June 24, 2020

Long Beautiful HAIR

HAIR – Olive Signature Edition
(Blu-ray Review)
Starring John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, Cheryl Barnes, Melba Moore, Ronnie Dyson. Directed by Milos Forman. (1979/121 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

My God, it's my parents' playlist...

I remember when Mom & Dad bought their first stereo, or hi-fi, as they were called back then. It was a thing a beauty...AM and FM, turntable, 8-track tape player and two cabinet speakers. Since it was Dad's baby, I was forbidden to mess with it.

To celebrate their purchase, Dad ordered a dozen 8-track tapes from one of those record clubs, and for the next few years, the family was inundated by Three Dog Night, The Fifth Dimension, America, The Cowsills, Gilbert O'Sullivan and a shitload of Neil Diamond (to appease Mom). I still know a lot of that music by heart, whether I want those songs swimming in my head or not. Even today, whenever I hear “Good Morning Starshine,” I see Mom vacuuming the living room on Sunday mornings, singing along to the 'glibby gloop gloopy' parts.

A thing of beauty.
What I didn't know at the time was how many of those insanely-popular songs originated from the Broadway musical, Hair. I don't think my parents knew, either, since that hippie stuff wasn't their bag. But Hair not only inspired more cover versions of its songs than I could possibly list without developing carpal tunnel syndrome, it pretty much invented the conceptual rock musical. The likes of Rent, Grease, Tommy and Hamilton arguably wouldn't exist without it.

The film version is directed by Milos Forman – fresh from sweeping the Oscars with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest – and features a star-making performance by Treat Williams. The songs are all there, too...”Aquarius,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Good Morning Starshine,” “Hair,” “Let the Sunshine In” and of course, that perennial family favorite, “Sodomy.” The musical numbers are enhanced by playful choreography and the film's mostly upbeat tone congenially contrasts the underlying anti-war theme. It's a bit overlong and comes to a gloomy conclusion, but overall, Hair remains an enjoyable snapshot of bygone era.

Treat Williams wins the ass-kicking contest.
Hair has been revived on-stage several times over the years, yet the movie seems to have fallen into comparative obscurity. Grease notwithstanding, movie musicals were a tough sell in the late seventies. But with classic music, excellent direction and great performances by an ensemble cast – most of whom were unknown at the time – it's a film worth rediscovering.

Mom & Dad eventually upgraded from crusty old 8-tracks to sparkly new CDs. The music was the same, but now Neil Diamond sounded like he was in the room with them. Similarly, Hair has been released on Blu-ray before, but this edition (part of Olive Films' Signature series) comes loaded with brand new bonus features to go along with the great picture and sound, definitely making it worth upgrading for fans.

"THE TRIBE REMEMBERS” - The primary cast – sans Williams – reflect on being cast and the production.
"MAKING CHANCE WORK: CHOREOGRAPHING HAIR” - Interview with choreographer Twyla Tharp, who appears pretty impressed with herself.
"CUTTING HAIR” - Interviews with editors Lynzee Klingman & Stanley Warnow.
"HAIR STYLE” - Interview with production designer Stuart Wurtzel.
"ARTIST, TEACHER, MENTOR: REMEMBERING MILOS FORMAN” - The best of the bonus features, this is an entertaining appreciation of Milos Forman by director James Mangold
AUDIO COMMENTARY – by Treat Williams and assistant director Michael Houseman.
ESSAY – By critic Sheila O'Malley
BOOKLET – Includes the same essay.

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