Charles Willeford's adaptation of his own novel, shot on authentic locations, with Oates as the obsessive trainer of prize fighting cocks who undertakes a vow of silence after the defeat of his best bird. Even bleaker than Two Lane Blacktop, what emerges is what Phil Hardy has called 'one of the most explicit studies of repression that the American cinema has produced' (competitiveness as a substitute for sex). Its commercial failure in the States was hardly surprising. Hellman's films, always terminal in their implications, have been edging closer and closer to self-destruction. Cockfighter in many ways carries the stamp of a 'last' movie. Indeed, Hellman has directed only one since.