Brewster McCloud

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The shocking amount of Robert Altman's consistently excellent work in the early 1970s remains a daunting Hollywood achievement. Making MASH at the turn of the decade (as Nixon escalated the war) would have been enough. But to follow that up with such stunners as the elegiac, Leonard Cohen--scored Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), the trippy detective tale The Long Goodbye (1973) and Altman's grand statement, Nashville (1975), makes you wonder whether the director wasn't some kind of space alien.

Another wonderful part about examining this period is discovering that Altman's "minor" films were weird, little masterpieces too. Brewster McCloud (1970), made just after MASH, represents the kind of kooky, Pynchonesque fantasy that would briefly dominate the genrescape before Star Wars. Bud Cort, later the boy-star of Harold and Maude, is our titular hero, constructing a (functioning?) set of human wings in the then-newish Houston Astrodome. A cute usherette (Shelley Duvall) beckons, while priggish "supercop" Frank Shaft (a dryly satiric Michael Murphy) closes in on the illegalities.

It's hard to believe this singular movie even got made, a testament to Altman's artistic freedom---and the reason why it's never before been on DVD. To the rescue: Warner Archive (warnerarchive.com), an online initiative where you special-order the disc instead of them mass-producing it. Ours arrived no-frills, just a beautiful widescreen transfer and the trailer. That's plenty.

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By: Joshua Rothkopf

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