Written by Kier-La Janisse
Spectacular Optical, 2024
6×8″ | 292 Pages | Heavily Illustrated in Full Colour
Available for purchase HERE>>

There is no shortage of loaded — and often gendered — symbolism in the sport of cockfighting. And this becomes a starting point for author Kier-La Janisse (who broke new ground in film criticism with her 2012 book House of Psychotic Women) to investigate the themes of obsession, competition, mobility and nobility that dominate the hyper-masculine world of Monte Hellman’s existential and controversial film, Cockfighter (1974), based on the 1962 novel by crime writer Charles Willeford (Miami Blues).

Infamously touted as the only movie that producer Roger Corman ever lost money on, Cockfighter stars character actor Warren Oates as Frank Mansfield, a career cocker who has taken a vow of silence until he can win the Cockfighter of the Year Award. Surrounded by fellow cockfighters played by Harry Dean Stanton, Ed Begley, Jr, Steve Railsback, Richard B. Shull and even author/screenwriter Charles Willeford himself, the film traverses the underground cockfighting world of the Deep South, with a highly detailed documentation of this unique subculture brought vividly to life by esteemed cinematographer Nestor Almendros.

Densely illustrated and featuring interviews with director Monte Hellman, producer Roger Corman and several surviving cast and crew members, Janisse’s study explores the many mythologies that intersect in Cockfighter, approaching the story and its backdrop through a variety of lenses, using a combination of cultural criticism, production history and even personal anecdotes, as the author delves into the contradictory world of cockfighting in the American South. At its core it is a story about work, honour, conviction and finding religion and beauty in strange places.

Design/Layout by Luke Insect | Cover art by Adam Juresko