Jack Nicholson and Otis Young star as hardened naval officers ordered to escort raw recruit Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) to start an eight-year sentence for theft. But, discovering he’s had absolutely no worldly experience, the pair decide it is their duty to teach him a few practical lessons before he’s jailed.
Hal Ashby’s comedy drama sees Meadows introduced to liquor, brawling with some Marines and, when his escorts realise he’s a virgin, visiting a brothel. But as he becomes more worldly and realises what he’ll be missing, Meadows repays their trust by making a dash for freedom…
What seems a slim plot is turned into a picaresque comedy-drama thanks to Robert Towne’s Oscar-nominated script and Nicholson and Quaid’s performances (also Oscar-nominated), with excellent support from Young. Particularly praised was Nicholson: New Yorker called it, ‘the best full scale part he’s had. It’s very funny but it’s programmed to wrench your heart though – it’s about the blasted lives of people who discover their humanity too late.’
USA | 105 minutes | 1973
Director: Hal Ashby
Writer: Robert Towne, from Darryl Ponsican’s novel
Jack Nicholson as SM1 Billy ‘Bad Ass’ Buddusky
Otis Young as GM1 ‘Mule’ Mulhall
Randy Quaid as Seaman Larry Meadows
Clifton James as M. A. A.
Kathleen Miller as Annette
Gerry Salsberg as Henry
Nancy Allen as Nancy
Don Charles McGovern as Bartender
Pat Hamilton as Madame
Gilda Radner as Nichiren Shoshu Member
Michael Moriarty as Marine O. D.
Carol Kane as Young Whore
Luana Anders as Donna
Hal Ashby as Bearded Man at Bar (uncredited)