DVD Tuesday: Bonnie and Clyde The wild, the beautiful and the damned come to DVD in a new deluxe edition.

It's hard to look at Bonnie and Clyde (1967) today and understand what a visceral shock it was in 1967: We've had 40 years to get used to sympathetic killers, abrupt shifts in tone and serious violence: The road to Natural Born Killers (1994) started with Bonnie and Clyde. And frankly, Bonnie and Clyde is a great movie that holds up four decades later.

Directed by Arthur Penn and written by Robert Benton and David Newman, the film's inspiration was the exploits of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker ( Faye Dunaway), Clyde Barrow ( Warren Beatty) and their gang, makeshift gang, which consisted of Clyde's Brother and sister-in-law ( Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons), and teenager W. D. Jones. The film's C.W. Moss ( Michael J. Pollard) stands in for Jones who was, unlike the rest of the gang, still alive when Bonnie and Clyde was made; he still sued Warner Bros. for invasion of privacy and defamation of character. The suit was still pending when he was shot to death in a brawl (maybe over a woman, maybe drugs) in 1974. Playboy published Jones' lenghthy reminiscence (presumably ghostwritten) of his days with the Barrow Gang in 1968.

Newman and Benton's screenplay recasts Barrow and Parker in light of the '60s counterculture, which isn't as great a stretch or distortion of the truth as some naysayers have suggested. Yes, they were first and foremost bank robbers. But Depression-era America was a place of deep populist discontent with the establishment: The term hadn't been coined yet, but people were angry at the government, heads of industry and bankers, whom they saw as colluding to keep power and wealth for themselves and cut everyone else out.

Parker and Barrow robbed banks and defied the law, which played pretty well to dispossessed farmers, workers whose homes were repossessed after they lost their jobs and couldn't find new ones, and poor folks used to being pushed around by the police. And Bonnie and Clyde understood the media: Dime novelists created the popular images of Western outlaws like Jesse James, but Bonnie and Clyde shaped their own, sending carefully posed photos of themselves to newspapers (check out the real-life, gun-toting Bonnie in a pose Faye Dunaway mimicked in the film), accompanied by Bonnie's self mythologizing doggerel.

The film's glamorization of criminals came in for criticism, and it's certainly true that Dunaway and Beatty were vastly better looking than Bonnie and Clyde. Of course, they're vastly better looker than 95% of the world, which is why they were movie stars.

More seriously, the Barrow gang killed a lot of people, mostly officers of the law; the film doesn't soft-pedal the fact that they were murderers, but it doesn't demonize them, either. Jones just complained that Penn and his screenwriters made life on the run look like more fun than it was: "That Bonnie and Clyde movie made it all look sort of glamorous," he wrote, "but like I told them teenaged boys sitting near me at the drive-in showing: 'Take it from an old man who was there. It was hell.'"

The film's tonal shifts, from near-slapstick comedy to sudden horror, also bothered people, but it's a well thought-out strategy: It captures the way life can change in an instant one moment everything's a lark, and the next moment it's all gone bad. And the violence really bothered many viewers. It's pretty graphic, which I would argue is exactly as it should be: Bonnie and Clyde is about violent lives. In any event, if haven't seen Bonnie and Clyde, now's the time to catch up. And if you have, share you thoughts...

Things to Consider:

How far from the known facts can a movie stray before it turns you off?

Do you think viewers should know that movies are inherently works of fiction unless they're documentaries (and sometimes not even then)?

What do you think of Bonnie and Clyde?

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Previously in DVD Tuesday:


When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
Michael Clayton
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
Shoot 'Em Up
A Mighty Wind


It's a Wonderful Life
All About Eve
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
The Crazies
Blade Runner
A Simple Plan
Taxi Driver
Hot Fuzz
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Citizen Kane
La Jetée
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Bob le Flambeur
Near Dark
Perfect Blue
Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Casino Royale
The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood