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  • Cockfighter
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31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Monte Hellman's Cockfighter, adapted by cult noir writer Charles Willeford from his novel, is a strange bird indeed, an art film for an exploitation audience. Set in the game-fighting pits of the Deep South, it follows a season on the circuit with Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates), a veteran fighter whose hubris has cost him everything and who rebuilds his stable and his reputation while honoring a vow of silence. Costars Harry Dean Stanton and Laurie Bird previously appeared with Oates in Hellman's cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop. There are also appearances by Millie Perkins, Steve Railsback, Richard B. Schull, and writer Willeford, who acquits himself nicely as a pit judge.

Oates's portrayal of a determined, silent obsessive is almost minimalist yet beautifully expressive, accomplished with gestures, smiles, and nods. He's thoughtful and gentle yet dedicated to bloodsport, and his contradictions can be felt in the tension between the comic adventures and gritty stories of Willeford's script, with the meditative intensity of Hellman's often serene direction and cinematographer Nestor Almendros's lovely images of the Deep South's rural beauty.

Cockfighter was one of the few films produced by "King of the B's" Roger Corman that lost money, so he added a dream sequence full of nudity, created a trailer with action scenes nowhere to be found in the film, and rereleased the film under the title Born to Kill. Needless to say, Anchor Bay has returned to Hellman's original cut, which does contain footage of real and often savage cockfights. Animal lovers and squeamish viewers beware.

The accompanying documentary Warren Oates: Across the Border is a genial if ultimately lightweight portrait of the actor by friends and fellow performers Ben Johnson, Stacy Keach, Peter Fonda, and his Cockfighter compatriots Harry Dean Stanton, Millie Perkins, and Monte Hellman.

The DVD also features commentary by Hellman and production assistant Steven Gaydos, along with moderator Dennis Bartok. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

  • Warren Oates: Across the Border, A Documentary by Tom Thurman
  • Audio Commentary with Director Monte Hellman and Production Assistant Steven Gaydos

Product Details

  • Actors: Warren Oates, Richard B. Shull, Harry Dean Stanton, Ed Begley Jr., Laurie Bird
  • Directors: Monte Hellman
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Silent, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: January 30, 2001
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004Y6BF
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,163 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Cockfighter" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Henry Witte on August 9, 2008
Format: DVD
I love this movie, but I strongly discourage anyone from purchasing the DVD release by Synergy Entertainment. First of all, it is in pan-and-scan fullscreen when the original aspect ratio is 1.85:1. Also, the image and sound quality suggest that it was ripped from a VHS copy. Overall quality is of a bad bootleg. DO NOT BUY.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Christopher J. Jarmick on November 26, 2001
Format: DVD
Cockfighter was set up and then marketed as a low budget exploitation film, but was turned into a somewhat existential comic character study by director Monte Hellman with just enough elements for Roger Corman to market it as an exploitation film (some violence, controversy, and a bit of nudity).
Most people have not heard of 1974's Cockfighter. It bombed at the box-office and is too quirky a film about too violent and controversial a sport to be widely embraced.
It's time for you to discover this gem of a film, which through some odd alignment of the stars has been given a red carpet type of DVD release by Anchor Bay, which includes a few extras.
It's time to shout from the mountain-tops and let all film buffs, Warren Oates fans, 70's movie lovers , appreciators of quirky cinema concoctions and cult film aficionados know there is an excellent film out there that you probably have not seen that is worth adding to your collection as soon as possible.
The film is based on a novel written by the late great Charles Willeford who also co-wrote the screenplay and plays an important supporting role in the film. Willeford's books have been the basis for a few other good quirky films like Miami Blues and the recent The Woman-Chaser.
Cockfighter is set in the world where fighting cocks are bred, trained and pitted against each other for spectators and gamblers to enjoy, but is focused on Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates) a
Man who has devoted his life to being the best Cockfighter on the circuit. He is willing to risk everything and anything in pursuit of his goal-- a medal. In fact because Frank Mansfield ws too cocky a few years ago, he wound up ruining his chances for the Cockfighter of the year medal. So he took a vow of silence.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "skipmccoy" on September 19, 2000
Format: DVD
Hypnotically splendid, offbeat and violent drama stars the incomparable Warren Oates. Oates is nearly mute for almost the entire film after he gets a little too big for his britches. His thoughts(as narration) guide us through the story. Harry Dean Stanton is here also and is perfect. Another notch in the belt of cult director Monte Hellman(Two-Lane Blacktop/ The Shooting/ Ride in The Whirlwind/ China 9, Liberty 37). This is a truly unique film that is sadly almost forgotten. Thank goodness for dvd in the capacity that it can allow a great director like Hellman to find deserved appreciation among a new group of fans. Like the many other great Hellman films, this one has a distinct low-key dynamic that really works incredibly well and makes it stay with you long after you've watched it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on August 20, 2005
Format: DVD
Warren Oates plays Frank Mansfield in 1974's "Cockfighter." Although outlawed in most states, cockfighting was legal in Georgia, and Oates portrays a top trainer. However, Mansfield is also a deeply flawed man whose success leads him to recklessness. On the night before a major fight, he impetuously enters a cockfight that ends badly. At that moment, he takes a vow of silence, which he will not break until he can regain his position in the sport. Throughout most of the movie, therefore, Oates is mute, with his thoughts serving as narration.

