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On the Waterfront(1954)
Elia Kazan's compelling social drama was the winner of eight Academy Awards and marks one of Marlon Brando's finest screen performances. Brando is Terry Malloy, a handsome but inarticulate longshoreman, who gets involved in a labor scandal when a fellow dock worker is murdered. He knows that the victim was killed by the oppressive labor union for squealing to a commission investigating misdoings. Terry intends to keep his mouth shut and his job safe. But when Edie (Eva Marie-Saint), the dead man's beautiful sister, comes to town, he must choose between his allegiance to a corrupt union and his loyalty to Edie.
For more about On the Waterfront and the On the Waterfront Blu-ray release, see On the Waterfront Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning
Director: Elia Kazan
» See full cast & crew
On the Waterfront Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 2, 2013
Winner of eight Academy Awards, Elia Kazan's "On the Waterfront" (1954) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the release include original trailer for the film; documentary film directed by Annie Tresgot; new video interview with Eva Marie Saint; archival interview with director Elia Kazan; new conversation between director Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones; video interview with author James T. Fisher, video interview with longshoreman Thomas Hanley; visual essay on Leonard Bernstein's score; audio commentary with film critic and author Richard Schickel and Elia Kazan biographer Jeff Young; and more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, Kazan's 1952 defense of his House Un-American Activities Committee testimony, one of the 1948 Malcolm Johnson articles that inspired the film, and a 1953 piece by screenwriter Budd Schulberg. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now) is an ex-boxer who is drifting through life without a clear direction. He does not mind doing odd jobs to make ends meet because he does not have any goals or ambitions. When he feels lonely, he heads to the pigeon coop he has built on the roof of his apartment building.
Terry's life changes dramatically when he realizes that he has been tricked to set up the murder of a man who has threatened to expose the shady dealings of local union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb, 12 Angry Men). Initially, Terry remains silent because for years Johnny's men have been giving him the easiest jobs on the docks and because his brother Charley (Rod Steiger, In the Heat of the Night) is also Johnny's right-hand man. But when he meets the murdered man's sister, Edie Doyle (Eve Marie Saint, North by Northwest), he changes his mind. Charley immediately warns Terry that going against Johnny would be a terrible mistake that would cost him not only his gigs at the docks but possibly even his life.
The majority of the film focuses on Terry's struggle to make a decision. Early on he feels that remaining silent is the right one – not only will he continue to get the easiest jobs on the docks, but Johnny would also own him a big favor. Then he meets a local priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire), who has been trying to organize the longshoremen and bring down Johnny's organization and, with Eddie next to him, begins to question his loyalty to Johnny and Charlie.
Elia Kazan (America America) completed On the Waterfront in 1954. Surrounded by controversy – most of it fueled by the fact that Kazan, once a member of the American Communist Party, appeared as a "friendly witness" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 and testified against many former colleagues – the following year the film went on to win eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
On the Waterfront is based on an original story by Budd Schulberg, which was inspired by a series of articles published in the New York Sun by investigative journalist Malcolm Johnson. Assisted by Father "Pete" Corrigan, a labor priest and associate director of the Xavier Institute of Industrial Relations, Johnson was able to expose the dirty dealings of the man who controlled the entire New York waterfront in the beginning of the century, Big Bill McCormack, an Irishman born in New Jersey with many powerful friends, and his trusted associate Joe Ryan, who became the model for Johnny Friendly.
Lensed by Boris Kaufman (Sidney Lumet's The Fugitive Kind, Kazan's Baby Doll), stylistically On the Waterfront has a lot in common with the works of the great Italian neorealists. It is raw and gritty, at times looking a lot like a documentary feature about life around Hoboken's dangerous docks. But there are small episodes that also look like they were extracted from a stylish noir film about gangsters and hoodlums.
The film's beautiful soundtrack was composed by the great Leonard Bernstein. It blends moody solos (the French horn solo in the beginning of the film is legendary), spunky jazz themes, and lush orchestral arrangements. This was the one and only soundtrack Bernstein composed that was not used in a musical.
On the Waterfront Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in three different aspect ratios -- 1.67:1, 1.85:1, and 1.33:1 -- encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted 1080p transfers, Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an Oxbury Scanner equipped with wetgate processing from the original 35mm camera negative at Cineric in New York. The color correction was done at Colorworks in Culver City, California, and the restoration was performed by Cineric using Pixel Farm's PFClean and DaVinci's Revival.
Transfer supervisor: Grover Crisp/Sony Pictures, Culver City, CA.
Colorist: Scott Otrosky/Colorworks, Culver City, CA."
Please note that the screencaptures included with this review appear in the following order:
1. Screencaptures #2-13 are from the 1.67:1 version.
2. Screencaptures #14-20 are from the 1.85:1 version.
3. Screencaptures #21-23 are from the 1.33:1 version.
Additionally, the 1.67:1 version of On the Waterfront appears on Disc 1 with all of the supplemental features, while the 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 versions appear on Disc 2.
To see how the different aspect ratios affect the image framing, you could compare the following screencaptures:
1. Screencaptures #1 (1.67:1), 13 (1.85:1), and 20 (1.33:1).
2. Screencaptures #4 (1.67:1), 19 (1.85:1), and 22 (1.33:1).
3. Screencaptures #3 (1.67:1), 18 (1.85:1), and 23 (1.33:1).
The new 4K restoration of On the Waterfront is simply fantastic. Detail and especially image depth are enormously impressive. The blockiness and sharpening from Sony's R1 DVD release of the film have also been replaced with flawless contrast and at times truly overwhelmingly beautiful blacks and whites. The previously problematic nighttime footage also looks excellent - shadow definition and clarity are dramatically improved in every single sequence. Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of problematic lab tinkering. Naturally, the beautifully exposed by the high-quality scan grain is evenly distributed throughout the entire film. Color depth and saturation, especially where there is plenty of natural light, are also terrific. There are absolutely no debris, scratches, cuts, warps, or larger damage marks. All in all, this trulky is a flawless presentation that should make fans of this classic American film enormously happy. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
On the Waterfront Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Each of the three versions of On the Waterfront arrives with two standard audio tracks: English LPCM 1.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for each version.
I watched On the Waterfront with the English LPCM 1.0 track. Later on, I did only a couple of different tests with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Despite some obvious improvements in terms of depth on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, I still prefer the English LPCM 1.0 track. In my opinion, Leonard Bernstein's excellent score and the dialog are better balanced (as far as dynamic movement is concerned). But you should experiment with the two lossless tracks and see which one you prefer.
The dialog is very crisp, clear, stable, and easy to follow. There is no problematic background hiss. Also, there are no pops, crack, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review.
On the Waterfront Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
On the Waterfront Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's presentation of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, one of American Cinema's greatest masterpieces, is enormously impressive. Beautifully restored in 4K, the film looks astonishingly good, without a shadow of a doubt the best it ever has. This two-disc Blu-ray set also arrives with an impressive selection of supplemental features, many of them brand new and exclusive, easily making the release one of the best produced by a North American studio since the high-definition format was launched. Enjoy. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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