Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Home Video

Newman's Own: 'Hustler,' 'Verdict'

June 06, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's hard to believe that when Paul Newman made his film debut in 1954's "The Silver Chalice" he was described as a Marlon Brando clone. No one now would ever accuse the superstar, sex symbol and salad dressing king of being a Brando wannabe. Over the past 48 years, he's been nominated for eight Academy Awards, finally winning for 1986's "The Color of Money." Newman's still going strong at 77; his newest film, "The Road to Perdition," is set for release next month.

Newman gave two of his greatest performances in 1961's "The Hustler" and 1982's "The Verdict"-- both of which are being released on DVD this week (Fox Video, $20 each). Directed and co-written by Robert Rossen, "The Hustler" is a searing character study of a cocky pool hustler, "Fast Eddie" Felson (Newman), who takes on the greatest pool player, Minnesota Fats (a marvelous Jackie Gleason). George C. Scott plays a conniving promoter, and Piper Laurie is an alcoholic who falls in love with Fast Eddie.

Shot primarily in location at a real pool hall in New York City, the film won Oscars for Eugen Shufftan's brilliant black-and-white cinematography and Harry Horner and Gene Callahan's set design.

The provocative, intelligent DVD features an informative documentary, "The Hustler: The Inside Story," picture-in-picture commentary with a champion trick pool player; a crisp wide-screen transfer of the film; a photo gallery and the theatrical trailer. The high point of the DVD is the audio track, which features informative, thoughtful and heartfelt commentary from Newman, assistant director Ulu Grosbard, Rossen's daughter, Carol, Time magazine movie critic Richard Schickel and editor Dede Allen.

Allen says that "The Hustler's" lengthy prologue, which comes before the title sequence, was a rarity in its day. Fox executives were worried the prologue would confuse audiences and wanted her to cut the scene, but she and Rossen held firm.

Carol Rossen discusses her father's experience with being blacklisted and why he eventually cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Newman talks about how he got involved in the project. He and Elizabeth Taylor were set to star in "Two for the Seesaw," but she got sick and pulled out. Newman had approval for her replacement but didn't like any of the actresses on the list. So he pulled out. Suddenly, he had an open slot in his schedule when the script of "The Hustler" came his way.

Though Newman lost the best actor Oscar that year, he won for playing "Fast Eddie" 25 years later in the inferior sequel "The Color of Money."

Though Newman is listed as a commentator along with director Sidney Lumet on the audio track of "The Verdict," he doesn't show up until the 20th of 22 chapters. Why did he even bother? Thankfully, the veteran Lumet is a mesmerizing guide through this superior drama, written by David Mamet. The Oscar-nominated Newman plays a washed-up, alcoholic attorney who gets his shot at redemption. Charlotte Rampling, a dazzling James Mason and Jack Warden also star. The DVD includes a vintage featurette and photo gallery.

*

David Lynch remains an enigmatic presence on the digital editions of his feature films. For the special edition DVD of his 1986 classic "Blue Velvet" (MGM, $25) he, yet again, fails to supply commentary. And in the one-hour-plus retrospective documentary on the movie, "Mysteries of Love," he is seen only in interviews conducted when the film was released.

Lynch, who received an Academy Award nomination for best director, did supervise the lush new digital anamorphic transfer of the mystery thriller starring Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern and Isabella Rossellini. The original cut of the film was four hours, and though the two hours of excised footage are missing, a photo montage on the DVD attempts to piece together several deleted sequences. There is also an excerpt from a 1986 edition of "Siskel & Ebert," a photo gallery and a trailer.

The documentary is filled with behind-the-scenes tidbits, including Hopper's revelations on acting for the first time in years without being drunk and stoned, and Rossellini's confession that she felt she brought too much baggage to the film because she was Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini's daughter.

*

John Ford's lyrical 1949 western "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" entered the Digital Age this week (Warner, $20). John Wayne, in one of his best roles as a retiring military man, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson and the always wonderful Victor McLaglen star in this sagebrush saga set right after the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The real star of the film is Winton C. Hoch's breathtaking Oscar-winning Technicolor cinematography that captures the majesty and beauty of Arizona's Monument Valley.

The DVD includes a beautiful new transfer of the restored film, four minutes of home movies featuring Ford and Wayne and the re-release trailer.

*

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|