The Olive Films Signature division of Olive Films June, 20, 2020 Blu-ray of the Milos Formam ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus") 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films.
This pristinely remastered Blu-ray presents the film in a scope and with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and barely falls short of the watching a live-stage production. Folks who are only familiar with the play will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.
The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine," "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.
The opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era. The Blu-ray enchancement greatly highlights the contrast between the bland childhood of the central Okie and the commencement of his literal and figurative rude awakenings.
Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)
The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.
In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.
The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.
The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)
The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.
The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.
The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.
The ending is very true to the spirit of both the play and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.
Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are damaged 50 years later.
Signature supplements all this with its standard high-caliber extras that make its sets true collector's editions. This begins with audio commentary by Williams as well as by assistant director Michael Hausman.
The 30-minute "The Tribe Remembers" has Savage, D'Angelo, and several tribe members reminisce about the film from the pre-audition to the post-release stages. The fun begins with the initial criteria for auditioning, continues with the "Chorus Line" style casting process, and ends with many cast members discusses this career-changing gig. The inarguably best story is that of the reaction of the repressed Texan mother of one of the lost boys watching her baby croon about oral and anal sex.
Other bonuses include famed (pun intended) "Hair" choreographer Twyla Thorp discusses her work, and separate features on the style and the finished product. There also is separate discussion of Forman and an essay on "Hair."