January 17, 1975
January 17, 1975
Now that Columbia Pictures is releasing catalog titles as on-demand DVD-R’s, it’s safe to say that we'll never get a special edition DVD of THE GRAVY TRAIN/THE DION BROTHERS (1974). Because Bob Plante and I have no idea when we'll be finishing our book Racing with the Devil: The Action Cinema of Jack Starrett, we offer this quick hit of GRAVY/DION history, with an article about the making of the movie to follow before the end of the year. Original director Martin Scorsese dropped out to make ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE and was replaced by Starrett, hot off the success of CLEOPATRA JONES. Screenwriter Terrence Malick, fancying himself an auteur thanks to BADLANDS, removed his name from the credits (Contrary to what is reported as "trivia" on the IMDb, he was never slated to direct THE GRAVY TRAIN). A role rewritten for William Smith ended up being filled by one-time Tarzan Denny Miller. After a disappointing three-week run in New York in June of 1974, executive producer Roger Gimbel - afraid that moviegoers were confusing THE GRAVY TRAIN with the popular dog food of the same name (!) – instructed Columbia to change the title to THE DION BROTHERS. New title snipes were affixed to existing publicity materials until an updated ad campaign could be created. Sporting THE DION BROTHERS title and bland artwork depicting the titular characters in silhouette, the new and "improved" campaign piled on glowing quotes from film critics as a lazy last-ditch attempt to lure in ticket buyers (Meanwhile, the promo art Columbia chose for the film’s stateside Spanish-language release kicks ass -– a beautifully rendered painting of the film’s climactic dodge-the-wrecking-ball shootout -– and would’ve sold the film in a big way to urban and rural audiences). The ad above illustrates the studio's lack of interest in the movie: Relegated to second banana status, THE DION BROTHERS opened first-run in Philadelphia in January 1975 -- six months after its New York debut -- as a co-feature to another Columbia throwaway, the British sex comedy CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER.