I recall so many things about seeing this movie back during it's original theatrical release - the post Woodstock afterglow of peace and love, along with the pre-Watergate tension of fear and paranoia. It's hard to believe that it's thirty seven years later, and I can still remember the thoughts going through my head while watching the film with my best friend. Like marveling at Peter Boyle's characterization of the ultimate redneck, sure to typecast him the rest of his career (Oh, how wrong!), and how the counter culture jarred the sensibilities of most of the country. To this day, my buddy and I still use Joe Curran's line from my summary above when faced with a dilemma; curious how a simple line like that can stay with you for decades.
It's curious to read comments about the film from others on this board, particularly the ones stating that the film has a dated quality and how over the top the characters were. Still, if you were around during that time, the picture gives a pretty accurate portrayal of the polar opposites that existed back then, pretty much side by side as the events in the story reveal. If you really want dated, when was the last time you heard the words Macy's and Gimbel's in the same sentence, or a line like Joe's - "Come on, get with the Pepsi generation". For historical perspective, you have that great Nixon poster lingering in one of the background scenes - "Would you buy a used car from this man?" With minor intricacies like those, director John Avildsen captures many of the subtle but ever present hints of how life was four decades ago.
Today's viewing was only the second time I've seen the movie, and I have to admit I don't remember Susan Sarandon in one of the lead roles, but then again, this was her very first picture. The scenes of nudity and free love were something actually quite new and bold at the time, shocking in fact, as film makers began to experiment with their ability to push the envelope of propriety and convention. "Joe" took a major leap in that regard, particularly since it was a 'mainstream' picture.
With the passage of time, the thing that impresses me the most about Peter Boyle was how he overcame the stereotype of Joe Curran to appear in or star in some of my very favorite pieces of work. I mean, how do you go from "Joe" to that hilarious rendition of 'Puttin' on the Ritz' in "Young Frankenstein"? And my absolute favorite episode of 'X-Files' has Boyle as Clyde Bruckman, in both a tender and tragic, funny and serious portrayal that turns the tables on Scully and Mulder more than once. And as a career capper, Frank Barone has to be one of the funniest characters in the history of television. Even repeat episodes in syndication are funny as he-- whenever the elder Barone lets loose with one of his observations. He is one actor that this viewer sorely misses already.