Scarecrow (1973)

Forgotten DVDs


25 June 2018| No Comments on Scarecrow (1973)     by Sean Chavel



We have seen all types of Al Pacino performances that suggest the breadth of his range. I hadn’t seen Scarecrow (1973) since I was 12-years old, but returning to it, I seemed to have gotten the final piece of the puzzle that truly defines the wizardry acting of Pacino, and the wild breadth of his range. Pacino has never really played a dumb character, but here as Lionel the drifter he is one. Really dumb, but done with realistic pathos. The walk is a little boyish, his entry into conversations klutzy as if he wasn’t quite formed for adulthood, a clownishness that is juvenile, and a naivete that explains why he’s been tugged around in life never making committed, focused decisions. This is a giant contrast to the gravitas he brought to “The Godfather” among countless others.

Gene Hackman might possibly give the better performance as Max, the other drifter that Lionel hooks up with (he won the Best Actor Oscar for “The French Connection” two years earlier, but Max was his most favorite character he says he ever played). Max is a ruffian, a blowhard, good with the ladies, but would rather pick a fight first. Lionel might be the first friend he comes across that might tame his belligerent ways.

The two of them hit the road with a two-stop plan. Lionel needs to go to Detroit to see the kid of his he’s never met. Following that, Max will take them to Pittsburgh to collect his savings and loans and, after that, open up a car wash. Do either of these guys know anything about operating a car wash? Probably not, but the two certainly seem to suggest having a strong blue collar work habit.

The film’s problem, as well as its deliberate design, is that it meanders. These guys never get to where they’re going because they lack, ahem, focus. When the two finally get their act together, the film decides to rush things so it can finally get to its dramatic destination. It’s easy to admire the film constantly, you can’t help but hold Pacino and Hackman in high regard for playing these raggedy men, but you also can’t help but sigh because you want them – and the film they’re in – to pick up a little faster. Pacino and Hackman, though, they’re the ones that make this a worthwhile film to succumb to forty-plus years later.

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg (“Panic in Needle Park”), the film shared the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973.

115 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Midnight Cowboy” (1969); “Vagabond” (1986, France); “My Own Private Idaho” (1991); “The Saint of Fort Washington” (1993).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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