Oliver Stone is known as a Method director – he lives what he’s filming, immerses himself in the subject matter and goes, it seems, a little mad. It’s doubtful friends and family will have noticed much of a mood change while he was filming Talk Radio, though: the story of an opinionated, clear-eyed, perhaps rather cruel, self-styled maverick with a loudhailer for a mouth. Goodness knows what might have attracted him to the material... Sadly, you won’t hear Stone make the obvious comparisons on this (virtually) vanilla disc, but the film itself stands as a self-lacerating portrait of an angry man and a nation at war with itself. It’s a long-delayed, welcome release of his most underrated film, which he shot while in preproduction for his most overrated, Born On The Fourth Of July.
Eric Bogosian adapted his own off-Broadway play with Stone, who fed in elements from the life of Denver shockjock Alan Berg (killed by neo-Nazis in 1984). The playwright and stand-up also stars as Barry Champlain, a radio host who delights in giving listeners double barrels of derision. The role only really requires Bogosian to play angry and angrier, but he’s outstanding – flashing glimpses of heart beneath the hate. Stone ensures the claustrophobic production is never stagebound; his camera prowling around a media beast clawing at his listeners in the hope of shocking himself, as much as others, into feeling. A blistering assault on the media and the hypocrisy at the heart of America, Talk Radio has never seemed more relevant or incendiary. Tune in.