From Governor's Mansions to Cheap Hotels: The Big Money Sport that's Dirty-Violent and Outside the Law!
A man who trains fighting cocks vows to remain silent until one of his birds wins a championship.
A man who trains fighting cocks vows to remain silent until one of his birds wins a championship.
Warren Oates Richard B. Shull Harry Dean Stanton Ed Begley Jr. Laurie Bird Troy Donahue Warren Finnerty Robert Earl Jones Patricia Pearcy Millie Perkins Steve Railsback Tom Spratley Charles Willeford Pete Munro Kermit Echols Ed Smith Jimmy Williams John Trotter Lois Zeitlin Joe Bentley A.B. Greeson Bob Hannah Sara Rickman Meg Brush Oliver Coleman Donnie Fritts Bobby Dunn Kim Bernard Ank Carleton Show All…
"I didn't watch those poor chickens fight, I watched your face. No pity, no love, nothing. I bet that bird had more of a heart than you ever will have."
In a way, the movie almost doesn't make sense unless one is aware that the source material began as a sort of interpolation of The Odyssey - this is perhaps because of the extended chicken-fighting sequences (mandated by Corman) while not wholly unnecessary - especially when given the title - but like most even slightly-compromised films, this on occasion throws the film off balance (and I admit makes this at times a bit of a slog) - but this doesn't necessarily negate the value of the work: compromise only necessates…
My uncle Richard was a stunt coordinator for this movie and assured me no penises were harmed during production.
Finally imported the Japanese blu-ray and watching the film in a higher quality has opened it up in numerous ways. This film is absolutely gorgeous, and in many ways feels like Hellman's spiritual follow-up to Two-Lane Blacktop. America as both friend and enemy of the drifter. Hellman trades in the world of racing for cockfighting, and in both cases digs deep beneath the surface to reveal universal truths and mythic fates.
The final cockfight is exhilarating, one of the greatest sequences I've ever seen in a movie. This is the first scene in the film where the bloodshed is actively focused on, and in the process Hellman recontextualizes the spectators furthering the brutality of the fight. During a fight earlier…
"He came into town with his cock in hand and what he did with it was illegal in 49 states."
That was the legendary strap line for this curio from the 70s and it should also be noted that as far as I'm aware this film is still technically illegal in the UK - it was refused a cinema release as well as I believe any subsequent home video and later DVD release because of the film content; namely the graphic depiction of cock fights. The 'no animals were harmed during the making of this motion picture' disclaimer was still a long time off in 1974.
Despite its subject, at heart Monte Hellman's Cockfighter is an amiable enough film the…
I don't want to over-sell this, because it's a modest picture, maybe even a 'little' one... but everything it does, it does perfectly. Low-key, indie-produced, New American Cinema with an unbeatable eye for character and milieu. Deeeep south
EDIT: "Manhood" as a construct is an abstraction I find pret-ty boring, but there's a set of interlocking ironies under the surface here about the whole XX thing, and maintaining agency and self-worth in a stratified society where you weren't dealt any winning cards, that will probably resonate more deeply with repeated viewings; it took me a couple of hours to notice the extent to which those shaped the narrative. Definitely more "Robert Coover" than "Harry Crews."
Over the weekend, I read Don Herron’s biography of Charles Willeford, who has been one of my favorite crime fiction writers for many years. It seemed a good time to finally revisit Monte Hellman’s adaptation of Cockfighter in which Willeford appears in the flesh.
Cockfighter is one of Willeford’s best novels, another thing I’ve been meaning to revisit for a long while. Willeford edited and emended his novel as well as wrote the script for the film, so any variances were his as much as anyone’s. He had a good time on the set, particularly in hanging out with Harry Dean Stanton and Warren Oates, the latter of whom stars as Frank Mansfield, the brutish trainer who has taken a…
"He came into town with his cock in hand, and what he did with it was illegal in 49 states."
Sir Warren Oates defies the idea of acting. Wow! He takes a vow of silence after being disqualified for the "Cockfighter of the Year" award. The man won't talk until wins that Cock. Yeah, symbolism.
Not for cocklovers, for sure, as there many documentary-like cockfighting scenes involving real cocks. Makes Roberto G.'s cockapalooza El Gallo de Oro look rather tame.
It's first and foremost a character study though. And Oates is truly at the top of his game in this one. Hellman clearly understood what this cock was all about.
A road movie about staying still, drifting in loops with a man who goes through life voluntarily mute in a kind of warped monastic devotion to the only thing that gives his marginal existence any meaning. Warren Oates, as ever, excels at playing the wounded, vulnerable roughneck, the rugged man whose symbolic defeat has left him staring across the great expanse of America and seeing only a silent void.
