The Osterman Weekend
Most directors' final effort ranks among their worst Sam Peckinpah gives this notion some weight with his 1983 effort The Osterman Weekend. Considered confusing and dreary, it's hard not to agree that Peckinpah had a lame duck and did this job as a gun-for-hire, hoping to worm his way back into directing after Convoy (1978) tanked and left him unemployed for five years. Derived from the Robert Ludlum thriller, the movie follows investigative reporter John Tanner ('80s B-movie legend Rutger Hauer), who is told by CIA agents Lawrence Faccet (John Hurt) and head honcho Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster) that his three best friends from college are now dealing secrets to the KGB. About to have another one of their get-togethers (called "Osterman weekends," hence the title), the event brings Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon), Richard Treymane (Dennis Hopper), and Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson) to Tanner's house, where the CIA have set up cameras in each room, hoping to use Tanner to get the men to confess and betray their spymasters. Things get complicated when Tanner isn't sure of Faccet's agenda, while a simmering tension between the old chums is bubbling under the surface. The tension is heightened by the men's odd relationships with their spouses: Tanner and his wife Ali (Meg Foster) seem strained, while Richard's wife Virginia (Helen Shaver) is addicted to cocaine, and Bettie Cardone (Cassie Yates) comes across as just shrewish (Osterman is unmarried). The Osterman Weekend has been called confusing, and that's not fair: The conclusion is easily followed it just doesn't make a lot of character-sense. That noted, the picture is filled with all sorts of minor pleasures. First and foremost is the wonderful cast; Peckinpah was a master of casting, and there's enough talent in this film to go around. And though the movie doesn't hang together, there are two sequences where Peckinpah shows why he's considered a master filmmaker: The first is a car chase that becomes another one of his brilliant moment-by-moment action deconstructions, the second a tense sequence where the boys are trying to have fun, but the unspoken unease reaches a crescendo while they're playing childish games in the pool. Also of note is the film's fascination with spying and manipulating what people say to one's own end, but these elements only point out how much better Francis Coppola's The Conversation is. Anchor Bay has released The Osterman Weekend in a two-disc special edition. The first disc features the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 Surround, DTS, and the original monaural audio. Disc One also features a commentary by Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle and Nick Redman. Disc Two features Peckinpah's first cut of the film, which has seven sequences that were altered and can be skipped to for those curious (the transfer of this material is subpar, but surely the only way it exists). The main supplement of the second disc is the 78-min. documentary From Alpha to Omega, offering interviews with pretty much everyone involved who's still alive (conspicuously absent is Dennis Hopper). Also included is the theatrical trailer, a still gallery and a Peckinpah bio. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case with paperboard slipcase.