B&W, 1965, 92 mins. 40 secs.
Directed by Arthur Penn
Starring Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield, Franchot Tone, Teddy Hart, Jeff Corey, Kamatari Fujiwara
Indicator (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

For Mickey Oneproof Mickey Onethat studio films in the '60s were weirder and braver than any other decade, look no further than Mickey One, the film director Arthur Penn made with star Warren Beatty before they became a worldwide sensation with Bonnie and Clyde two years later. Fresh off of being canned from United Artists' The Train, Penn found a home at Columbia for this surreal, audacious sort-of-crime film that became a major box office disappointment but also earned a fervent cult following -- with good reason.

A fractured opening sequence plunges us into the life of a nameless Detroit comic (Beatty) who thinks he's gotten a little too close to the local mob and its murderous, money-extorting activities. Following a traumatic encounter in a junkyard, he decides to erase his identity in Chicago and assumes the name of Mickey One, a vagrant no one will remember. Soon he's rising back up in the comedy world thanks to a cocky talent agent (Picture of Dorian Gray's Hatfield) and a savvy agent (Hart), and he even finds romance with the pretty Jenny (Day for Night's Stewart). However, his demons either real or imagined don't seem to want to let him go.

Heavily symbolic Mickey OneMickey Oneand filled with elliptical dialogue, Mickey One is a far cry from the splashy Hollywood productions and prestigious British crossover hits that were pulling in audiences just before the counterculture started to explode. It's a loose, strange, jazzy film, percolating with a terrific soundtrack by Eddie Sauter (who later scored many Night Gallery episodes) and a great eye for bit players and oddball character actors. The biggest stumbling block here is actually Beatty, who feels a little too young and awkward in some of his line deliveries, but he's always watchable and certainly doesn't embarrass himself. Try it on a double bill with John Frankenheimer's Seconds for a look at how radically studio films could have transformed had paranoid, experimental visions like this actually found an audience at the time.

Despite its pedigree and the fact that it laid the groundwork for one of the most influential American films ever made, Mickey One paid for its box office sins for decades and never even earned a home video release until it was given a gorgeous but half-hearted DVD-R release in 2010 from Sony. Fortunately the 2017 dual-format Blu-ray and DVD release from Indicator is more like it, with the Blu-ray looking especially impressive with a typically pristine Sony catalog HD transfer that's up with the best of their work so far. The LPCM mono Mickey Oneaudio also sounds superb and does justice to that jazzy score, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. The film can also be played with a 1981 Guardian interview with Penn and moderator Richard combs at the National Film Theatre, which covers the range of his career to that point with a detailed discussion of his TV beginnings and some of his most Mickey Onepivotal films (including Bonnie and Clyde, of course). Penn still seems a bit chafed at the fate of this film in America and seems a bit annoyed now at how "derivative" it is of European art films, but fortunately that aspect has actually dated quite well. A new interview with Stewart (18m35s) covers her early career and her adoration of Penn, including the noted influence of French New Wave films on this production (thus the choice of Bresson cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet), while a second with Penn's son Matthew (19m31s) also touches on the French influence and the film's unique significance in his father's work early in his career. The theatrical trailer is featured along with a Trailers from Hell version featuring an appreciation by Joe Dante (who was very taken with it at the age of 19), while a gallery of 27 production stills and soundtrack and poster art is also included. The 3,000-unit limited edition also contains another of the label's beautifully presented booklets containing a new essay by NIck Pinkerton, a sampling of vintage critical reviews, and press pieces on the production.

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Reviewed on August 13, 2017.