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The Paul Newman Collection (Harper / The Drowning Pool / The Left-Handed Gun / The Mackintosh Man / Pocket Money / Somebody Up There Likes Me / The Young Philadelphians)
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|Format||Subtitled, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen|
|Contributor||Barbara Rush, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Lauren Bacall|
|Runtime||12 hours and 59 minutes|
Paul Newman Collection, The (DVD)
Paul Newman's career slipped onto an unstoppable track with Somebody Up There Likes Me, his 1956 biopic about boxer Rocky Graziano. Of course that was his second picture, the first being the oft-joked-about bungle The Silver Chalice. Newman's Method-y intensity and dazzling good looks brought him stardom, and his intelligence and uncommon seriousness as an actor kept his movies interesting, especially as he tackled some of the best roles of the "antihero" era--an era he helped create.
Somebody Up There Likes Me is included in The Paul Newman Collection, a bulging seven-DVD package that shakes out thusly: three late-1950s titles from the beginning of his career, one mid-sixties hit, and three lesser films of the early 1970s. It's by no means a "best of" compilation, being limited to Warners and MGM titles, but it gives a flavor of Newman in his prime time. He got the Graziano role after James Dean died, and his performance is a very busy, post-Brando jumble of tics and mumbles. The movie holds up nicely as a boxing picture, and the location NYC shooting won an Oscar for cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg (you can see why director Robert Wise got hired to do West Side Story after this). Sal Mineo and Steve McQueen are in the cast as Newman's fellow j.d.s.
The Left-Handed Gun (1958), based on a teleplay by Gore Vidal, is a truly weird, compulsively watchable artifact from the psychological-Western genre. Newman plays Billy the Kid, glowering and grimacing like a rebel without a cause. It's one of those films that has much more to do with the time it was made than the time it is set; also notable as the big-screen debut for stage and TV director Arthur Penn. The Young Philadelphians (1959) is more conventional, an entertaining soap opera about a young lawyer (Newman) with an old-money Philly name but no money, who gets burned by love and decides to connive his way to the top. Young Robert Vaughn snagged an Oscar nomination for a showy turn as an alcoholic society lad.
Harper (1966) is chockfull of kooky mid-Sixties design and Rat Pack patter (courtesy screenwriter William Goldman). But it must be said that Newman is miscast as the melancholic private eye of Ross Macdonald's literary world, here re-imagined as a wisecracking hepcat who mugs his way through a missing-persons investigation. The supporting cast is a weird over-the-hill gang including Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, and Shelley Winters. That film's hero, Lew Harper (renamed from Macdonald's "Archer"), returned in 1976's The Drowning Pool, a more bearable if somewhat humdrum whodunit set in New Orleans. Newman's wife, Joanne Woodward, has a supporting part, but the picture is most notable for an early Melanie Griffith nymphet role.
Pocket Money (1972) is one of those only-in-the-seventies movies that pairs Newman with Lee Marvin in a drowsy, nearly plotless comedy. Both actors give elaborate performances: Newman plays a numbskull two-bit cattle broker who takes absolutely everything literally, and Marvin is his buddy in Mexico who signs on for an ill-considered cattle-buying job. One of the credited screenwriters is Terrence Malick, and the movie has a highly eccentric feel for language. Finally, The Mackintosh Man (1973) is one of the periodic duds that director John Huston would crank out in his otherwise starry career, with Newman as a spy on an incomprehensible case in England. The first half is a red herring, and Dominique Sanda (more recently of The Conformist) is out of depth with the English language. It's a bleak film with a kind of grinding fascination, and the Maurice Jarre score is catchy but fatally overused. --Robert Horton
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
- Product Dimensions : 7.75 x 5.75 x 2 inches; 0.01 Ounces
- Media Format : Subtitled, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
- Run time : 12 hours and 59 minutes
- Release date : November 14, 2006
- Actors : Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Joanne Woodward, Lee Marvin, Barbara Rush
- Language : Unqualified, English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
- Studio : Warner Home Video
- ASIN : B000HWZ4DE
- Number of discs : 7
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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For me, there are two utter gems in this collection: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME and THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS. These are the first two Paul Newman films I saw, so they have special resonance for me. HARPER is almost as memorable, with its sequel THE DROWNING POOL and THE MACKINTOSH MAN being decent enough. Even POCKET MONEY and THE LEFT-HANDED GUN, two kinda bizarre films, have some justification for existing as motion pictures, because even at his least capable, Paul Newman still exuded style and swagger, that unmistakable Hollywood presence that made him a top cinematic leading man in his heyday.
