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June 10, 2013

Movie Review: Heavy Traffic (1973, Blu-ray)

Fritz The Cat director, Ralph Bakshi is a legend of sorts to many fans of animation and cult film aficionados alike. Bakshi's stuff can be kid friendly but most of his best celebrated works are his adult cartoons (Hey Good Lookin', Coonskin). On the heels of the X-rated hit Fritz The Cat, Bakshi jumps into the violent, perverse, oft hilarious abyss known only as Heavy Traffic. Shout Factory has taken liberties to clean up the film for Blu-ray and make it just dandy for admirers of this 70's, not-so-kiddo friendly cartoon.

In what seems to be a character based on Bakshi, our main protagonist, Michael (Joseph Kaufmann) is a twenty-something artist living at home with his miserable, sloppy-tit swinging Jewish mother and his sleazy, whore-hopping Italian Dad. Amongst the drugs, violence, racism and overall scum littering his neighborhood Michael attempts to persevere so he could someday be a successful animator.

With his parents bickering and getting in vicious (but oddly hilarious) brawls in their small New York Apartment, Michael heads out onto the unforgiving streets. At a bar Michael falls in love with a sexy black bartender named Carole (Beverly Hope Atkinson) who he eventually brings home to his family's already crowded apartment. In the midst of this love affair there are run-ins with the mafia, kooky roof-top bozos, drug addicts and anything to add some more spice to this simple, funny and borderline depressing story.

Much like actual heavy traffic on a highway, in the film Heavy Traffic, no one is safe. It doesn't matter your race, sexual orientation or religion, all bets are off and Bakshi takes his pen to paper like its howitzer. This is the beauty of Bakshi whether you love him or loathe him. Heavy Traffic doesn't sport the greatest animation of Bakshi's career (it is 40 years old) but it does institute some very cool things like combining animated characters with live characters and even a separate live-action wraparound segments that use that of a pinball machine to help roll the story along.

Shout! Factory didn't put together any extras for this release but I will say that they made an improvement on the previous DVD and have put forth what really is colorful transfer with very limited wear on the element. This is definitely worth the upgrade to Blu-ray.

Heavy Traffic is here to offend and delivers, but for many viewers it will entertain with its original ideas, biting humor and mindless graphic cartoon carnage. Bakshi’s Heavy Traffic is truly one-of-a-kind and no doubt worth a look if you’re jaded and love cartoons with an attitude.

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