Straight Time

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Straight Time
Straight time.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byUlu Grosbard
Produced byStanley Beck
Tim Zinnemann
Dustin Hoffman
Screenplay byAlvin Sargent
Edward Bunker
Jeffrey Boam
Nancy Dowd
Michael Mann
Based onNo Beast So Fierce
by Edward Bunker
StarringDustin Hoffman
Harry Dean Stanton
Gary Busey
Theresa Russell
M. Emmet Walsh
Kathy Bates
Music byDavid Shire
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited bySam O'Steen
Randy Roberts
First Artists
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • March 18, 1978 (1978-03-18) (U.S.)
Running time
114 minutes
Box office$9,900,000[1]

Straight Time is a 1978 American crime drama film directed by Ulu Grosbard and starring Dustin Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh and Kathy Bates.

Plot summary[edit]

Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman), lifelong thief, is released from a six-year stint in prison and forced to report to a boorish and condescending parole officer, Earl Frank (M. Emmet Walsh).

One of the conditions of parole is that Max finds a job. At the employment agency, he meets Jenny Mercer (Theresa Russell), who helps him land scale-wage work at a can factory. Jenny accepts his invitation to dinner, where it's clear that she is smitten by this worldly and seemingly gentle ex-con.

Earl pays a surprise visit to Max's room, finding a book of matches that Max's friend Willy Darin (Gary Busey) recently used to cook heroin. Although Max clearly has no track marks or other signs of drug abuse, he is handcuffed and dragged back to jail, out of a job and a home. Jenny visits him and gives him her number to call when he gets out.

After urine tests prove he's clean, Max is picked up by a smug Earl, who feels he actually gave Max a break by not pursuing the fact that someone had been using drugs in his place of residence, which would result in three more years in prison. During their car ride to a halfway house, Earl pushes Max to name the user. Max, realizing he will never get a break, pummels Earl, takes control of his car, and handcuffs him to a highway divider fence with his pants around his ankles.

This stunt now makes straight life impossible. Max returns to a life of crime, robbing a Chinese grocery store and planning bigger heists with some willing old accomplices. After robbing a bank together, Max and his friend Jerry Schue (Harry Dean Stanton) decide to up the ante and clean out a Beverly Hills jewelry store. The job is botched when Max takes too long in trying to steal everything. Willy, acting as getaway driver, panics and takes off, leaving Max and Jerry to flee on foot as police converge on the store.

Jerry is shot and dies, while Max shoots a police officer. Max escapes with the loot, settles the score with Willy by killing him, and escapes L.A. with a loyal Jenny by his side. Outside the city limits, though, Max has second thoughts as to their prospects on the lam. He decides to leave Jenny at a gas station for her own good, telling her he will be caught no matter what as he drives away.



The screenplay was written by Alvin Sargent, Edward Bunker and Jeffrey Boam, based on Bunker's novel No Beast So Fierce. Dustin Hoffman was the director of the film when shooting began, but ultimately decided to give up that role, resulting in Grosbard being hired.[2][3]

This film both starred Gary Busey and introduced his seven-year-old son Jake. It was the second film for actress Theresa Russell; it also featured an early screen appearance by Kathy Bates. Busey went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor as the lead in The Buddy Holly Story which was one of three films released between March and May of 1978 in which he had a leading role; the other two were Straight Time and Big Wednesday. Russell’s film career includes roles in Impulse and Whore. Bates would win the Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe Award, playing deranged nurse Annie Wilkes in the Rob Reiner film Misery, as well as thirteen Emmy award nominations for her work in television.

Film location[edit]

Filmed at The Burbank Studios, California. (Ref: Film Credits)


  1. ^ "Straight Time". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ Foden, Giles (March 2, 2012). "The Tao of Hoffman". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  3. ^ Knight, Chris (January 18, 2013). "Actor-turned-director Dustin Hoffman on the 'awesome' experience of making Quartet". The National Post. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2013.

External links[edit]