The Last Detail (1973) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up

Scoop's comments:

The Last Detail is an early-70's "up the establishment" movie which was one of the first to feature Jack Nicholson as Jack Nicholson, in all his Cheshire cat grinnin', sorta malicious, arrogant-yet-sensitive, somewhat crazed glory. Nicholson is a Shore Patrol officer who has to escort a convicted swabbie to his eight year sentence in military prison. He realizes the poor schmuck (Randy Quaid) is just a kid getting screwed by the system (he stole forty dollars), so Big Jack decides to show the kid a bit of life before the sentence begins.

It is still eminently watchable, and especially interesting in two ways:

(1) as opposed to modern movies about the late 60's cultural revolution, this movie was right in the middle of it all, and accurately reflects the mores and attitudes of the times, especially the anti-establishment attitude. Nicholson and his buddy are hard-case navy lifers, but even they think the system sucks.

(2) it has a totally real non-copout ending which will piss you off, but will leave you feeling the outrage that it wants you to feel.


The nudity comes from Carol Kane, who is probably best known as Latka's wife on Taxi
TUNA's comments:

The Last Detail (1973) stars Jack Nicholson as Billy "Badass" Budduskey, a "skivvy waver" 3rd class, who is in transit in Norfolk, Virginia. For those who have not been around the Navy, sailors are "in transit" while they await new orders for their next assignment. While they wait, they are assigned every "shit detail" that needs doing on base. Norfolk, although it got a lot of revenue from the Navy presence, was not friendly to sailors. Signs like "sailors and dogs, keep off the grass" and "painter wanted -- sailors need not apply" were common. He is assigned to chase a prisoner (escort him) to Portsmouth Naval Prison to serve an 8 year sentence, and then receive a dishonorable discharge. Otis Young is also assigned as the second chaser. The seaman they are escorting is played flawlessly by Randy Quaid, who is an 18 year old kleptomaniac who got caught trying to grab $40.00 from the base polio fund.

Unfortunately for Randy, it is the base commander's wife's favorite charity. Baddass plans on rushing the prisoner to Portsmouth, then splitting the travel and per diem money given for the three of them with Otis, then enjoying the two weeks allotted. As he gets to know the meek Quaid, who has never done anything, and "doesn't know how to have fun," he decides that it is up to him to teach the kid something, and show him a good time before he delivers him. The good time includes beating up three Marines in a bus station head, drinking most of the beer on the east coast, and finally getting the kid laid at a house of ill repute, where we have exposure from Carol Kane as a young lady of easy virtue.

DVD info from Amazon.

1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and a 4:3 standard version. Acceptable quality, but not impressive.

Trailer, and some other Nicholson trailers

Over the course of the film, we see Quaid bloom, then, at the inevitable conclusion, withdraw back into himself. It was a difficult part, and he nailed it.

I suppose I am somewhat biased as an ex-Navy man, but this is one of my favorite films. Nicholson simply is Badass Budduskey, Otis Young was a perfect counterpoint to Nicholson, and the story was lively, human, and believable. The DVD is a little grainy, especially in the darker scenes, but is watchable.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Maltin 3.5/4.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, it is a B-. Good characterizations and reality make this an excellent movie that is broadly appealing to people who wouldn't normally like a 1973 period piece.

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