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Return of the Secaucus 7

Bruce MacDonald , Maggie Renzi , John Sayles    R (Restricted)   DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 28.99
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

John Sayles began his commendable directing career with this terrific portrait of 1960s counterculture survivors, now teetering on the brink of turning 30. A homegrown movie all the way, Return of the Secaucus Seven was made for around $60,000 of Sayles's own money (earned writing horror pictures such as Piranha). An effortlessly funny and thoughtful ensemble piece, Secaucus unmistakably provided the template for the bigger-budgeted The Big Chill: old friends reunite for a weekend to sort through fond memories, old resentments, and new problems. Sayles, longtime producing partner Maggi Renzi, and then-unknown David Strathairn are among the actors. The marvelous back-and-forth patter of the characters and the sprightly pacing show Sayles already had a sure sense of what he wanted on screen, and his mastery of the running gag is in place (the name Dwight won't ever sound quite the same again). This is the definition of "low-budget classic," from an indie pioneer. --Robert Horton

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chillin' with the Seven Feb. 21 2004
Format:DVD
If you know only one thing about "The Return of the Seacaucus 7," you've probably heard that this obscure little $40,000 home movie from 1980 was shamelessly ripped off three years later by Lawrence Kasdan's hit "The Big Chill."
Both movies tell the story of a gang of former 60's activists who reunite for a long weekend, but "Chill," with its bigger budget, name actors and excellent soundtrack, became a cultural touchstone. "Seacaucus," on the other hand, has remained largely unseen for 25 years and, though it marked screenwriter John Sayles' directorial debut, it only recently emerged on DVD.

On the disk's commentary track, Sayles rightly puts to rest "Chill" comparisons, pointing out that the two films have the same format but are intrinsically different. Unlike the affluent yuppies of "Chill," Sayles' characters are crucially younger and less successful; overeducated and underemployed, they're blinking into the headlights of both the Reagan era and their 30's, which are rapidly approaching.
Shot on weekends with money Sayles earned writing Roger Corman horror movies ("Pirhanna" and "Alligator"), "Seacaucus" is a rough gem. His amateur cast isn't too comfortable in front of a camera and their lines feel stagey, but Sayles' writing was good even then. Despite its occasional clunkiness, this early homegrown film paved the way for much better later efforts, like "Matewan," "The Secret of Roan Inish" and the truly great "Lone Star."
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4.0 out of 5 stars My First Indie Film May 24 2004
Format:DVD
'Return of the Secaucus 7" was my first. Independent film, that is. It is not an independent film the way you'd consider indie films of today. VERY low budget - and it shows, though that's not a bad thing. Overall, this film has held up well - which is pretty good 23 yrs later! Sayles did a great job w/the writing and directing - and even his acting is fine.
Released maybe two years ahead of 'The Big Chill', which I found cold, lifeless and built around a soundtrack - not a script. 'Secaucus 7' had a much more intimate feel - and lower key humor, but way more my style (though I didn't find myself as amused as I was @ 17 when I orignally saw it).
The cast is understated and good. It's amazing that more of them have not gone on to do more films of higher (David Strathairn to numerous things, Gordon Clapp to NYPD Blue', Adam LeFevre to many commercials). There is no one stronger character - all have their moments.
I do believe, there is at least one scene cut from the restoration comedy play they attend, but other than that, the movie is intact. One original song by Adam LeFevre ("Mean to Me") is actually very good.
The extras are sparse - w/just commentary from John Sayles and Maggie Renzi. Rent or buy it.
Was this review helpful to you?
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like seeing old friends again Sept. 24 2003
By C. DEAN
Format:DVD
I loved this movie when I first saw it in 1982, I was fresh out of college and it was like being part of the ideal reunion: many laughs, some drama, lots of people you'd like to see again. On DVD I was suprised at how much of the movie I remembered, how many lines seemed real, how much fun it would've been to be reunited with a bunch of old pals, and how like old pals these characters were. It's low-key, low-budget, and very real. Some of the performances weren't as good as I'd've liked (like Maura's) and some were better (like Mike and Katie). John Sayles' comment track was very interesting, so were the interviews. One little quibble: there are three scenes missing, all involving Lacie, their actress friend (two onstage, and the backstage meeting), couldn't they have been restored as well as the rest of the film has been? Overall, however, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better movie about friendship and the passage of time.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Might as Well Have Not Been Made June 7 2004
By J
Format:DVD
The $45,000 it took to make this turkey would have been better spent on a tank of gas for a humvee. What can you say about a movie that is best remembered for having inspired a much better movie? Pointless, poorly acted, and dull. Amazing that this is availiable on dvd and so many genuinely excellent movies aren't. Look for the Principal from The Sopranos in an early role if you simply must watch this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chillin' with the Seven Feb. 21 2004
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
If you know only one thing about "The Return of the Seacaucus 7," you've probably heard that this obscure little $40,000 home movie from 1980 was shamelessly ripped off three years later by Lawrence Kasdan's hit "The Big Chill."
Both movies tell the story of a gang of former 60's activists who reunite for a long weekend, but "Chill," with its bigger budget, name actors and excellent soundtrack, became a cultural touchstone. "Seacaucus," on the other hand, has remained largely unseen for 25 years and, though it marked screenwriter John Sayles' directorial debut, it only recently emerged on DVD.

