Anchor Bay finally got around last week to releasing The Osterman Weekend on Blu-ray disc. This, as with most things in life, is a mixed blessing.
The Plot In Brief: CIA operative Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) is back at work after his wife is murdered. He outlines a plan to CIA Chief Max Danforth (Burt Lancaster) in which he will persuade tough-as-nails television personality John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) to turn on some college friends, who have all somehow become Soviet spies since graduation. The friends have made a tradition of meeting annually for what they call “Osterman weekends” after one of the pals.
Viewed today, The Osterman Weekend has some interesting things to say about personal privacy in the age of NSA data collection and cell phone cameras. The film is prescient in predicting a future where everyone is under scrutiny at all times and actually goes on to suggest (none too subtly) that the ways we interpret all that data may leave a little something to be desired.
The performances vary. Rutger Hauer appears here the year after he wrapped Blade Runner, and it’s interesting to note how his accent fluctuates throughout the film. Ironically, it’s strongest at the end of the film, which makes me wonder if that was shot first. John Hurt is a reliable villain. Craig T. Nelson sports an outrageous handlebar moustache and unashamedly overacts; yet his character actually starts to become endearing by the film’s conclusion. Dennis Hopper and Chris Sarandon are given practically nothing interesting to do or say—they are wasted in the film (not THAT way), serving as little more than placeholders for characters who may have been better developed in the novel.
We have all heard of actresses with “no nudity clauses” in their contracts, but The Osterman Weekend had me wondering if somehow the producers of this film demanded the opposite. The film features oodles of nudity (n’oodlety!) from all three female leads (Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates, and Meg Foster) that adds nothing to the plot or tone. As a red-blooded American film fan, I do not shrink from nudity (Ha!) but I must say that here I found it distracting. Am I getting old?
Yes! Finally a question we can answer.
The film was not a financial success, and there are certainly many reasons for this. One reason might be the poster (below), which suggests that the titular weekend is a women’s bow-hunting expedition. At least that movie would have a clear narrative! Plus Meg Foster, who’s featured on the poster, isn’t even in the film that much—save for a critical scene that is pretty much (SPOILER ALERT) spoiled by this crappy poster.
In summary, it’s poorly executed, narratively confusing, and sort of unsatisfying… but you still need to see it. C’mon, it’s Peckinpah, babies.
The Osterman Weekend is available at last on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.