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Kid Blue

Kid Blue

Director: James Frawley

Cast: Janice Ford, Claude Ennis Starrett Jr., Eddy Donno

A hapless outlaw discovers he isn't any better off on the right side of the law in this offbeat western comedy set at the turn of the century. While Bickford Waner (Dennis Hopper) is known to lawmen as notorious bandit Kid Blue, his reputation far outstrips his actual success as a crook, and after a train robbery falls apart moments after it began, Bick decides it's


A hapless outlaw discovers he isn't any better off on the right side of the law in this offbeat western comedy set at the turn of the century. While Bickford Waner (Dennis Hopper) is known to lawmen as notorious bandit Kid Blue, his reputation far outstrips his actual success as a crook, and after a train robbery falls apart moments after it began, Bick decides it's time to go straight. Bick settles in Dime Box, Texas, a shabby little town dominated by a ceramics factory that makes novelty ashtrays, and manages to find a lose a series of odd jobs through his innate clumsiness and his short temper. Bick moves into a rooming house where he's befriended by Reese Ford (Warren Oates), a good natured man fascinated with the ancient Greeks and their ideals of male friendship, and his wife Molly (Lee Purcell), who doesn't believe their relationship need be platonic. Bick also finds a friend in pill-popping Preacher Bob (Peter Boyle) and makes an especially fierce enemy in foul-tempered sheriff "Mean John" Simpson (Ben Johnson). After his personal and professional lives take unexpected turns for the worse, Bick decides he needs to go back to a life of crime, though he hasn't gotten much better at armed robbery than he was before. Also starring Janice Rule, Ralph Waite and Clifton James, Kid Blue was shot in 1971, but not released until 1973, after the box-office failure of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie sent his career into a tailspin; it would be his last role in an American feature until 1979's Apocalypse Now.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Dennis Hopper did two things of note in 1971 -- he unwittingly committed career suicide with the release of The Last Movie, his often fascinating but maddeningly incomprehensible directorial follow-up to Easy Rider, and he acted in a Western comedy called Kid Blue. The Last Movie was so poorly received by both audiences and critics in its blink-and-you-missed-it theatrical release that Hollywood washed its hands of Hopper (he wouldn't act in an American film again until Apocalypse Now in 1979), so much so that Kid Blue ended up shelved for over a year after it was completed, and only received a brief token release in 1973. The amusing irony is that while Hopper was the principle reason Kid Blue never reached a large audience, it's also a classic example of the sort of film that was made possible by the success of Easy Rider; it's a playfully eccentric comedy that sets down a counterculture mindset in the Old West near the turn of the century, and while the movie's stoned amiability sometimes does itself as much harm as good, it's engaging in its efforts to make mincemeat of the Western ethos as it floats a handful of inept criminals, lackadaisical Indians, chemically dependent preachers, and sexually ambiguous ceramics workers as its heroes. In Kid Blue, Hopper plays Bickford Waner, known to most of his friends as Bick and to a few lawmen as Kid Blue, a notorious bandit. Despite his reputation, the truth is Kid Blue and his criminal cohorts were never much good at stealing, and when a train robbery quickly goes south, Bick decides to move along and try to go straight in the next town he finds. Fate and Bick's mule lead him to Dime Box, TX, a scrubby dot on the map dominated by The Great American Ceramic Novelty Company, where local tycoon Mr. Hendricks (Clifton James) is determined to convince Americans they need funny ashtrays, and then sell some to the queen of England. Bick takes on a variety of odd jobs -- sweeping up and shining shoes at a barbershop, slaughtering and dressing chickens, stoking the kiln at the ceramics shop -- which invariably end badly. Bick moves into