Scarecrow (1973) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I can tell you everything you need to know about Scarecrow in one short paragraph. It is a rural version of Midnight Cowboy, about two homeless guys who can't seem to make any progress toward their modest dreams. Gene Hackman plays the part of Jon Voight. Al Pacino plays the part of Dustin Hoffman. Pittsburgh plays the part of Miami.

That's it.

Really. There is no more to say. There are not many points of difference between the two films. Like Midnight Cowboy, it concentrates on the development of the main characters to the exclusion of plot. Like Midnight Cowboy, it is picaresque and some of the episodes go on too long. Like Midnight Cowboy, it ends with a bus ride. The motormouth Ratso guy doesn't make it. The big dumb guy does.

End of story.

Pacino and Hackman were already on the A-list at the time Scarecrow was made. This film came out two years after the French Connection, and the year after The Godfather. They never got along that well during the filming of Scarecrow, and they disagreed about the merit of the project. Hackman has said that his performance in Scarecrow is his own personal favorite, but Pacino never felt that their on-screen chemistry was convincing. In his biography he stated:

"Gene and I are two people not very similar. We had to play a very close relationship, but I just didn't think we were as connected as we should have been. We seemed apart. We didn't have altercations, we didn't hate each other. But we didn't communicate, didn't think in the same terms. Gene and I were thrown together, but under ordinary circumstances we'd never cavort or be friends. It was two worlds - but I have to say that I was as much responsible as he was."

I tend to agree with Pacino. The project never really seemed to click for me. I kept looking at my watch. On the other hand, if you like  pessimistic, meandering, character-based 70s films about the disenfranchised, that genre is executed to heartbreaking perfection here, both by the actors and by the cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. If you don't warm to the thought of such a film, you'll find Scarecrow to have no appeal at all, because it simply does not compromise or reach out to you. It is basically a European-style art film, and stays true to its vision, although that fact is somewhat disguised by the presence of two big stars.

Hey, in the 70s that could happen.



  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. I think this is the first time the film has ever been available in its original theatrical aspect ratio. It looks great.
  • brief "making of featurette" (3-4 minutes long)



Eileen Brennan shows her breasts in a sex scene with Gene Hackman. It is, to my knowledge, her only screen nudity.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 3/4, but not a very enthusiastic recommendation. That's about how I feel as well

  • It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, but was promptly ignored at the American box office and by the American academy.

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, or a C- from our system. 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 a D on our scale. (Possibly 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C+ because it won the Palme d'Or and has developed a dedicated cult following. On the other hand, audiences ignored it, and the Academy ignored it. I liked many elements, but also found it boring, derivative, and sometimes confusingly edited, and I never really felt the Pacino-Hackman connection.

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