Part of the intrigue of road movies is that they allow access into the various environments that the characters explore in their travels. Rather than focus on physical landscapes, “The Last Detail” (1973) is a unique offshoot of this genre that instead examines the social climate of the United States in the mid-1970s. Directed by Hal Ashby, this dark comedy portrays the economic hardship and political disillusionment of the Vietnam War years. Steeped with crude, unadorned, but still realistic vernacular and filmed in cool, somber tones, “Detail” provides an honest look at working-class America without being condescending. The film, based on a novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan, follows two navy lifers, “Bad Ass” Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and “Mule” Mulhall (Otis Young), as they transport an 18-year-old naval recruit, Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid), from their Virginia base to a New England prison. Inexperienced and na’ve, Meadows is sentenced to spend the next eight years behind bars for stealing $40 from a charity collection box. Understanding the injustice of this harsh punishment, Buddusky and Mule decide to show him a “good time” before he loses the formative years of his life. In a series of episodic adventures during their trip up the northeastern seaboard, the two men introduce the boy to a world that will soon be out of his reach. Since the film is constructed on a narrow plotline, its strength exists in its character-based observational humor. Nicholson, the film’s clear standout, delivers one of his most insightful and energetic performances, as his character swaggers between bouts of optimism, frustration and rage. Young and Quaid are also impressive; the former’s dignity and the latter’s innocence bring humanity and softness to their characters’ seemingly unbeautiful lives. The three demonstrate the oppressive and inescapable confines of the military establishment which they serve and, in turn, the internal struggle produced by making such a sacrifice for an apathetic, unappreciative public.”The Last Detail” is considered by many critics to be Ashby’s greatest work. Nominated for three Oscars, including best actor, best supporting actor and best screenplay, this poignant comedy-drama and final offering in the Fall ’06 Cultural Film & Lecture Series will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for all others. John O’Leary, the CFS director, will appear at the Monday evening screening, to offer an introduction and lead a discussion following the view period. For more info, call x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page, www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.