Alice’s Restaurant Massacre

Happy Thanksgiving ever’body. Seems only appropriate to talk about this song, the Thanksgiving classic and (according to Arlo) the missing 18 minutes from the Watergate tapes. Arlo is, of course, the son of Woody Guthrie.

The film has Officer Obie (his real name is William Obanhein) playing himself arresting Arlo Guthrie and his friend who littered with the 8×10 glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. The real Alice appears in a crowd, but Alice in the film is played by Pat Quinn.

It’s directed by Arthur Penn, fresh off “Bonnie and Clyde” and a year before “Little Big Man.” It has a few scenes adapted from the song like when Arlo gets drafted and sits with Group W (with M. Emmett Walsh in his screen debut as the sargeant who talks for 45 minutes and nobody understands a word he says), though to be honest the song is funnier – Arlo’s a great storyteller, but he struggles at it when he doesn’t have a guitar in his hand.

The film also has a subplot featuring Woody Guthrie (played by Joseph Boley) dying from Huntington’s disease. The only plus of this subplot is a walk-on role by Pete Seeger singing Woody’s song “The Car Song” with Arlo. The most acclaimed part of the film is at the funeral of a friend of Arlo’s friend, with Tigger Outlaw singing a haunting version of Joni Mitchell’s song “Songs to Aging Children.” According to Penn it’s an elegy on the counterculture dream.

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