Joe (1970 film)
|Directed by||John G. Avildsen|
|Produced by||David Gil (producer)
Yoram Globus (executive producer)
|Written by||Norman Wexler|
|Music by||Bobby Scott|
|Cinematography||John G. Avildsen|
|Editing by||George T. Norris|
|Distributed by||Cannon Films (original)
|Release dates||July 15, 1970|
|Running time||102 mins UK
107 mins Norway
Joe is a 1970 Academy Award nominated drama film distributed by Cannon Films and starring Peter Boyle, Dennis Patrick, and Susan Sarandon in her film debut. The film was directed by John G. Avildsen.
Advertising executive Bill Compton (Patrick), his wife Joan (Audrey Caire), and daughter Melissa (Sarandon) are a wealthy family living in New York's Upper East Side. Melissa has recently been living with her drug dealer boyfriend. After Melissa overdoses and is sent to a hospital, Compton goes to her boyfriend's apartment to get her clothes. Compton then kills the boyfriend in a fit of rage.
Shaken, he grabs a bag of the boyfriend's drugs, flees from the apartment, and goes to calm down in a local bar. There, he hears factory worker Joe Curran (Boyle) ranting about how he hates hippies, and repeatedly saying, "I'd love to kill one." Compton, unable to restrain himself, blurts out "I just did," then fakes a smile once he realizes he has just made a public confession. Joe appears to believe Compton's statement at first, but then takes it as a joke.
A few days later, Joe sees a news report about a drug dealer being murdered a few blocks from the bar. He immediately realizes Compton is the one who did it. Joe, a deeply disturbed man with a hidden violent streak, arranges a meeting with Compton, and the two form a very strange friendship. Compton tells Joe about the phoniness and emptiness of his smug rich friends, while Joe holds Compton in high esteem for doing what Joe could not bring himself to do: kill a rebellious youth. Joe takes Compton to meet Joe's blue-collar friends at a bowling alley, and Compton brings Joe to a bar frequented by advertising executives.
After a very awkward dinner among Joe, Compton, and their wives, Compton tells Joan, who is concerned that Joe might blackmail Compton, that she need not worry because Joe so identifies with Compton that Joe feels as if he were a willing accomplice to the murder. Melissa, having escaped from the hospital and returned to the family apartment, overhears her father confess to the murder. Storming out of the apartment house, she asks her father, "What are you gonna do, kill me too?" Compton tries to restrain her, but she breaks away.
With Melissa missing, Joe and Compton begin to search for her. During their search, they meet a group of hippies at a bar in downtown Manhattan. Joe and Compton tell the hippies they have drugs (the drugs Compton took from Melissa's boyfriend). The hippies invite Joe and Compton to join them at an apartment, where they share their drugs and girlfriends with the pair. They then abscond with the remainder of the drugs, as well as Joe's and Compton's wallets.
When he discovers this theft, Joe beats one of the girls until she tells him that their boyfriends often spend time in an upstate commune. Joe and Compton drive to that commune, and Joe brings along some rifles and plenty of ammunition, "just to scare them." When they see the hippie thieves and demand their wallets back, one of the thieves tosses the pair their now empty wallets and begins to run away. Joe shoots the thief and goes on a rampage, firing at everyone in the commune. Compton protests, but Joe ignores him, mowing down anyone in his path — including people who had no involvement in the theft.
When a new group of hippies arrives at the door and Joe is out of ammo, Joe encourages Compton to join in. Compton shoots and kills several of them, and a girl in the group flees out of the building. Compton runs to the doorway and fires at the fleeing girl's back, hitting her. As she falls, she is revealed to be Melissa. Compton cries out her name and he hears in his mind, once again, her voice asking, "What are you gonna do, kill me too?"
Joe also featured an original soundtrack, introducing artists such as Exuma with the song "You Don't Know What's Going On", Dean Michaels' "Hey Joe" (not a version of the song made famous by the Leaves, Jimi Hendrix, and others), and other original songs by Jerry Butler and Bobby Scott.