Warren Oates is truly great in this role. His weathered face and ability to portray unsympathetic characters in a likeable manner bring great authority to this film. Although perhaps best known for his appearances in Peckinpah films (The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country), he also did extraordinary work in a number of lesser known 1970's films: Two-Lane Blacktop, Badlands, Rancho Deluxe. He's not as well known as his peers Pacino or DeNiro, but his fans would argue that he's every bit as talented - count me as one of his devotees.

Director Monte Hellman was a collaborator with legendary producer Roger Corman, and he's simply one of the most underappreciated filmmakers of the 1970s. He specialized in spare, low-key character studies, such as "Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971). This film is so vibrant because of his talent for using naturalistic settings and minimalist direction. His style is perfectly suited to this script, which was adapted by Charles Willeford from his novel of the same name. The book is out-of-print, but Willeford is a marvelous writer of noir and gritty fiction, such as "The Burnt Orange Heresy."

Despite being a solid character study, the film is probably of limited appeal.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on September 26, 2005
Format: DVD
W. C. Fields had a notorious and well-documented loathing of children and small animals. There's nothing innately evil about children and small animals, but they tend to be small and cute and have been known to steal an audience's attention and sympathy without breaking much of a sweat. Roosters tend to be small, if not terribly cute. They're capable of diverting an audience's attention, though. Would Fields have envied COCKFIGHTER'S Warren Oates? After all, Oates not only gets to (really) kick a feathered, five-pound scene-stealer, but also, in a continuous, uncut shot, gets to stretch its neck out and chop its head off.

Animals WERE harmed during the making of COCKFIGHTER and anyone who might find graphic scenes of violence upsetting or repulsive are strongly urged to let this one pass by. Built on a small ($400,000) budget and shot on a tight, four-week schedule by Monte Hellman for producer Roger Corman (Hellman, on the commentary track, claims this is one of only two movies Corman never made a profit on) COCKFIGHTER is a quickie/cheapie that cuts deep against the grain by exploring more than exploiting. Shot in Georgia and wisely going for a run-down, lived-in, authentic look, COCKFIGHTER introduces us to Frank Mansfield (Warren Oates) at what seems a typical point in his life. He's making an outrageous bet with Jack Burke (Harry Dean Stanton) and we're soon to see minus truck, trailer, and live-in girlfriend. Flashbacks teach us that it's not the first time he's made a wager he can't afford and won't back down from. One of those ill-timed bets inspired a mocking `Look where your big mouth got you!' And so Frank takes a vow of silence, a self-imposed penance that speaks volumes of Frank's stubborn sense of honor.
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