On the Waterfront
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Marlon Brando (The Godfather) gives the performance of his career as the tough prizefighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy in this masterpiece of urban poetry, a raggedly emotional tale of individual failure and institutional corruption. On the Waterfront charts Terry’s deepening moral crisis as he must choose whether to remain loyal to the mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (12 Angry Men’s Lee J. Cobb) and Johnny’s right-hand man, Terry’s brother, Charley (In the Heat of the Night’s Rod Steiger), as the authorities close in on them. Driven by the vivid, naturalistic direction of Elia Kazan (Gentlemen’s Agreement) and savory, streetwise dialogue by Budd Schulberg (A Face in the Crowd), On the Waterfront was an instant sensation, winning eight Oscars, including for best picture, director, actor, supporting actress (North by Northwest’s Eva Marie Saint), and screenplay.
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According to different sources, during the filming Brando was contracted to work only until 4 pm, because he had to keep his appointments with a psychiatrist who he was seeing at the time. Brando's mother was on a death bed at the time of filming and he was trying to cope with the trauma. She passed away three weeks after the release of the film.
Sony's 4K remaster of the film is brought to Blu-ray by Criterion, who avoid controversy by presenting the film in 3 equally valid aspect ratios. I personally prefer the 1.66:1 presentation on disc 1 which seems to be a good middle ground between the taller 1.33:1 and wider 1.85:1 presentations. The video quality is detailed, film-like and is a truly beautiful presentation of the film. The uncompressed PCM audio reproduces the dialogue and Leonard Bernstein's great score with great clarity.
Criterion has put together one of their strongest supplemental packages ever for this film. The Blu-ray set includes a commentary (from the older DVD), new interviews with Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones, actors Eva Marie Saint and Thomas Hanley, and historians, several documentaries, and much more. It's an informative set of extras that covers every aspect of the film.