Kershner has never settled, or secured a position from which he might dominate a film. In 1958, Stake Out on Dope Street was an early offshoot of Roger Corman’s mezzanine empire, a second feature with a brash urban rawness. But sixteen years later, Kershner was still servant to the casual spontaneity of Donald Sutherland and Elliott Could— so much so that the original title, Wet Stuff, was amended to remind us of the actors’ earlier success in M°A°S°H.
In between, Kershner has had an inconsequential career. The Hoodlum Priest was his first large project, though centered on Don Murray’s do-gooding intentions. The Luck of Ginger Coffey was a clumsy movie, made in Canada from a Brian Moore novel. A Fine Madness is a moderate comedy, and The Flim Flam Man contrives to waste George C. Scott. But Loving is a world apart, an anguished, tender, and disrupting movie with fine performances from George Segal, Eva Marie Saint, and Sterling Hayden—it lhas the sort of unconventional but lifelike approach to hurt feelings that Bob Rafelson has taken to exploring.
And there’s the rub, for Rafelson is some twenty years older than Kershner, a man who studied film at the University of Southern California in the late 1940s and who spent the 1950s as an apprentice in documentary.
Kershner had his best opportunity ever with The Empire Strikes Back (under the care and control of the Lucas empire), but he was less successful in the Sean Connerv comeback as James Bond or in the sequel to Robocop.
He has not worked much as a director lately. But he acts occasionallv—as Zebedee in The Last Temptation of Christ (88, Martin Scorsese); On Deadly Ground (94, Steven Seagal); Angus (95, Patrick Read Johnson)—and he produced a small thriller. American Peifekt (97, Paul Chart).