Nolte was nominated for Best Actor by the National Society of Film Critics, and the writing team of Stone and Rascoe were nominated by the Writer’s Guild. But what makes the film so spectacular are the ways that Reisz infused all of the elements with a sense of realism and purpose, never focusing too hard on one aspect, and allowing all of the pieces to naturally come together. Nolte is sensational, giving an animalistic performance in the prime of his on-screen youth, his voice nowhere near total gravel just yet, with his wild hair swinging one way this minute and the other the next. He had terrific chemistry with Weld, who had the right combo of sass and class, sexy but seemingly approachable, and damaged in a way that cries out for help. And Moriarty cuts a convincing portrait of a man so crushed by war that he feels the need to take action for himself, despite the potentially deadly consequences. It’s a great film, and feels like a precursor to many action dramas that would lead the way in the 80’s, films that would mix topical action with relatable themes of heroism, sacrifice, and sorrow.
❉ The limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time includes an Isolated Music Track, a conversation with Supervising Editor John Bloom, and the Original Theatrical Trailer. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p High Definition Color. The disc is a region free release, and the English language track is in 1.0 DTS-HD MA.
❉ Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com
❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.
❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.