Although he has been retired for nearly 20 years, Gene Hackman remains the sort of actor who needs no introduction — an iconic talent of unforgettable power and presence. While his career highlights are also readily known, Hackman’s lengthy career features a wealth of hidden films any fan should check out.
Thankfully, as part of its series focused on actors and directors, Imprint has put together a collection of four such Hackman films from 1970 to 1977. It’s hard to imagine anyone beyond the most die-hard Hackman fans or 1970s-cinema aficionados digging into the set, but those audiences will be thrilled.
I Never Sang For My Father (1970)
Hackman received his second of three Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations for his role in this film as a man who feels guilty about planning to leave his aging father (Melvyn Douglas), with whom he has a complicated relationship. There is certainly some searing meat on the relationship depicted here between a parent and adult child, it delves into some relatively taboo topics, the performances are strong, and Hackman’s Oscar nod was well-deserved. The extras here are light, but Imprint has helped I Never Sang For My Father make its global Blu-ray debut.
Bite the Bullet (1975)
In this Western, Hackman heads into the American West as a Rough Rider seeking a cash prize in a cross-country horse race. Candice Bergen and honourary Australian James Coburn (see The Great Escape) are also here. Bite the Bullet blends the inherent genre excitement with a chronicle of the participants’ physical, mental and moral endurance. While also sparse on extras, it’s a fine addition to the collection.
The Domino Principle (1977)
A silly film most notable for Hackman making it work as well as he does — portraying a prisoner whose pursuit of freedom finds him entangled in a murder-for-hire plot. Still, it has a stacked cast (including an aging Richard Widmark) and direction from Stanley Kramer (On the Beach). For a film about 1970s paranoia, it does not stack up amid its very average piling-on of coincidences and reveals. However, Hackman is good and gets to shoot at people — always a plus.
Notably, Imprint does not skimp on the extras here — offering a brand-new audio commentary from film historian Howard S. Berger, who also provides a video essay on Kramer. There is also a vintage behind-the-scenes feature.
March or Die (1977)
Hackman plays an American Legion commander fallen into alcoholism after World War I and who, in 1920, ventures to Morocco with the French Foreign Legion on a mission to protect archaeologists. It’s certainly a compelling story and Hackman is strong, but the iconic place legion fighters once held in popular culture may not exist any longer. Also: At only 104 minutes, it bears the hallmarks of a picture cut to its bones to fit on as many screens as possible (often shown on a double bill with The Eagle Has Landed, which was financed by the same company). Still, if you’re a fan of war epics, or supporting cast members like Ian Holm and Max von Sydow, and Hackman, there’s much to like. Berger also contributes a commentary here, director Dick Richards offers a video essay, and actor Paul Sherman provides a new interview — a pretty decent load-out for a 46-year-old minor Hackman film.