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Paul Schrader
George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley, Dick Sargent, Leonard Gaines, Dave Nichols, Gary Graham, Larry Block, Marc Alaimo
Writing Credits:
Paul Schrader

Oh, my God ... that's my daughter.

A powerful, unflinching glimpse into the dark, bizarre world of the pornography industry. George C. Scott gives a strong, sensitive portrayal of a deeply religious Midwestern businessman whose daughter, while on a church-sponsored outing, runs away from home. He hires an oddball detective (Peter Boyle), who learns that the daughter has been making cheap sex films. When the father realizes that he can no longer trust the detective, he decides to hunt for his daughter himself. Posing as a porno film producer casting a new movie, he gathers clues with ferocious determination. His treacherous journey gives him a fast, hard lesson in big-city life and a close-up view of the world of porn, its victims and exploiters. Finally, with the help of a prostitute, he locates his daughter. But is it too late?

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Monaural

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 9/14/2004

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Hardcore (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 13, 2004)

Back before pornography became so mainstream that folks like Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson turned into household names, the field was viewed as the lowest that one could fall. That attitude lies underneath the surface of 1979ís Hardcore, a then-shocking exploration of the eraís sex industry.

Set initially in Grand Rapids Michigan, we encounter a conservative and religious community. The film focuses on business owner Jake VanDorn (George C. Scott) and his teenage daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis). Her church group takes a bus trip to California for a Youth Calvinist Convention, and Jake soon gets a call that tells him Kristen disappeared during a visit to Knottís Berry Farm. He finds out that Kristen was talking to a strange boy at the park before she vanished.

Jake flies out to LA to get involved. After the police offer little support, he hires a private detective named Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) and then returns home to look for clues in her private possessions. Time passes and Jake tries to adjust to life without his daughter. After some time, he gets a contact from Mast. The detective comes to Michigan and shows Jake a crude porn film that features Kristen.

Eventually Jake goes back to LA to check into things, and he fires Mast when he sees the detective fool around with a girl. Jake decides to take things into his own hands, but his methods go nowhere until he takes an unusual tactic. He calls himself ďJake DeVriesĒ and claims that he wants to get into the production of porn flicks. This allows him to become more involved in the world of adult movies, as he meets those involved. The rest of the movie follows his investigation and his further attempts to find Kristen.

I was 12 when Hardcore came out, and I recall that it was perceived as a very extreme film. Maybe my memories are incorrect, but I remember that it was seen as a graphic and rough look at the porn underworld.

Maybe thatís how it looked in 1979, but now it doesnít pack much of an impact. Actually, Hardcore suffers from a schizophrenic attitude. Sometimes the movie shows the porn business as very seedy and dirty. It flirts with extreme pieces like snuff films and occasionally gives us a look at real nastiness.

On the other hand, it periodically comes across like parody. That attitude mostly pervades Hardcore. Porn producer Bill Ramada is a campy character, and the depictions of the movie shoots look goofy. Some of this may be unintentional, but thatís not the impression I get. It looks like the filmmakers meant for most of the funny bits to be amusing, as they show a goofiness that goes beyond unintended comedy. Címon - how can we take seriously a movie that briefly introduces an actor named Big Dick Blaque?

Occasionally the movie captures some seediness, but not frequently. This inconsistent tone makes the flick lack commitment. On one hand, it wants us to see what makes Jake so despondent and desperate, but on the other, it gives the porn scene such an air of chipper goofiness that itís tough to worry too much. The movie never becomes quite quaint, but it doesnít follow up with the appropriate intensity to make us feel the nastiness.

The movie depends heavily on Scott to act as our surrogate, but he only sporadically succeeds in the role. Actually, he mainly does well, as he brings a weary tone to Jake that makes sense. He persists but comes across as a man beaten down by his problems, and Scottís choices in that regard work.

However, his occasional flares of anger donít come across as well. He goes so over the top in those moments that they become unintentionally comic. Scott usually makes Jake quiet and reserved, so I figure he thought the outbursts would present power as a contrast. They donít and they simply produce laughs.

Hardcore examines an interesting subject and occasionally turns into something intriguing. Unfortunately, it indulges in too much comedy to prosper. This erratic tone harms the flick and makes it unsatisfying as a whole.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Hardcore appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a few minor problems, most of Hardcore offered a very nice picture.

Across the board, the movie presented solid sharpness. Only a smidgen of softness interfered with a few shots. Otherwise, the movie remained detailed and well-defined. I saw no instances of jagged edges or shimmering, but mild to moderate edge enhancement showed up at times. Print flaws were average for a 25-year-old movie. Some specks, grit and minor debris marred the presentation, but not with great frequency; they cropped up sporadically and only caused periodic distractions.

Contrary to the movieís grimy theme, Hardcore featured a surprisingly bright palette. It used a lot of lively colors that it exhibited to positive effect. Even the occasional instances of colored lighting looked firm and well rendered. Blacks were deep and firm, while most low-light shots came across as more than acceptably concise and delineated. The source flaws and edge enhancement knocked this one down to ďBĒ level, but it remained quite satisfying most of the time.

Nothing special occurred in the monaural soundtrack of Hardcore, which seemed adequate and not much more. The movieís rock-oriented score elements fared the best. These featured surprisingly deep low-end at times, though the higher registers of the music sounded thin and tinny. Speech remained intelligible but tended to be somewhat brittle. Effects played a fairly small role. They came across as clear, though they didnít display much range or vivacity. The nice bass for the music boosted this oneís grade to a ďC+Ē, but donít expect much life from this average soundtrack.

No supplements appear other than a collection of Previews. This area presents trailers for Big Fish, Secret Window, and The Opposite of Sex.

Once seen as an intense view of a seedy underworld, Hardcore now looks fairly quaint and silly. The movie canít decide what tone it wants to adopt, and that defuses any potential power. The DVD offers generally good picture along with mediocre audio and almost no supplements. Hardcore is now a period piece that doesnít live up to its potential.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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