• Oklahoma Crude (Twilight Time) Blu-Ray Review

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: November 20, 2018.
    Director: Stanley Kramer
    Cast: George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway, John Mills, Jack Palance, Harvey Jason, Woodrow Parfrey, William Lucking
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    Oklahoma Crude - Movie Review:

    From the opening credits, the triumphant Mancini score playing atop silhouettes of oil derricks ferociously spraying their rich black goo to the sky, 1973's Oklahoma Crude lets us know we're in for something special; exciting, engaging, and quite possibly phallic in nature. As the music turns to an old-timey tune sung by Canadian Snowbird, Anne Murray, it also becomes apparent that we're in for a little bit of a love story as well, but that's going to be a good thing. It's Stanley Kramer; we know we're probably going to get a love story with a bit of a moral, an adventure tale with some social commentary, and it's 1973, and maybe Kramer is going to throw some kind of modern flourish into the mix. Whatever the deal, that song, those gushers, and the impressive names in the credits set us up to be prepared to take the ride.

    In the dusty sprawl of Oklahoma, Lena Doyle (Faye Dunaway) works her claim, using a primitive oil derrick attached to the back axle of a primitive automobile to fish through the earth for precious black gold. Maintaining the sole company of her young helper, Jimmy, Lena is on edge; captive of the frayed nerves that come with being a 19th century woman in a man's world. Of course, her demeanour isn't helped by the aggressive nature of the local oil and gas company, a greedy corporation that wants Lena's land under their control.

    Her estranged father, Cleon (John Mills) watches with concern from afar, and can finally take no more of his daughter's suffering, approaching with the intention of being helpful. Before she realizes that it's her father coming to visit; and even after, as a matter of fact; Lena demonstrates her ability to protect what is hers, unloading rounds from her rifle with competent accuracy. Following up the volley of lead with a barrage of harsh and hurtful words, she sends Cleon packing, but he returns later with Mason (George C. Scott), a drifter looking for work. Lena is far from receptive to the idea of accepting Mason's protection, but finally relents when her father agrees to leave for good.

    We've seen it a thousand times in films before, and it's not much different here; Mason starts his duties with outside privileges only, sleeping in a leaky tent and standing guard in the pouring rain over Lena's potential oil well. Finally, freezing cold and at risk of drowning in his bed, Mason seeks the warmth of Lena and her tiny kitchen. But while the soup may be hot and the fire inviting, Lena's response is anything but as she tells Mason of her disdain for men, and the ideal situation wherein she has both male and female genitalia so she can take care of her own business her own self.

    Before Mason gets the chance to delve too deeply into the logistics behind Lena's utopia, the Doyle well gets a visit from the Pan-Oklahoma Oil and Gas Company, headed by a sinister ex-Army man named Hellman (Jack Palance). And you better believe that when Jack is buying, you had better be selling; when Lena tells him what he can do with his oil money, Hellman has his goons beat both her and Mason to a pulp. And, although Lena's first response is to hold Mason accountable for her troubles, she finds herself with nowhere else to turn when the law won't back her against Hellman and Big Oil.

    By 1973, the powerhouse that was Stanley Kramer was more or less past his prime, a classic Director and social commentator left somewhat uncomfortable in a new world of groundbreaking and wild cinema. It shows in Oklahoma Crude; the forced profanity in the script, the surprising bloody violence (though that is offset by Mancini's upbeat and jangly score, giving those scenes more of a demented circus feel), and the, ermmmm, pissing match between Scott and Palance. Kramer's minimal commentary, this time on big business and gender politics, are subdued.

    Being out of his element, however, does not make for a poor film; far from it. Decades of skill put the gears to Oklahoma Crude, firing it along at a rapid pace, but knowing when to stop for a breather. It's obvious that the man knows what he's looking for, and you couldn't ask for a much better cast to help things along; though there are many fine supporting roles to be found, the quadfecta of Dunaway, Mills, Palance, and Scott are pure dynamite, selling the characters in a way that clearly defines good and evil, with Mills and Dunaway turning in genuinely heartbreaking performances. The storyline may follow the usual tropes, the setting may be similar to that of a thousand westerns, but Oklahoma Crude has enough going for it, including a few surprises, to make it memorable.

    Oklahoma Crude - Blu-Ray Review:

    Twilight Time brings Oklahoma Crude to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks absolutely stunning. While moments of dirt do make an appearance, they are brief in nature and can't detract from the detail and often wonderfully grain-filled scenery on display. Colours are nicely represented, black are deep, and compression issues non-existent. A DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio track carries the primary audio, and it sounds just fine; no hisses, pops, or distortion, and it's mastered well enough that it boasts some nice dynamic range and a thickness more associated with surround tracks. English subtitles are included, as is the customary Isolated Music track.

    An audio commentary with described Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo provides a solid wealth of information about the film and talks about Kramer as a social commentator and Dunaway's emergence as a movie star. They also discuss Roger Ebert's review of the film and Mancini's score, as well as the surprise profanity that occurs in the film (even pointing out an essential overdub that I had missed). There are some gaps here and there, but it's worth checking out.

    The Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, as well as a booklet essay by Julie Kirgo are included.

    Oklahoma Crude - The Final Word:

    It's probably not going to top anyone's list of favourites, but Oklahoma Crude is a fun film with a team worth cheering for and some great performances. Those interested will agree that the presentation of the film on this disc is just shy of perfect.

    Click on the images below for full sized Oklahoma Crude Blu-ray screen caps!