20 June 2012

A Man's Movie: The Last Detail

"You know what I like most about this uniform? The way it makes your dick look."

" I knew a whore once in Wilmington. She had a glass eye... used to take it out and wink people off for a dollar. "

Be sure to check out Randy Quaid @ 4:24

The Last Detail (1973) was as important a film to me as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Electra Glide in Blue (1974). "Bunch" and "Blue" are the book ends of off beat films whose sole contrarian purpose in Hollywood seemed to be, "Fuck the money - Lets make the picture we wanna make." Stephen Spielberg would end that in 1975 with the new concept of "Blockbuster" via Jaws.

I was a 15 year old high school student who was geek enough to join Naval Junior ROTC. And like so many things in life -- I did it for the cool clothes: Naval Academy uniforms consisting of khakis, which required military press -- dress blues -- An anchor cap with khaki and white covers and my favorite, an almost black, navy CPO shirt with matching tie. Worn with the ultra-cool 'tie tuck.'

My best friend's father worked with Dad at Continental Army Command at Ft Monroe. Ed and I traveled the old post slapping 'Sailors Have More Fun' bumper stickers on anything they'd stick to. Prior to the Army - Navy game, a foiled attempt was made to spray paint, "Go Navy" on the Ft. Monroe water tower. Never wear all black against a grey background.

I saw The Last Detail at the post movie theater. It would be my first 'R' rated movie and it would contribute a cornucopia of vulgar expressions to my already impressive 'Army Brat' archive. Robert Towne wrote the screenplay from a novel by Darryl Ponicsan. Hal Ashby directed, even though he was busted for marijuana possession in Canada while scouting locations and Jack Nicholson considered it his best role. Of course...no one has ever seen it.

Hal Ashby (1929-1988), Otis Young (1932-2001) and Jack Nicholson

I watch it today and can easily see what attracted me. Two petty officers are assigned Shore Patrol detail to escort an 18 yr old seaman to prison in Portsmouth. What begins as a scheme to collect per diem, turns into a road trip of Schlitz, whores, a Penn Station bathroom fight with Marines and a picnic in the middle of a New Hampshire Winter.

"You forgot the mustard?"

Sewn into the humor is bleak darkness we don't see in film anymore. Hell, even Towne and Ashby changed the ending from the book where 'Last Detail' predicts the outcome for the take-no-shit Buddusky played by Nicholson. Ultimately, life is a shit sandwich and few of us get any bread. How you live it and what you make out of it will not only define you...but you'll have to wear it as well.

Mulhal: You ever been married? Buddusky: Not so you'd notice.


Main Line Sportsman said...

He did not forget the mustard...he forgot the buns. You're memory of the minutiae of this fine film is slipping.
"Bravo yankee,bravo yankee"

Harris Reiss said...

It was on TV 2 weeks ago. Loved the early 70's pics.

tintin said...

Main Line- I was testing you. Did you read the book?

tintin said...

Harris - TCM?

Anonymous said...

It's also the era when actors got into the business because they were too unemployable to do anything else besides manual labor or wait tables...

Definitely checking this one out; it's been in my mental notebook for a while.


Anonymous said...

Always one of my favorite movies. Met Towne in 1996 when he cast me for a small role in Without Limits. Super nice guy. Swore a lot. Of course he also wrote a little film called Chinatown.

Jeff P. said...


Makaga said...

Your graffiti line about "Never wear all black against a grey background" leaves me with smiles. I remember a few outings where some buddy showed up in head-to-toe black with a backlava mask.
"Ummm, are you trying to look like a criminal? Now go home and change before you get us arrested"

Anonymous said...

I was one who did see it. In the theater. It was sort of over my head. And very depressing. It made me not want to look forward to "real" adulthood for some time.

But one thing was sure: The Last Detail got the haircuts right. At that time (the '70s) films and TV that depicted a certain era or the military almost always dropped the ball with male hairstyles. You could count on men having anachronistic longish and disco hair, and it always bugged me.


? said...

"Chant your ass off, kid, but any pussy you get in this world you're gonna have to pay for, one way or another."

GSV JR said...

This reads like a confessional. Army brat harbors secret---and damning---love for USN? Are you blushing?

I love TLD. All those early Nicholson flicks are incredible. Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, THE TRIP ha ha ha.

Harris Reiss said...

Maybe, Tintin. There were a lot of great movies on that day.