Considering that my previous encounter with Monte Hellman, courtesy of Two-Lane Blacktop, was an experience so dull that I actually considered turning it off and doing work instead, I was not exactly expecting much from Cockfighter.
So I obviously didn’t get too disappointed when this turned out to be shite as well. It is, at least, more lively than Two-Lane Blacktop but then again so is a dead raccoon. But that’s only because it’s full of cockfights. Well if you’re going to call your film Cockfighter then you’d better have some of those in it, I guess.
At its heart it just seems to be the usual ‘man with…
I have to start this by saying I fell asleep about 30 minutes into it so I can't talk about what happened after I nodded off. I'm guessing the ASPCA logo did not run at the end of the film. I was not happy about what I was watching here. I feel the same about watching those Cannibal movies where animals are just killed live on screen. It makes me uncomfortable and I don't like looking at it. I love Warren Oates and Monte Hellman was doing some interesting (and rather odd) things with the camera but I am not sad that I didn't see the end of the film.
born to kill
This time I counted: Laurie Bird has five costume changes. Cockfighting meets the Milan catwalk.
I guess we’ll start with the obvious on this one— the cockfights, of which there are many, are real. 90 percent of the footage appears to be of actuals cocks literally fighting to the death. The other 10 percent comprises some dramatic close-ups with special effects that also feel real— bloody and brutal. Cockfighting is a barbaric pursuit and it is depicted with starkness, all testosterone and blood lust, in Cockfighter. But I would be lying if I said I also did not at least understand the appeal after watching this.
Ultimately, this is nowhere near as good as Hellman’s transcendent Two-Lane Blacktop but it’s fascinating for a few reasons beyond the morbid curiosity of the real cockfighting. One is Warren…
In Hellman’s, Cockfighter, his characters and their community approach the game of cockfighting with a certain class, organization, and etiquette. The funny part is that this facade of decent sport goes by the wayside when more times than not the cockfighters place bets they cannot pay. Cockfighter doesn’t praise or condemn the game of cockfighting which made for a more enjoyable movie... This is cockfighting, this is the life it comes with, and these are the people involved. Little to no judgement, just a movie about Warren Beatty’s character’s road to redemption. Not a movie many will click on because cockfighting may turn over your stomach, but if that isn’t a dealbreaker for you- the movie itself is a solid, quick little piece of cinema. I’d recommend it.
They say that ever sport has its film. This one is about a man who trains chickens to fight and kill. The story is about the end of a run of bad luck for both chickens another trainer. There is a lot of violence in this film, which is probably accurate for this particular sport, if that's what you want to call it. Not to all tastes.
For some reason I went in thinking this was directed by Warren Oates and quickly began to fear the stink of the vanity project. In a movie with a different tone Frank is the kind of bullshit "tragic" character you sometimes see in these New Hollywood movies, where everyone is constantly telling him how great he is and he does whatever he wants whenever he wants but he's "outside society" and no one understands his pain or whatever, so he's taken a vow of silence. But it's really not that kind of movie at all so even though I did find him a pretty dull lead it didn't matter, every other character was…
A highly specific look into a subculture that doesn't pick sides, it leaves it up to you to make up your mind. It gets into honor and ego. No matter what you do, be it moral or immoral, do it to the best of your ability. Be like a monk, keep your mouth shut, and go for the gold. Personal relationships be damned. Real interesting stuff and Oates is on another level here, giving essentially a wordless performance. Great, underrated stuff from the 70s.
Oates is captivating in a standard story wrapped around a controversial topic. It’s fascinating to see the cockfighting culture, a relic of the past.
Almost like seeing the way we used to be allows us to see how far we’ve come. Funny how that works.
Roger Corman produced Southern exploitation film given energy and dramatic weight by director Monte Hellman. Definitely not endorsed by PETA.
Immersive character study of the title "cocks"-man. Even with little dialogue Oates is a spellbinder.
Good exploitation flick. Feels like a sports movie made by Sam Peckinpah.
The movie you want is Two-Lane Blacktop, the spaced out existential floater about a mysterious car and a mysterious driver (James Taylor). This one is about...cockfightng. Charles Willefordd, who wrote the book this is based on, appears in the film briefly as a guy who raises cocks. You should read his amazing memoir, I was Looking For A Street. This is about cockfighting. Warren Oates is great as the asshole lead character who doesn't talk, voluntarily. Laurie Bird is awesome and this is one of only three movies she was in before she committed suicide. Good for Seventies completists (like me) but idk really.
Subject to both awe and revulsion, Cockfighters were truly the competetive Melee players of their time.
If you can look past the animal fighting scenes, this is a very good movie. Roger Corman could not make money from this film on the drive in circuit which is surprising. Truly talented filmmakers making this on the cheap plays better in today’s movie environment. I really enjoyed this.
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