Here's the cool thing: all the films in this collection are being released in dvd format for the first time. Now, the special features are listed by Amazon so there's no need to go into details. I will say that the extra feature I'm most looking forward to accessing is the audio commentary by Paul Newman, Robert Wise, and Martin Scorcese on SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME. I already own the individual films on VHS but the decider for my having pre-ordered this collection is the above-mentioned audio commentary. Three Hollywood legends chit-chatting about one of my favorite boxing movies? It was a no-brainer for me.
The seven films featured here vary from excellent to decent to Geez-it's-a-good-thing-I-like-you-Paul-Newman. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME is truly excellent, with HARPER just a notch below. THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS, which is in my top two favorites here (due to sentimental reasons) is a highly diverting soap opera-type of film. THE MACKINTOSH MAN is a pretty entertaining spy thriller. THE DROWNING POOL is so-so; I enjoyed it mostly on the strength of it being a sequel to HARPER. THE LEFT-HANDED GUN and POCKET MONEY are my two least favorites here, even though both films have their own merit. So, obviously, for Newman connoisseurs, his best films aren't in this collection. Off the top of my head, I'm talking about classics like THE LONG HOT SUMMER, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, HUD, COOL HAND LUKE, THE HUSTLER, BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, THE STING, THE VERDICT, THE COLOR OF MONEY...heck, even SLAPSHOT is a fine sports film. But, see, all those are already out in dvd. This collection is for the Newman completist, as well as for those who haven't yet had a chance to view his lesser known work. I can't, in good conscience, rate this collection as 5 stars overall, because some of the movies themselves aren't 5-star films. But it does get a very healthy 4 stars, as well as a semi-exasperated "Well, finally!" Man, I've been waiting for years for the dvd versions!
HARPER (1966) is based on Ross MacDonald's classic detective Lew Archer and is an engrossing mystery film. Newman is simply great as the cool and unflappable Lew Harper as he attempts to ferret out a missing millionaire but ends up, as usual with these types of mysteries, digging up more than he bargained for.
THE DROWNING POOL (1975) is the sequel to HARPER and is decidedly a lesser effort. This time out, Harper goes to Louisiana to get to the bottom of a blackmailing plot and ends up meeting eccentrics. A slow mystery, and, in a way, more of a slice of life type of film. But, if you've seen and enjoyed HARPER, you almost have to see this. Plus, it features a very young Melanie Griffith.
Paul Newman got to portray middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano when James Dean (who had been originally signed) tragically died. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) chronicles Rocky's wild, law-breaking youth and his evolution from an unpolished street fighter to an unpolished prize fighter. Highly entertaining stuff, with a very rootable protagonist. Pier Angeli, as his future wife Norma Graziano, is unassumingly charming. But, make no mistake, Newman's nuanced performance carries the day and is what made Hollywood sit up and really pay attention.
THE MACKINTOSH MAN (1973) is a pseudo-Hitchcockian cold war thriller starring Newman as Joseph Rearden, a supposedly convicted criminal who escapes from prison in the company of a spy. Then, things get more murky and complicated. Not a bad gritty flick directed by John Huston.
THE LEFT-HANDED GUN (1958) is a sympathetic take on William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. As westerns go, it's...not bad, though it is a bit loopy at times, with regards to Newman's off-the-beaten-path take on the famous outlaw. This time, the troubled Billy the Kid is portrayed as, more or less, on the side of the angels who seeks justice when his friend and mentor is murdered by a dastardly lawman and his peeps. This is actually one of my least favorite Paul Newman flicks.
POCKET MONEY (1972) is an offbeat modern western-comedy starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin as two cowboys who get bilked in a cattle smuggling scheme by a two-faced rancher played by Strother Martin. This movie has its own leisurely sense of pace and takes a while to get into, as its not afraid to go off on its own tangents. This is ultimately a character study revolving around Newman's gullible Jim Kane and Marvin's dim-bulb Leonard. In fact, their performances are the saving grace of this film. For those who enjoy contemplative, off-kilter films without lots of action, this one's for you.
THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959) offers up some very good performances, with Newman doing the heavy lifting, acting-wise. It's basically a soap opera tale elevated to the big screen and given a Hollywood sheen. Newman plays a young, gifted lawyer from the poor side of town attempting to scale Philadelphia's elite social ladder. Jilted romances and courtroom dramas abound. Personally, I really dig this film.
"Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), the earliest of the collection, is also one of the best. After the fiasco of Newman's film debut, "The Silver Chalice", he left Hollywood for Broadway, but when James Dean died prior to production of this film, Newman was tapped to play Rocky Graziano, and with first-class talent on both sides of the camera (Robert Wise directed), a warm, funny, and ultimately inspiring boxing classic was created. Note Pier Angeli's excellent portrayal as Rocky's wife (certainly an inspiration for 'Adrian' in Stallone's "Rocky"), watch for Steve McQueen's unbilled appearance as a young hood, and try to ignore the sappy theme song, and you'll love this film! (5 stars out of 5)
"The Left-Handed Gun" (1958), Arthur Penn's film directorial debut, is a retelling of the 'Billy the Kid' legend, with the 33-year old Newman a bit 'long in the tooth' as the teen-aged gunfighter. The approach is original, suggesting Billy was more a confused, isolated kid searching for meaning and older authority figures he could believe in, and ultimately becoming a victim of circumstance and his own reputation. Low-budget, but effective, Penn lingers on brooding shots of Newman, and you may see why so many early critics compared him, physically, to Marlon Brando. (3 1/2 stars)
"The Young Philadelphians" (1959), Newman's last film under his initial Warner Brothers contract, offers one of his best early performances. A slickly entertaining drama of a rising young lawyer with a society 'name' and a family secret, director Vincent Sherman plays up the 'white collar/blue collar' conflict in his life, while introducing a top-notch supporting cast, including Brian Keith, Barbara Rush, Alexis Smith, and Oscar-nominated Robert Vaughn. Long, but NEVER dull! (4 1/2 stars)
"Harper" (1966), offers Newman at the top of his form, in this entertaining update of the 'Film Noir' detective film. Down on his luck, but still a man of ethics, Newman tackles a simple case that turns complex, with an A-list group of suspects, including Lauren Bacall, Shelley Winters, Julie Harris, Robert Wagner, and Arthur Hill. Watch for a wonderful turn by Janet Leigh as his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and savor director Jack Smight's colorful homage to classics like "The Big Sleep". (5 stars)
"Pocket Money" (1972), is more a testament to the confusion both Newman and the studios felt over the era's changing public tastes, than a great piece of filmmaking. An off-beat comedy about dim-bulb cowboy Newman and seedy promoter Lee Marvin buying cattle in Mexico, the pace is so laid-back that the story seems to drift, unsure of which direction to take. There are some funny moments, but you may end up scratching your head by the end. (2 stars)
"The MacKintosh Man" (1973), directed by John Huston, is certainly a lesser effort by both director and star, but still quite watchable. A gritty spy drama of agent Newman investigating a 'leak' in British Intelligence, Huston plays up locales in Monte Carlo and his adopted home of Ireland, offers warmly engaging James Mason and Ian Bannen as suspects, and gives audiences a chance to hear Newman attempt an Australian accent! Forget Dominique Sanda's inept performance as spy chief Harry Andrews' daughter, and you might enjoy it! (3 stars)
"The Drowning Pool" (1975), Newman's reprise of his "Harper" character, is a far less successful film than the original; New Orleans doesn't 'suit' Newman's detective persona as well as L.A., and the characters, while off-beat, lack charm. There are 'pluses', however; Joanne Woodward is always watchable, especially playing with her real-life husband, and Melanie Griffith, in the 'nymphet' stage of her career, has some sexy moments. The finale is tense and claustrophobic, and makes up for some of the earlier lack of suspense, but, all in all, the film is routine, at best. (2 1/2 stars)
A mixed bag, to be sure, but Paul Newman is always worth watching!
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Commonly regarded today as being rather less substantial than it first appeared, The Left-Handed Gun was one of the key demythologising Westerns of the fifties, contributing along with High Noon, The Searchers and 3:10 to Yuma to the increasingly revisionist approach to the traditional hero's psychological make-up. What once seemed bold and daring now seems more formulaic, with no great insights until it reaches the halfway point, where it becomes very clear that there is something seriously wrong with this boy.
Newman's schizophrenic performance is method acting inarticulacy at its most charismatic, rendering Billy's irrational explosions of violence all the more disturbing, although a little too charismatic to shift our sympathies away from him. It is left to Hurd Hatfield, who hangs around the fringes of the action, egging him on and then damning him for not being what he wants him to be and has remade him in his dime novels, to really define the schism in his nature. It doesn't help that the Lincoln County War between rival cattle barons is never really explained, leaving the background to events very fuzzy, while one is constantly distracted from John Dehner's solid performance as Pat Garrett by the fact that he has a bit too much eye-liner on.
Yet some scenes still astonish and shock; the ruthlessness of the shoot-first, don't-bother-to-ask-questions-later posse who manage to kill everyone but the guilty parties; Billy and his sidekicks preparing to shoot Deputy Moon by shooting the reflection of the full moon in a lake; and his violent murder of another deputy, the later shot in a dreamlike style that predates Peckinpah's slow-motion violence. Even though much of the film has dated, there's still a feeling of the excitement of something new to much of it.
While the previous video and Laser disc releases suffered from substandard master material, Warner's DVD release is a marked improvement without being particularly outstanding, but it does include an audio commentary by Arthur Penn and the theatrical trailer as extras.