We’ve all heard of Robert Downey, Jr. Between his time as a Brat Packer back in the ’80s with films like Weird Science and Less Than Zero, to his his drug abuse troubles not long after, to his comeback in 2008 as Marvel’s Iron Man, the guy is recognizable to nearly everyone. But, how many of you know about his director dad, Robert Downey, Sr.? This guerrilla filmmaker was a sounding board in the 1960s, creating films that slapped Americans in the face with outrageous satire and societal agendas with his opinions on the counterculture of the time. Vinegar Syndrome remembers, and they are celebrating Downey’s accomplishments with a 4K restoration of his film, Putney Swope (1969).
Putney Swope, the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm, is accidentally put in charge after the sudden death of the chairman of the board: prevented by the company by-laws to vote for themselves, in a secret ballot, most board members voted for the one person they thought could not win: Putney Swope.
Renaming the business “Truth and Soul, Inc.”, Swope replaces all but one of the white employees with blacks and insists they no longer accept business from companies that produce alcohol, tobacco or toy guns. The success of the business draws unwanted attention from the United States government, which considers it “a threat to the national security.”
If you can’t tell by the synopsis, Putney Swope was a controversial film when it was released amid the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and would still get the back hairs up of many people today. I can’t describe it any better than this (from Bill Weber and Jake Cole at Slant Magazine):
“Downey’s mix of rapid cuts, handheld location shooting, and improv-like narrative digressions still makes for an engaging fusion of experimentalism fused with the showmanship of a vaudevillian.”
So, now that you know about the controversial subject matter and Downey’s opinion on it, how does the Blu-ray fare?
This restoration is simply gorgeous. The depth and detail shown through this Vinegar Syndrome release is breathtaking. If you can tear yourself away from the contentious storyline, you’ll see crystal clear imagery and revel in the distinct, luculent audio. The film stars the late Arnold Johnson (Menace To Society 1993) as Putney Swope, a man caught up in the white man’s world only to discover that the power behind it all can be frighteningly fickle.
From the Blu-ray case:
Considered one of the masterpieces of the late ’60s counterculture cinema, Robert Downey, Sr.’s (Greaser’s Palace 1972) Putney Swope remains a vital cinematic satire on race, politics and pop culture. Featuring a supporting performance from character actor Allen Garfield (Nashville 1975) alongside a cameo of Mel Brooks (Spaceballs 1987), Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present the world Blu-ray debut of Putney Swope in a stunning new 4k restorations created by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Film Foundation.
Get your copy of Putney Swope right here!
Not only will you get a copy of the Blu-ray and DVD, but these special features are also included:
- Newly scanned & restored in 4k from various 35mm pre-print elements.
- Audio commentary with Director Robert Downey, Sr.
- Video interview with Robert Downey, Sr. from 2001 Robert Downey, Sr. on Putney Swope
- Video interview with Robert Downey, Sr. from 2008 Robert Downey, Sr. on Putney Swope
- Q&A from the film’s screening at the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival
- Audio interview with Cinematographer Gerald Cotts
- Audio commentary from Film Critic Sergio Mims
- Original theatrical trailer
- Massive archival article & promo gallery
- Reversible cover artwork
- English SDH subtitles
Is Putney Swope your kind of movie? Will you be picking up this glorious 4k restoration from Vinegar Syndrome? Let us now in the comments!