The Landlord DVD Release!

Brilliant interracial comedy drama makes UK home entertainment debut

Fans of New Hollywood are in for a treat this week with the long overdue DVD release (thanks to StudioCanal) of 1970’s sorely undervalued The Landlord, directed by the late, great Hal Ashby. Best known for Harold And Maude, The Last Detail, Coming Home and Being There (plus nominally Shampoo, which in essence was helmed by star/producer Warren Beatty and writer Robert Towne), for his first feature Ashby turned Kristin Hunter’s ‘novel that breaks the colour barrier’ into a freewheeling yet emotionally acute social satire on race relations, adapted for the screen by its author and fellow African-American scribe Bill Gunn.

Beau Bridges plays moneyed man-child Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders, who finally leaves home at the age of 29 and purchases an apartment building in then-ghettoised Brooklyn. Intending to evict the black tenants and construct a luxurious house for himself, our ignorant protagonist instead falls for two local residents, Lanie (Marki Bey) and Fanny (Diana Sands), much to the chagrin of the latter’s activist husband Copee (an early role for Louis Gossett, Jr). He also has to confront the ingrained prejudices of his parents (Walter Brooke and Oscar-nominated Lee Grant), not to mention a bourgeois-hippie sister (Susan Anspach). Beautifully shot and boasting fearless performances all round, this very funny picture also has a bittersweet prescience: the Park Slope neighbourhood depicted would indeed undergo a thorough gentrification over the coming decades.

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