View Full Version : DEAD PRESIDENTS (Allen & Albert Hughes, 1995)

Paul A J Lewis
07-08-2010, 11:06 AM

Inspired by the furore surrounding MENACE II SOCIETY in the UK, which was more than a little controversial over here and came at a time when the BBFC seemed to be tightening their leash on violent films, I remember keenly anticipating the release of DEAD PRESIDENTS and, when the film was released in the UK during 1996, I wasn't disappointed. I thought it was a tremendous film.

I never acquired the Criterion LaserDisc, although I had a LaserDisc player at the time and remember seeing it for sale in a specialist shop and in a number of mail order catalogues; at that time in my life, I only had the pennies to collect a very limited range of (expensive) import LDs, and I seem to remember passing over the DEAD PRESIDENTS LD for the Criterion LD release of Cronenberg's CRASH and the gorgeously-packaged US LD release of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. I definitely coveted that LD release of DEAD PRESIDENTS though, because it seemed to be packed to the gills with extra features.

Anyway, apologies for the anecdotage, but I haven't seen DEAD PRESIDENTS since its first release. I picked up the UK (flipper) DVD for next to nought in the first couple of years of the DVD format (1999/2000?), but due to my aversion to flipper discs and my hope that the film would get a special edition release I have never watched the disc.

However, I would go out on a limb and say that although I've only seen the film once, it was one of the best American films that I saw during that decade. I believe it's acquired something of a cult reputation over the years too, and I don't understand why the film hasn't been given a special edition DVD release. The Criterion LD apparently contained some good contextual material, which in a just world would make its way on to a DVD release.

With the DVD release of the Hughes' THE BOOK OF ELI (and the extras-laden Blu-ray release of the director's cut of MENACE II SOCIETY), I'm surprised that no company has revisited DEAD PRESIDENTS: all of the available DVDs seem to be barebones. Or is there something I'm missing? Is there any suggestion of DEAD PRESIDENTS being rereleased on DVD in the near future?

Any thoughts on the film? Has anyone seen the Criterion LD? Any news of a better DVD release?

I think I might order a second hand copy of the LD off eBay ;)


Evan C. Price
07-08-2010, 01:06 PM
It's decent. I think the Hughes Bros. seem a little too impressed with themselves considering how derivative the film is (of Scorsese, Cimino, and John Woo). I do admire the focus on African Americans returning from Vietnam, and it's probably more successful than THE WALKING DEAD.

The performances are all over the place. Larenz Tate tries hard but I don't think had the range for his tortured, angry protagonist, and Chris Tucker is just riffing on his usual obnoxious black stereotype. Some of the supporting players -- Keith David, Rose Jackson as Anthony's high school sweetheart Juanita, Clifton Powell as pimp Cutty, and Terrence Howard as a poolhall regular who taunts Anthony -- are superb.

Gary Oldman originally had a cameo as a priest in the Vietnam section; not sure if the laserdisc restores his scene.

Steve R
07-08-2010, 02:01 PM
This one really surprised me. I had already dismissed it based on the ad campaign and figuring it would just another clone of life in the South Central.

I was dead wrong.

Though not entirely successful at all, I loved the time period it was set it, the attention to detail, the music and ambience of the vietnam era urban culture.
I dug the way it stated on the main character's plight and his struggle to make anything out of his life. Being a noir fan, his falling for and being led into the bank heist by the babe was fine with me. Sure its a cinema sure thing, but they made it fit the times well.

Again not a top shelf film at all, but very enjoyable, especially it you know that vibe from that era. They captured it very well and you don't see black culture, at least from that time, given much attention in recent films. I also admit I liked it all the better for stumbling on it. Cool title, too. You know they liked Cool Breeze (which is a remake, but don't tell anyone).

John G.
07-08-2010, 02:51 PM
I thought this was one of the best films of the 90s. I wish Criterion would give it a good DVD release.

Adam A
07-08-2010, 03:10 PM
I love everything about it, and own the soundtracks. Watched it 3 times in the theater, and at least 30 times on video & dvd. Easily one of the best films of the 90s.

Matthew BB
07-08-2010, 03:35 PM
I know many younger people who became heavily interested in soul/funk because of those soundtrack cds. Haven't seen this film since it first came out on video, but I do remember liking it. Particularly Keith David and Sticky Fingaz (!).