The Criterion Collection: Walker on Blu-ray

Blu-ray cover by Paul Mavrides (pictured); DVD cover by Marc English

Out this week is The Criterion Collection: Walker on Blu-ray. This movie not only has Joe Strummer as an actor but Strummer also composed the whole soundtrack. Inspired by the music of the area where the movie was shot, this is a fine film to add to your collection. It takes liberties as a timepiece movie to play with accuracy. An unconventional retelling of the life of William Walker, a 19th-century American mercenary leader who became the president of Nicaragua. All can be forgiven for a great little film.

A hallucinatory biopic that breaks all cinematic conventions, Walker, by British director Alex Cox, tells the story of nineteenth-century American adventurer William Walker (Ed Harris), who abandoned a series of careers in law, politics, journalism, and medicine to become a soldier of fortune and, for many months, the dictator of Nicaragua. Made with mad abandon and political acuity—and the support of the Sandinista army and government during the contra war—the film uses this true tale as a satirical attack on American ultra patriotism and a freewheeling condemnation of “manifest destiny.” Featuring a powerful score by Joe Strummer and a performance of intense, repressed rage by Harris, Walker remains one of Cox’s most daring works.

Joe Strummer had worked previously with Cox on Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell, contributing songs to their respective soundtracks.  He wanted to compose an entire score for a film and Walker afforded him such an opportunity. After filming his small part in the film, he would go back to his room and record bits of music onto a four-track cassette using an acoustic guitar and a little plastic synthesizer with guitarist Zander Schloss. They drew inspiration from local music played in bars – a mix of reggae, calypso and Brazilian music.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Alex Cox, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer
  • Dispatches from Nicaragua, a documentary about the filming of Walker
  • On Moviemaking and the Revolution, reminiscences from an extra on the film
  • Walker 2008 and On the Origins of “Walker” (2016), two short films by Cox (Blu-ray only)
  • Behind-the-scenes photos
  • Trailer (Blu-ray only)
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: Essays by film critic Graham Fuller, actor and author Linda Sandoval, and Wurlitzer