Plot: Lena (Faye Dunaway) has quite an oil boom on her hands, as her land is rich with crude and while she has a rig to help her collect the black gold, her good fortune has attracted unwanted attention. A corporate interest offers to purchase her land and when she refuses, they dispatch Hellman (Jack Palance) to make sure she either sells out or is driven out of her own home. While Hellman is well funded and has a small militia of henchman to help him, Lena only has the support of her estranged father Cleon (John Mills) and a grumpy drifted named Mase (George C. Scott). Hellman’s crew is willing to do whatever it takes to push Lena off the land, but she is steadfast and soon Mase takes a personal interest in the situation. This leads to a potential romance between Mase and Lena, but with Hellman’s goons always on the march, can the ragtag oil riggers fend off the corporate lackeys?
Entertainment Value: I’ve seen a lot of bad reviews for Oklahoma Crude, but I think it is a fun, rough and tumble movie that has some western flavor, but is also just plain off the wall at times. I think the characters are what made me like it so much, but the story is competent as well and feels in line with similar oil boom films, though perhaps a little grittier in some ways. The movie assembles a solid core of talent and then unleashes them into this tale of melodrama, romance, and dysfunction, which also includes gun battles, family drama, and of course, urinating on one’s rivals. I love the banter in Oklahoma Crude, as everyone seems so direct and confrontational, which creates the kind of exchanges I live for. Just blunt conversations soaked in melodrama and total dysfunction, all delivered by great actors in colorful roles, that alone was enough to make me a fan of this one. I also appreciate that the story and the characters in specific take some interesting and unexpected turns, especially in regard to the potential romance that surfaces. The production values are rock solid and capture the kind of wild and wooly atmosphere that makes the roughshod characters feel at home, while the visuals follow suit in that regard. I had a great time with Oklahoma Crude, so I give it a strong recommendation.
The story, locale, and atmosphere are all key elements in Oklahoma Crude, but I think the real draw and driving force is the cast. The prominent performers are all given colorful, interesting roles to bring to life, which they do with enthusiasm and even when the material requires some oddball touches, the cast delivers. The rough and rugged nature of the movie fits the key players like a glove, with George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway, Jack Palance, and John Mills all up to the task. I think Scott is the standout, but everyone rises to make the most of the dialogue and chances to shine. The character interactions are what push the movie, as each way the characters are lined up offers great potential and the cast makes all the configurations work. But to me, Scott’s scenes with Dunaway are the film’s highlight, as the banter is excellent and the romantic angle isn’t the usual tropes at work. His scenes with Palance can also be quite memorable, but Scott and Dunaway tend to steal the show. The cast also includes Ted Gehring, William Lucking, and Rafael Campos.
The Disc: Twilight Time’s Blu-ray disc provides a solid, sharp presentation that makes the old made on demand DVD obsolete. The print looks clean, but still has the grit that matches the movie’s rugged texture. The colors look natural, with a warm slant as the visual design needs, while detail levels are rock solid and offer much improved clarity over the old disc. I’m thrilled Oklahoma Crude finally has a worthy visual treatment and I’m sure other fans will be as well. The extras include audio comments from a pair of film historians, as well as the film’s isolated music track.