On the disk's commentary track, Sayles rightly puts to rest "Chill" comparisons, pointing out that the two films have the same format but are intrinsically different. Unlike the affluent yuppies of "Chill," Sayles' characters are crucially younger and less successful; overeducated and underemployed, they're blinking into the headlights of both the Reagan era and their 30's, which are rapidly approaching.
Shot on weekends with money Sayles earned writing Roger Corman horror movies ("Pirhanna" and "Alligator"), "Seacaucus" is a rough gem. His amateur cast isn't too comfortable in front of a camera and their lines feel stagey, but Sayles' writing was good even then. Despite its occasional clunkiness, this early homegrown film paved the way for much better later efforts, like "Matewan," "The Secret of Roan Inish" and the truly great "Lone Star."
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Warmth that the Big Chill Left Out in the Cold June 30 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
John Sayles is a wonderful storyteller, especially on film, and knows how to put together an ensemble of actors who can convey the spirit of his characters. "Return of the Secaucus 7" is far from a perfect movie and is really rough around the edges, but it is my favorite movie about a group of boomers coming together and affirming why they like or at least feel safe around one another and keep the connection. There is no cool nostalgic soundtrack just a ukalele and a barroom trio. The humor is sublte and charming. The plot focuses on what is rather than what was. It is as intimate as helping polish off as many eggs as possible around the small formica table and hoping that Katie and Mike invite you to stay one more night.
That is where Sayles came from and check out other movies like "Brother from Another Planet" and "Lone Star" to see where he is going as a very independent filmmaker.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like seeing old friends again Sept. 24 2003
By C. DEAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I loved this movie when I first saw it in 1982, I was fresh out of college and it was like being part of the ideal reunion: many laughs, some drama, lots of people you'd like to see again. On DVD I was suprised at how much of the movie I remembered, how many lines seemed real, how much fun it would've been to be reunited with a bunch of old pals, and how like old pals these characters were. It's low-key, low-budget, and very real. Some of the performances weren't as good as I'd've liked (like Maura's) and some were better (like Mike and Katie). John Sayles' comment track was very interesting, so were the interviews. One little quibble: there are three scenes missing, all involving Lacie, their actress friend (two onstage, and the backstage meeting), couldn't they have been restored as well as the rest of the film has been? Overall, however, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better movie about friendship and the passage of time.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My First Indie Film May 24 2004
By R. M. Ettinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
'Return of the Secaucus 7" was my first. Independent film, that is. It is not an independent film the way you'd consider indie films of today. VERY low budget - and it shows, though that's not a bad thing. Overall, this film has held up well - which is pretty good 23 yrs later! Sayles did a great job w/the writing and directing - and even his acting is fine.
Released maybe two years ahead of 'The Big Chill', which I found cold, lifeless and built around a soundtrack - not a script. 'Secaucus 7' had a much more intimate feel - and lower key humor, but way more my style (though I didn't find myself as amused as I was @ 17 when I orignally saw it).
The cast is understated and good. It's amazing that more of them have not gone on to do more films of higher (David Strathairn to numerous things, Gordon Clapp to NYPD Blue', Adam LeFevre to many commercials). There is no one stronger character - all have their moments.
I do believe, there is at least one scene cut from the restoration comedy play they attend, but other than that, the movie is intact. One original song by Adam LeFevre ("Mean to Me") is actually very good.
The extras are sparse - w/just commentary from John Sayles and Maggie Renzi. Rent or buy it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film Then, Still Absorbing Nov. 15 2008
By B. Nottingham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN .... If you sort of enjoyed The Big Chill, then this is the "progenitor" of what The Big Chill SHOULD have been; the original recipe. Amazingly, this special, consistently-flowing, 1979-produced film, with engaging character development, does not seem extremely "dated" today, (with a refreshing absence of cell phone scenes, overplayed drug scenes, but including those "short-shorts" on the basketball & volleyball court scenes).

The production was quite advanced in its style of filming, you are mixed into the group dynamics via the unobtrusive and intimate camera work, devoid of the typical pretext, or presentation hoopla often used to force-feed viewers with some sort pre-packaged message, music, or mood set-up. Rather, simply, it's like you are a fly on the wall, and its director John Sayles lets his characters flourish in both humor and angst in a natural flow; it's almost as if the film was done in just one masterful take. Maybe it almost was. (It would be great to find out what those actors and actresses are up to now, my guess is that they largely took up interesting roles in real life decades later, not necessarily acting.) If any you are out there and link to this site, please chime in somewhere ! Director Sayles, who played one of the characters, (I won't reveal which one) went on toward critical acclaim and success in many later directorial projects.

I was fascinated with this film as originally shown with small audience draw in theaters nationally, and I tried to obtain a video copy about ten years later, as it was such a cult film, the video cost something like $40-50 to obtain then. Now, it's back into the "attainable" range. I still love this film, it is a pleasure to own the DVD, and I will enjoy it repeatedly every few years, now.

The coolest thing is, such perfection (IMHO) in filmmaking flew almost completely under the "popular" radar when it was new. If you came of age during the 70s and experienced at least a year or so of college, and got swept up in the pre-aids relationship pleasure/angst culture, (if not the politics), you'll love this "reunion" film. (Of course the reunion occurred at the end of the 70s, of characters originally meeting in the late 60s-early 70s maelstrom. Warning, filmed in peaceful rural Vermont, so don't get your heart set on scenes or glimpses of bygone New Jersey, though the characters will remind you of friends from the NE. Have a glass of wine, darken all the windows, set your phone on vibrate and enjoy getting lost in this timeless time capsule !

Brad Nottingham
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