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Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer

 

Beyond the Law (1968)        Wild 90 (1968)        Maidstone (1970)

 

Norman Mailer is remembered for many things—his novels, his essays, his articles, his activism, his ego. One largely forgotten chapter of his life, however, is his late-sixties, headlong, kamikaze-style plunge into making experimental films. These rough-hewn, self-financed, largely improvised metafictions are works of madness and bravado, all starring Mailer himself and with technical assistance from cinema verité trailblazers D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock. The fullest realization of his directorial efforts is the blustering, brawling Maidstone, a shocking sign of the political times in which Mailer plays a filmmaker and presidential candidate who may be the target of an assassination attempt. Along with Mailer’s other films of the period—Wild 90 and Beyond the Law—it shows an uncompromising artist in thrall to both himself and a new medium.

Titles


Maidstone
Over a booze-fueled, increasingly hectic four-day shoot in the Hamptons, Norman Mailer and his cast and crew spontaneously unloaded onto film this lurid and loony chronicle of U.S. presidential candidate and filmmaker Norman T. Kingsley debating and attacking his hangers-on and enemies. This gonzo narrative, “an inkblot test of Mailer’s own subconscious” (Time), becomes something like a documentary on its own making when costar Rip Torn breaks the fourth wall in one of cinema’s most alarming on-screen outbursts.

Wild 90
Norman Mailer’s first filmmaking effort stars the director and his two longtime creative collaborators Buzz Farber and Mickey Knox as a trio of gangsters holed up in a ramshackle New York apartment, drinking, braying, and fighting. Mailer once claimed he viewed making movies as “free psychoanalysis,” and this bristly, stripped-down experiment in improvisation shows a filmmaker baring himself for all to see.

Beyond the Law
Norman Mailer’s belief that we’re all either police or criminals at heart was the impetus for his second film, which takes place over the course of one feverish night in a Manhattan police precinct and neighboring bar. The rough texture of the black-and-white stock and the intense depiction of the police lineup process lend the film a rugged, journalistic feel. In addition to Mailer, who casts himself as tough-guy Irish cop Francis Xavier Pope, Beyond the Law features Rip Torn and George Plimpton.


Theatrical Releases: 1968 - 1970

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Bitrates: Respective bitrates - 8.54, 5.53 mb/s
Time: Respectively - 1:45:20, 1:37:54, and 1:21:39
Bitrate:

Maidstone

Bitrate:

Disc 2

Audio 2.0 channel Dolby
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1 

Edition Details:

  •  2 X 4-page liner notes leaflets


DVD Release Date:
August 28th, 2012
2 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters: 13, 10, 10

 

 

Comments:

The 3 features of this boxset are housed on two DVDs in slim transparent keep cases and they are not sold separately by Criterion or on NTSC DVD at this time (to my knowledge).

Both discs are dual-layered. All three are in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The first disc has Maidstone and is interlaced - the next disc shares both Wild 90 and Beyond the Law - and is progressive. The audio is flat but acceptable and there are optional English subtitles (samples below). The Eclipse, then Janus, and different production logos precede each film.

Maidstone and Beyond the Law were shot in 16mm and Wild 90 - supposedly was 35mm. The image quality is at the mercy of the existing sources which is weak with light scratches and marks. There doesn't appear to have been any restoration. I'd say that visually these appear exactly as they are; 40+ year old underground, limited, productions. Audio is predictably as weak. The "Maidstone" song was written and performed by Carol Stevens.  

 

There are no extras aside from the 2 X 4-page liner notes in each of the two transparent cases. 

These films are not for all tastes but for some they may open a fascinating window into Mailer and the reputation of his ego. They can seem directionless with vérité randomness taking over any concert narrative - even boring but there is something potentially interesting always lurking if masquerading as being wafer-thin. I don't think many will appreciate these three works - that tend to mesh together and will end up being forgettable.  

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


 


 

 Case Cover

 

 

 

Over a booze-fueled, increasingly hectic five-day shoot in East Hampton, Norman Mailer and his cast and crew spontaneously unloaded onto film the lurid and loony chronicle of U.S. presidential candidate and filmmaker Norman T. Kingsley debating and attacking his hangers-on and enemie.

 

Screen Captures

 


 





Interlacing

 


 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Mailer once claimed that he viewed making movies as “free psychoanalysis,” and this bristly, stripped-down experiment in improvisation shows a filmmaker baring himself for all to see.

 

 

Wild 90 Screen Captures

 


 



 

 

Mailer’s belief that we’re all capable of being either police or criminals was the impetus for his second feature, which takes place over the course of one feverish night in a Manhattan police precinct and neighboring bar.

Beyond the Law Screen Captures

 


 





 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

 

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