a rooming house where he makes friends with Reese Ford (Warren Oates), a good-natured man who enjoys reading about the ancient Greeks and their enlightened attitude about male friendship, and his wife, Molly (Lee Purcell), whose interest in Bick is clearly less than platonic. Bick also gets to know a handful of Indians who seem to have little purpose in town other than annoying short-tempered sheriff Mean John Simpson (Ben Johnson), and through them meets Preacher Bob (Peter Boyle), a self-ordained man of the cloth who is building his own flying machine and believes God gave man the opium poppy and the cocoa leaf for his use and enjoyment, popping pills made from their extracts on a frequent basis. After hard work, clean living, attempting to reconnect with his girlfriend, and warding off Molly's advances all fail him, Bick is forced to give up the straight life and go back to crime, hatching a plan to steal the Ceramic Company's payroll with the help of the Indians. Kid Blue was directed by James Frawley, whose most notable previous credit was directing 28 episodes of The Monkees; he would go on to helm The Muppet Movie before returning to a busy career in episodic television. Frawley gives Kid Blue an easygoing, loose-limbed pace that drifts along like driftwood on a lake until it revs itself up for something like an action-packed climax that's a bit of a shambles but also good fun. Frawley's easygoing vibe doesn't always mesh so well with Hopper, who doesn't seem to know if he wants to play Bick as a naïve man-child or a petulant crank and ends up veering between both extremes, almost as if he was still working The Last Movie's Kansas out of his system. Warren Oates gives the film's strongest and most nuanced performance as Reese Ford; the character could have easily been a mean-spirited joke, but in Oates' hands, Reese seems not to be consciously aware of his obvious infatuation for Bick, and he gives him a sweet-natured dignity that's oddly moving. And Frawley assembled a great cast for Kid Blue, most of whom do fine work, especially Peter Boyle as the pleasantly addled renegade preacher, Ben Johnson as the accurately nicknamed Mean John Simpson, Ralph Waite as a shoe salesman with far too many opinions, Lee Purcell as the radiant and seductive Molly, M. Emmet Walsh as a petulant barber, and Janice Rule, who steals every scene she's in, as a seriously sexy "actress" Bick knew in his outlaw days. Billy Williams' cinematography gives Dime Box a dusty, burnished look that suits the character and the mood quite well, and the score by Tim McIntire and John Rubinstein is spare and easygoing enough to mesh with the rest of the film. Kid Blue isn't focused enough to be anything like a lost classic, but as a product of Hollywood's brief infatuation with the counterculture, it's good, slightly wobbly fun, and even if it doesn't capture Dennis Hopper at his best, it wasn't a bad farewell to a filmmaking philosophy he helped to create.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Fox Mod
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Janice Ford Janet Conforto
Claude Ennis Starrett Tough Guy
Eddy Donno Huey
Warren Finnerty Wills
Bobby Hall Bartender
Howard Hesseman Confectionery Man
Dennis Hopper Bickford Waner
Mary Jackson Mrs. Evans
Clifton James Mr. Hendricks
Owen Orr Train Robber #1
Richard Rust Train Robber
Melvin Stewart Blackman
José Torvay Old Coyote
Jay Varela Mendoza
M. Emmet Walsh Barber
Warren Oates Reese Ford
Peter Boyle Preacher
Ben Johnson Sheriff
Lee Purcell Molly Ford
Janice Rule Janet
Ralph Waite Drummer

Technical Credits
James Frawley Director
Stefan Arnsten Editor
Tim McIntire Score Composer
Tony Ray Asst. Director
John Rubinstein Score Composer,Screenwriter
Joel Schiller Production Designer
Marvin Schwartz Producer
Bud Shrake Screenwriter
Theadora Van Runkle Costumes/Costume Designer
Billy Williams Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Kid Blue
1. Chapter 1 [10:00]
2. Chapter 2 [9:59]
3. Chapter 3 [9:59]
4. Chapter 4 [9:59]
5. Chapter 5 [10:00]
6. Chapter 6 [10:00]
7. Chapter 7 [10:00]
8. Chapter 8 [9:59]
9. Chapter 9 [10:00]
10. Chapter 10 [9:59]
11. Chapter 11 [:16]

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