Vaguely based on a one act play by William Inge (Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic, Bus Stop) and released in 1965, Bus Riley’s Back in Town concerns a young man returning to his hometown after a three-year stint into the navy. He hopes for a smooth transition back into civilian life. However, unanticipated challenges make for a bumpy reentry.
Bus Riley (Michael Parks) returns to his hometown determined to make a success of himself. He has a supportive family—hard-working mother (Jocelyn Brando) and sisters Paula (Mimsy Farmer) and high-schooler Gussie (Kim Darby). Aware of his skills as a mechanic, Bus’s mother suggests he consider a job he was promised at the local garage. However, its not long before the job that once seemed so perfect, is nothing but a source of frustration. The town he once new so well, is almost unrecognizable. Worst of all, Laurel (Ann-Margret), his attractive ex-girlfriend, has married a much older, very wealthy man.
Disillusioned, Bus heads to a local bar. There, he attracts the attention of a wealthy gigolo who offers to teach him the ins and outs of a profession that could make him an independently rich man in no time. Soon, Bus begins meeting some of the town’s loneliest housewives. This includes Laurel—only this time she arranges their dates while her husband is away and hands him cash when they part ways. In the beginning Bus has feelings for her but remains professional and gives Laurel what she wants. Over time, Bus begins to realize he’s wasting the best years of his life.
In his screen debut, Michael Parks impresses. It’s a shame his big screen career never took off. Required to show a wide range of emotions, Bus Riley shows he was as talented as he was photogenic. Unfortunately for him, its Ann-Margret who was given top billing as the traditional sexpot. There are moments where Parks is forced to stand around while she vamps it up for the camera.
Not a success at the box office, the failure of Bus Riley’s Back in Town likely had something to do with the big screen inexperience of former TV director Harvey Hart. The choppy screenplay is also at fault. William Inge was called in to do the script but had his name removed from the credits after he was asked to make changes to Ann-Margret’s character. Instead, Walter Gage was used as a pseudonym for several studio writers who contributed to the screenplay.
Sourced from a new 2K scan, Bus Riley’s Back in Town is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality is strong throughout. Details such as Ann-Margret’s luminous red hair and her creamy complexion shine. Color balance could be improved but its passable because of then films overall dated appearance. Everything about the look of things is appropriately stuck in the 1960’s. while grain isn’t necessarily optimal for bigger screens, there are no real anomalies present.
Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release.
The LPCM 2.0. audio track serves the film well. While there are a few audio fluctuations, its nothing that should interfere with the overall viewing experience. Overall dynamics is good for a film of its age. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary by Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo
- Film Professor Lucy Bolton on Ann-Margret (HD, 28:11)
- HER WEDDING BAND WAS THE ONLY THING SHE DIDN't ABANDON! A brooding ex-serviceman (Michael Parks) comes home and spends time with an innocent girl (Janet Margolin) and a worldly woman (Ann-Margret)
- An entertaining, well-written, and well-acted drama with a great cast
- Ann-Margret sex-potting her way throughout makes this a must-see movie
- For Ann-Margret fans, this holy grail is a forgotten gem
- Starring Ann-Margret, Michael Parks, Janet Margolin, Brad Dexter, and Jocelyn Brando