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July-August 1982

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Dave Kehr on the coarsening of movie comedy, midsection on Hollywood producers, interview with executives of Disney pictures, Rocky III, New Directors/New Films festival, Calcutta’s Way, George Miller’s Mad Max: Road Warrior

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Car chases, pratfalls, oafish heroes—today’s movie comedy has fallen backward, past Lubitsch, into the long gone era of the Keystone Kops. Dave Kehr analyzes a decade of coarse comedy. One comic actor, Richard Pryor, stands above all: he recalls Chaplin while anticipating a cinema of unfettered social humor. Jonathan Rosenbaum rates Pryor’s outsize talent.

In the beginning was the money. And the man who got the money, assembled the talent, and dreamed the unbankable dream was the producer. Now David Thomson raises two or three cheers for this unsung auteur and identifies some of the more important practitioners. Producers and other dealmakers may not talk mise en scène, but they do have a special language; Anne Thompson and Allen Smithee provide a lexicon of current Tinseltown terms. And Harlan Jacobson looks at Ray Stark, whose Annie may be the ultimate producer’s movie.

When the people who run the Disney studio wish upon a star these days, they must hope for a hit the size of Star Wars, The Black Stallion, or E.T.—movies that mine the old Disney themes and recapture some of the old Disney magic. Can Disney’s Tron, the super, summer video game, recapture the magic and the market? Charles Solomon talked with both Disney Studios and Don Bluth, head of the renegade Disney animators whose new film, The Secret of NIMH, will be vying for this month’s kid coin. And Jim Seale talks with critic-turned-director Tim Hunter, who’s made a good, new, good old Disney movie called Tex.

Like its predecessors, Rocky III has become a box-office TKO. This summer, the Italian Stallion is doing battle against fellow blockbusters, giving MGM-UA a shot at the champion’s gold belt. But is Rocky III knowledgeable about today’s boxing scene? Is it good moviemaking? Joe Flaherty offers a minority decision on this third heavyweight rematch of Stallone vs. the baaad black man.

This year’s New Directors/New Films series gave birth to critical finds and future hits. Tom Allen surveys the nursery and adopts his own favorites.

Wisconsin nights were cold and lonely back in the Forties. Aside from the occasional farm animal, all a boy had were movies. Richard Schickel, now a critic and filmmaker, looks back on those nights and shivers.

1. The Road Warrior
With Mad Max, Australian George Miller turned the bike-gang movie into pop-decadent poetry. Now he’s back with maximum grace in The Road Warrior—and this time you may actually get a chance to see it. David Chute reviews the film and talks with this surgeon of the grotesque.

2. Blade Runner
Ridley (Alien) Scott strikes again, this time with Harrison Ford as a 21st-century gumshoe. Harlan Kennedy has the review and interview.

Amid the sprawling poverty and splendor of Calcutta, Elliott Stein found sights, sounds, and cinema worth writing home about.

Critics on critics: Michael Sragow appreciates anew Dwight Macdonald’s collected film reviews, and Jonathan Rosenbaum appraises William Pechter’s latest critical anthology.