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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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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
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
'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.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like seeing old friends again Sept. 24 2003
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
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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