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Heavy Traffic (1973)

Director Ralph Bakshi’s provocative mixture of live-action and animation – a follow up to his highly successful 1972 release Fritz The Cat – highlighted this raw, erotic and deeply personal film about young unemployed underground comic artist Michael Corleone (Joseph Kaufmann) who immerses himself in work and depravity.

Michael lives in a New York apartment with his Italian father, Angelo “Angie” Corleone (Frank DeKova) – a second-tier mafioso with a blonde bimbo on the side – and Jewish mother Ida (Terri Haven). His parents bicker and fight at all hours of the night, to the point where they try to kill each other with household objects.


Using his harsh environment as inspiration, Michael sketches cartoons, getting the attention of a black barmaid named Carole (Beverly Hope Atkinson) who gives him free drinks in exchange for his artistic renderings.

With her boss furious at her, Carole quits her job and Michael takes the unemployed waitress into his home. Angie tries to pop his son’s virginity by delivering a massive and loud prostitute to his bedroom, but the discovery of Carole’s presence brings out his racist rage.

Michael and Carole leave his parents’ apartment and set out to raise enough cash to move to California. Michael even gets the chance to pitch one of his wild comic-strip concepts to an ancient executive lying in a hospital bed (he has a heart attack and dies while listening).

The couple’s further exploits include Carole taking a job as a taxi dancer (with Michael as her zoot-suited manager) and a crime set-up where Carole poses as a streetwalker, only for the hapless john to be clobbered over the head and relieved of the loot in his wallet.


But Michael’s own father has put a contract out on his life for “disgracing the family” by going out with a woman of colour.

With its greasers, transvestites (a cross-dressing homosexual voiced by Jim Bates), racists, junkies, call girls, johns and murderous thugs, Heavy Traffic tosses political correctness aside to illustrate its world of mostly unsettling characters – but does it in a satirical and exaggerated way (almost all are drawn as grotesque caricatures, except for Michael and Carole).

Acclaimed by many as one of the 1970’s best films.

Joseph Kaufman
Beverly Hope Atkinson
Frank De Kova
Terri Haven
Mary Dean Lauria
Jacqueline Mills
Lillian Adams

Ralph Bakshi