Director: Monte Hellman

Cast: Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, Richard B. Shull, Harry Dean Stanton


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When originally released in 1974 by Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Cockfighter bombed and never had a chance to capture an audience or the critical respect it so richly deserved. Relegated mostly to the southern drive-in belt, the film was released three times under various titles, all to no avail. But thanks to the folks at Anchor Bay, iconoclastic…  See more details below


When originally released in 1974 by Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Cockfighter bombed and never had a chance to capture an audience or the critical respect it so richly deserved. Relegated mostly to the southern drive-in belt, the film was released three times under various titles, all to no avail. But thanks to the folks at Anchor Bay, iconoclastic director Monte Hellman's controversial ode to the savage, masculine blood sport is now given that new chance on DVD. The film's beautiful cinematography, by the legendary Nestor Almendros (probably best known for his Oscar-winning work on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven), is properly aglow and subtle. Whatever grain is in the film (and there's very little picture degradation at all) is due to the film's low budget, not a fault of the superb transfer job. But the two major things going for this disc are the commentary track with Hellman and production assistant Steven Gaydos, and the excellent 54-minute documentary Warren Oates: Across the Border. The commentary track, nicely moderated by Dennis Bartok, is enjoyable and humorous, and gives a better understanding of such a misunderstood film. (It also offers up some rather unsavory anecdotes concerning cockfighting.) Trailers are included, as are talent bios of Hellman, Oates, and the great pulp novelist Charles Willeford, who wrote the original novel and screenplay.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Tony Nigro
Although it has done nothing to enhance director Monte Hellman's reputation among animal rights activists, this gritty exploitation of underground cockfighting has pecked out a substantial cult niche for itself. Hellman regular Warren Oates delivers a bravura performance as a rough-and-tumble master cockfighter who, after his big mouth costs him the Cockfighter of the Year award, vows to never speak until he can reclaim the much-coveted championship from rival Harry Dean Stanton. Oates steals the show, expressing himself only through minimal voice-overs and his unmatched charisma. When it comes to his character's unsteady relationships with costars Laurie Bird and Millie Perkins, Oates explores his character's cocky competitiveness as a repression of sexual desire, one of many undercurrents that raise Cockfighter above its assumed stance as a Roger Corman-produced B-flick. Likewise, in a moment mirroring a fight, Oates is attacked in the ring by Bird's character, who is appropriately dressed in rooster red and named "Ms. Bird." But Hellman never forgets the film's exploitation roots, raising the cockfights to the level of spectacle -- a cinematic undertaking that is not for the weak of stomach or politically disinclined.
All Movie Guide - Fred Beldin
"I learned to fly a plane, I lost interest in it. Waterskiing, I lost interest in it. But this is something you don't conquer." The opening of the unique Cockfighter tries to immediately explain the allure of its illicit subject, but the effort is in vain, as the remainder of the film's story showcases an assortment of obsessed men who love and care for their fighting roosters, then send them to violent deaths in order to gamble short money on their fate. Indeed, the final image of the picture finds the hero pulling the head off the rooster that just restored him to cockfighting glory, hardly a man who considers his birds anything more than a means to an end. Adapted by crime writer Charles Willeford from his own novel (he also appeared in the film as the sympathetic referee Ed Middleton), Cockfighter is an interesting treatment of an ugly subject, though the film never establishes a positive or negative attitude. The characters speak often of their prize roosters with admiration and affection, and have high regard for the science and mystery of the sport, though they are all ultimately just gamblers, never sure of the outcome despite hours of training and cross-breeding. The strange ambivalence of Cockfighter is likely due to the fact that director Monte Hellman never felt comfortable with the subject in the first place, and producer Roger Corman felt compelled to add graphic footage of bloody cockfights after production that Hellman was loathe to include. As it turned out, cockfighting is such a secretive, underground activity that even in Southern states where it was legal, most people were embarrassed by the sport and Cockfighter was a commercial failure. Still, the film boasts many fine performances, especially Warren Oates, who melts into the role of Frank Mansfield without uttering a sound (aside from some voice-over narration and a flashback scene). Cockfighter is simultaneously intense and contemplative, an episodic road film that simmers with obsession.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Starz / Anchor Bay
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital, monaural]

Special Features

Audio commentary by director Monte Hellman, Warren Oates: Across the Border, a documentary by Tom Thurman, plus the original theatrical trailer, a TV promotional spot, and radio spots.

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Warren Oates Frank Mansfield
Richard B. Shull Omar Baradinsky
Harry Dean Stanton Jack Burke
Troy Donahue Randall Mansfield
Millie Perkins Frances Mansfield
Laurie Bird Dody White
Patricia Pearcy Actor
Robert Earl Jones Actor
Warren Finnerty Actor
Ed Begley Actor
Charles Willeford Actor

Technical Credits
Monte Hellman Director
Lee Alexander Sound/Sound Designer
Nestor Almendros Cinematographer
Roger Corman Producer
Michael Franks Score Composer
Samuel W. Gelfman Producer
Lewis Teague Editor
Don Walters Asst. Director
Charles Willeford Screenwriter

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Chapter Selection
1. Program Start/ Main Titles [1:05]
2. A Man Of Few Words [3:49]
3. Boosting The Odds [3:12]
4. Cockfight [3:59]
5. Hitting The Road [2:18]
6. Frank Shoots His Mouth Off [3:51]
7. Picking A Winner [2:27]
8. "Welcome home, Bubba" [2:23]
9. Old Flame [3:46]
10. Self-Control [3:29]
11. Moving The House [2:18]
12. Chicken Farm [2:53]
13. Partners [4:26]
14. Young Hustler [5:13]
15. Surprise Announcement [4:15]
16. Victory [3:26]
17. Change Of Venue [4:16]
18. Stick-Up [2:34]
19. White Lightning Vs. Little Joe [4:30]
20. Salute [4:25]
21. Senator Foxhall [1:56]
22. The Tournament [4:22]
23. Fight To The Death [4:44]
24. "She love me, Omar" [2:30]
25. End Credits [1:04]


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