peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 09 30 BlueCollar

Blue Collar (1978)

/noise/movies | Link

Paul Schrader's directorial debut. He co-wrote it with his brother Leonard Schrader, basing it on raw material by Sydney A. Glass. It's far better than his other late-1970s post-Taxi Driver efforts as he extracts a lot of humour from the scenario, perhaps because he directed his own script. Casting Richard Pryor in the lead also helped.

There's industrial unrest on the auto lines in sunny Detroit and everyone has money problems that take many screen minutes to set up. (In this century we can safely just assume that nobody needs a reason for wanting more money.) Partying helps but leads to a harebrained scheme to rob the union that has been robbing them. Maybe. Things go a little pear shaped and the status quo ante is reestablished with some of the names changed. Pryor is often hilarious but quietens down as things get serious. Fearless loose cannon Yaphett Kotto is fantastic. Harvey Keitel does OK but his character is a numpty. Ed Begley Jr. was in there somewhere.

This perhaps opened the door to the style of workplace sitcom later mined by David Mamet and others (humour, well-observed specifics, outre plot). Things got entertainingly Office Space when one frustrated labourer skewered a thieving Coke machine with a Toyota forklift ("16th time you bastard!"). But of course we saw something similar in Doctor Strangelove a decade and a half prior.

Roger Ebert: four stars. An update of On the Waterfront. A stunning debut. Vincent Canby. A poor man's On the Waterfront. Corruption but not as a matter of conscience. A pop tune with a big beat. Contains a certain amount of intellectual confusion.