The film has garnered both critical acclaim and box office success. Produced on a tight budget of only $106,000, it grossed over $19.3 million in the United States, making it the 13th highest grossing film of 1970. Joe received mostly positive reviews from critics, earning an 86% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Norman Wexler's screenplay received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Arville Garland — a real-life "Joe"
Ten weeks before Joe was released in the United States, a real-life mass murder with similarities to the movie's climactic scenes occurred in Detroit, Michigan. At about 2 a.m. on 8 May 1970, a railroad worker named Arville Douglas Garland (b. 21 September 1924 - d. 26 April 2004) walked into Stonehead Manor, a "student-hippie residence" near the campus of Wayne State University, and killed his 17-year-old daughter Sandra, her 18-year-old boyfriend Scott Kabran, and their friends Gregory Walls (17) and Anthony Brown (16). Sandra Garland, Arville's oldest child, had graduated from high school at age 16. She was a resident at Stonehead Manor and was in her third semester of pre-med classes at the university.
Garland brought with him a 9mm pistol, a Luger — both of which he used during the crime — and two pocketfuls of extra ammunition. After shooting Sandra and her friends, he began reloading the guns as he went in search of Sandra's roommate, Donna Sue Potts. It was then that his wife Martha — who had ridden along with him, expecting that they would merely retrieve their daughter and take her home — forced him to leave the building. She then insisted that he turn himself in to the police.
Although the Time Magazine articles from 1970 and 1971 repeat Garland's claim that he shot Sandra accidentally as a result of striking Scott Kabran in the head with one of the guns, the Detroit Free Press in its 2000 book The Detroit Almanac claims that Garland actually "fired repeatedly into Sandra's sleeping body." The book also quotes Martha Garland regarding her daughter's murder: "Sandra was our princess. If we wouldn't have loved her so much, it never would have happened."
During pre-trial deliberations, Judge Joseph A. Gillis saw Joe and strongly advised both the prosecution and defense teams to do the same. He then carefully screened each member of the jury pool and excluded any who had seen the movie. He also forbade any seated juror from watching the movie or discussing it with anyone who had seen it.
On 18 December 1970, Garland was sentenced to one count of manslaughter (10 to 15 years) and three counts of second degree murder (10 to 40 years for each count). Gillis allowed the four sentences to run concurrently.
Before and after sentencing, Garland received hundreds of letters from parents across the country who expressed sympathy with him. It was also reported that during the first weeks after his sentencing, he received no letters expressing outrage or condemnation of his actions.
When Peter Boyle saw audience members cheering the violence in Joe, he refused to appear in any other film or television show that glorified violence. This included the role of Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971). The role would earn Gene Hackman the Oscar for Best Actor. Boyle later appeared in Taxi Driver. This film inspired the creation of other tough, working class characters in 70s films and TV shows, including the character of Archie Bunker on the TV show All in the Family.
In the 1980s, there were rumors that Peter Boyle might appear in a sequel to Joe. Citizen Joe, the sequel would follow Joe as he tried to rebuild his life after spending 10 years in prison and would also deal with his grown up kids who held more liberal beliefs, as Arville Garland had. The film never materialized, however, despite an error printed in The Guardian, which was later corrected, saying the film has been made. Cannon Films periodically took out ads for unmade sequels to Joe. In 1980, Cannon promised Joe II then, in 1985, announced the coming of Citizen Joe: The man has changed but the times have not. . . . He's back.
- "Box Office Information for Joe". The Numbers. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
- "Box Office Information for Joe". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 19, 2012.
- Oliver, Myrna (August 26, 1999). "Norman Wexler; Oscar-Nominated Writer". The Los Angeles Times.
- Maçek III, J.C. (2 August 2013). "From the Zombie Hoards to the Successfully Bankrupt: The First Year of 'The Next Reel'". PopMatters.
- Nystrom, Derek (2004), "Hard Hats and Movie Brats: Auteurism and the Class Politics of the New Hollywood", Cinema Journal, Vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 18–41.
- Perlstein, Rick (2008). Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-4302-5.
- "Joe, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Time Magazine, "Crime: Joe and Arville" 07 December 1970. Accessed 2009-09-09.
- Time Magazine: "The Nation: Sympathy" 25 January 1971. Accessed 2009-09-10.
- Gavrilovich, Peter, and Bill McGraw, eds. The Detroit Almanac: 300 Years of Life in the Motor City. Detroit: Detroit Free Press, 2000. ISBN 0-937247-34-0
- "The Nation: Sympathy". Time. Jan. 25, 1971.
- Hoberman, J. (July 30, 2000). "FILM; Off the Hippies: 'Joe' and the Chaotic Summer of '70". The New York Times.
- Bergan, Ronald (14 December 2006). "Peter Boyle Scene-stealer who put on the Ritz as a monstrous foil to Young Frankenstein". The Guardian.
- "Joe (1970); Early Impressions". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
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