Director Larry Buchanan might be best remembered for either "Mars Needs Women," and other science fiction monster films like "Zontar: Thing From Venus/The Eye Creatures," or sexploitation films like "Common Law Wife / Jennie Wife-Child." However, this DVD from the folks at Something Weird Video has a couple of "true crime" dramas from Buchanan. The thought of doing a faux trial for Oswald in Dallas in 1964 is certainly an intriguing idea, but whatever your expectations are, "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" will not meet it. Prosecuting Attorney Atkins (Arthur Nations) goes up against Defense Attorney Tyler (George R. Russell), with Charles Mazyrack as the silent Defendant (although we do hear Oswald himself on a radio interview explaining how he returned from the Soviet Union after defecting). This ia a good faith effort to put what was in the public record into a courtroom setting, but the results are simply not engaging. For me the scenario jumps the rails when Tyler insists that not only did Oswald not do it, if he did do it he was insane (a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too argument that works a lot better in high school debates than real world court rooms). By the time we learn that Oswald will not testify and the judge stares into the camera and asks us to come to our verdict, there is no need to even think about ever watching this movie ever again.
There was a 1977 made-for-television movie called "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald," with John Pleshette in the title role and Lorne Green facing off against Ben Gazarra as the lawyers. My memory is that I watched it and when we got to the big finale and Oswald was going to testify he got shot (maybe my memory is hazy, but it is reinforced by a clear memory of the title character getting on the stand and mumbling so that nobody could hear him another TV movie about a trial that never happened, 1977's "The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer; put them together and they all share a lamentable unwillingness to get to what everybody would be interested in, the defendant on the witness stand). In 1986 SHOWTIME did "On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald" with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and defense attorney Gerry Spence, which avoided the whole question of Oswald testifying in reconsidering the evidence from the assassination (3 stars).
"The Other Side of Bonnie & Clyde" (1968) is clearly an attempt to capitalize on the success of "Bonnie and Clyde," and is more of a straightforward documentary, combining reenactments (Jo Enterentree as Bonnie Parker and Lucky Mosley as Clyde Barrow) with interviews and actual footage from 1934 when the wanted criminals were killed in a hail of gunfire on a road to market in Louisiana. The main interview is with the widow of Frank Hamer, the Texas lawman who set the trap for Bonnie and Clyde. The proceedings are given a nice veneer of respectability by having Burl Ives as the narrator. There are some disparaging references in the documentary to the violent nature of the Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway film, which ring hollow when we get to see one of the most disturbing images I have ever seen: a topless photograph of Bonnie's corpse. There is even a gratuitous close-up in which the camera zooms slowly to the bloody face, but not before it brings her naked breast into prominent display. But this is an exploitation film, so you have to expect stuff that goes over the line from time to time (4 stars).
The extra features on this DVD are not stellar, but in keeping with the Something Weird Video approach, specific to the double-bill. There are trailers from a whole bunch of Buchanan's films with not only "The Other Side of Bonnie & Clyde," but "A Bullet for Pretty Boy," "Common Law Wife," "Free, White and 21," and "High Yellow." "Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell" and "The Loch Ness Horror" are also included, to show that Buchanan had range beyond crime exploitation films. Then there are "More Crime-Crazed Trailers," with "Blast of Silence," "The Bloody Broad," "The Boss," "Cops Haters," "Four for the Morgue," the double-bill "Kiss the Blood off my Hand" and "Johnny Stool Pigeon," "Revolt in the Big House," "Shakedown," and "When Gangland Strikes." You will see the likes of Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, and Peter Falk in some of these trailers for movies where the key commonality seems to be you cannot see them anymore. The trio of shorts are decent enough, with "You Can't Beat the Rap" and not only "The March of Crime," but "The March of Crime 2nd Edition," where the true crime stories we get to hear about (a family in San Diego that commits suicide after their two daughters were raped in Tijuana) will make you forget all of the tawdry crime trailers. The extras are also 4 stars, which is how I split the difference and justify rounding up here.