The new Hollywood of the 1970s came about in part thanks to BBS Productions, a company run by budding producers Bert Schneider. Bob Rafelsonand Steve Blauner. Forming the television music group The Monkees, they set their sights on Hollywood, realizing that younger audiences wanted films with and for them. They released seven films between 1968 and 1972, including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and The Last Picture Show, which finally came to an end with this controversial character exploration.
Marvin’s Garden King was the directorial sequel to Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces and pairs it with beloved BBS movie star Jack Nicholson. He plays against type as David Stabler, a depressed late-night radio personality who reunites with his estranged brother, the manic con artist Jason (Bruce Dern). Living in Atlantic City with his girlfriend Sally (Ellen Burstyn) and her stepdaughter Jessica (Julia Ann Robinson), Jason tries to drag his brother into a real estate scam, with tragic consequences.
Reviews at the time were decidedly mixed. Ebert called it “an original, individual and often disappointing film that has many chances and wins about sixty percent of them.” Roger Greenspan of New York Times, on the other hand, criticized it, stating that Rafelson’s “kind of poetic realism”, which came out well in Five Easy Pieces, now seems “the most pretentious of hackneyed clichés”. Yet this strange odyssey has only grew in stature as an example of the bold, unique films released by the BBS during its all-too-short heyday.