Blu-ray Review: Hardcore (1979) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Writer-director Paul Schrader's Hardcore arrives on Blu-ray via Twilight Time as a limited edition (3,000 units issued, standard for the boutique label's titles). What a premise: extremely conservative, Calvinist businessman's teen daughter goes missing, turns up in hardcore pornographic films. The father goes "undercover" as a porno producer in an attempt to locate his missing daughter. And what a wrenching performance by George C. Scott as the father, Jake Van Dorn. His reaction upon first being shown explicit footage of his daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis) is indelible. Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) is the private detective who discovered Kristen's featured role. Jake assumes Andy takes some sort of glee in exposing this sordid tragedy. While Andy denies it, he's not above indulging in the fringe benefits associated with hanging around porn producers.

As Jake delves deeper into the underbelly of the sex industry, he's at first an almost laughable fish out of water. Andy was deemed useless (he got off on the wrong foot with Jake after using foul language and things went downhill immediately thereafter) and summarily dismissed. In Jake's mind, wandering into the nearest massage parlor and flashing a photo of his daughter should be enough to get the ball rolling. Eventually realizing he'll have to dig a lot deeper, he goes so far as to don a cheesy wig and fake mustache as he holds "auditions" for his proposed upcoming film. He meets a variety of unsavory types before striking up an nearly paternal relationship with porn actress and peep show performer Niki (Season Hubley). This element recalls Schrader's Taxi Driver screenplay, yet whereas Travis Bickle seemed to genuinely care about Iris' well-being, here Niki is smart enough to realize she's just a means to an end. 
rsz_hardcore_bdbookletcover.png As engrossing as George C. Scott makes Jake's descent into the adult entertainment industry's subculture, there is a central flaw at the center of Hardcore. Kristen, Jake's daughter, is barely given time to register before she disappears. We don't know anything about her (except that she's apparently sexually inexperienced), nor her relationship with her father. This is Jake's story, not Kristen's. It leaves somewhat of a hole in center of the picture, one which becomes a more obvious problem at the film's conclusion. However, even though it might've been helpful to know more about Kristen and her feelings about her strict Calvinist upbringing, this is far from a fatal flaw. Hardcore remains an emotionally involving experience and is grounded by Scott's tremendous performance.

The Blu-ray presentation is truly impressive, with a 1080p transfer of Michael Chapman's cinematography that is sharp and clean. Chapman is the cinematographer who had previously shot two Schrader-involved films, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (he was also DP on another Twilight Time Limited Edition series release, The Last Detail). At any rate, Hardcore looks absolutely fresh here in a vivid visual presentation. The DTS-HD MA soundtrack is highlighted by the robust, rockin' score by the legendary Jack Nitzsche. Fans of Nitzsche (and in particular this sleaze-rock score) will appreciate the included isolated score track.

A pair of new audio commentaries offer plenty of production information. The highlight is the track featuring writer-director Paul Schrader. The second track, obviously less personal but still packed with info, features film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo. For ordering information visit the official Twilight Time website or Screen Archives.


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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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