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Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2018
A true classic. Debateably Brando's best work. This set has all three aspect ratio versions for your viewing enjoyment in 4k digital restoration. If I understand correctly Europe's wide screen at the time was 1.85:1, America's was 1.33:1 so the original cut of On the Waterfront was filmed in 1.66:1 to split the difference. They took into account additional cropping or opening would occur in the other formats so they were careful in every scene of picture composition. I love the movie so much I have watched it in all three perspectives. How I was led to this movie is Robert De Niro in Raging Bull quotes a scene from this movie at the end. It was a clever bit of script and directing for Jake La Motta (De Niro) to look back at his life and quote Terry Malloy (Brando) as he was looking back at his life. Both characters as boxers that could have had it all but one bad decision knocked them both from fame and being great.
"On the Waterfront" deserves the Criterion treatment. Its subject matter—day laborers, hungry for back-breaking work, intimidated by organized crime—has certainly not dated. From stars to featured players to bit parts (many played by civilians), the acting is beyond excellent, especially for the early 1950s. This was Brando's encore after his breakthrough in "A Streetcar Named Desire;" to my taste, in "Waterfront" he gives an even richer, more nuanced performance. (Forget the parodies of his style as a Method mumbler: this man knew how to act without a shred of artifice.) Rod Steiger, playing his older, conflicted brother, Karl Malden as the dockside priest who gives the film its moral center, and Lee Cobb as the chief racketeer are uniformly splendid. In her introduction to film, Eva Marie Saint gives a perfect performance that guaranteed her stardom in years to come. Filmed on location in the docks of New Jersey, with a thrilling score by Leonard Bernstein (his only for films), directed by Elia Kazan (arguably his best film), this is a must-see. The second disc is brimming with the Criterion complements that we've come to take for granted but so enrich the film's appreciation: the newspaper story on which Budd Schulberg based his screenplay, perceptive interviews with Kazan and Saint, an incisive analysis of the film's most famous scene by both Rod Steiger (who played it with Brando) and James Lipton ("Inside the Actor's Studio"), an analysis of Bernstein's musical choices by Jon Burlingame, and on and on. There are cheaper version of this film available, but none has been restored and supplemented as lovingly as this. It belongs on your shelf of classics.
Fantastic classic. I went to "film school" and we watched this several times, it is a very controversial film. I fell in love with it. the case, leaves much to be desired, it is heavy an odd size and nearly all cardboard, I would have preferred a plastic case. It comes with a very informative book featuring interviews. the Video quality is stunning- STUNNING. I used to quality control at a huge hollywood studio and scrutinizing 4k+ video files was a daily affair, as well as I filked things on 5K+ and this does not disappoint, for an older film, it is truly modernized and restored properly. they did a good job. good features.
Terry Malloy is a washed-up former prize fighter during the days when the mob ruled the fight game. Having to take a dive in the ring so his handlers could make a winning spree on the opposing fighter, Terry loses his chance of making it big in the fight game. Now he handles pigeons on rooftops of New York City and on occasion gets work in the harbor, where alias John Friendly runs the crooked union for all ship workers. Terry happens to be the kid brother of Charlie the Gent, John Friendly's book keeper.
When a dock worker named Joey is killed for speaking to the police about the corrupt union leader John Friendly and his cronies, he's killed. His sister visiting from school, Edie, wants to know who killed him and why. A priest, played by Karl Malden, offers help. Their attention turns to Terry Malloy when it's learned he was the last person to see Joey alive.
Edie approaches Terry, who remembers her when she was a kid. A fast friendship develops between them, but Terry will only speak so far about the death of ther brother. "Edie, you gotta be careful," he warns her. "It ain't safe to be asking questions." But Edie persists and soon the police are looking to Terry for help in busting the corrupt union leader John Friendly.
Directed by Elia Kazan, the film stars Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint (her first role), Karl Malden, and a score of other popular actors. Brando won his first Best Actor Oscar, and Saint won Best Supporting Actress. It's a classic even by today's standards.
5.0 out of 5 starsWorth watching for more than just Brando
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2020
On the Waterfront is best known for Marlon Brando’s performance and the “Contender” scene in particular; his work here is widely seen as an exemplar of method acting. But whilst the praise heaped on Brando is deserved, he isn’t the only thing that makes this a great film. The story is a crime drama about mobster Johnny Friendly’s dockside operations and Father Barry’s quest to bring him to justice, for which he requires Terry Molloy’s testimony. The plot however is Terry’s, as he goes from pigeon keeping dockworker and occasional mob stooge to a man seeking redemption once he falls in love with Edie, whose brother he helped lure to his death. On the Waterfront has been described as a melodrama, and in the sense that it focuses on plot at the expense of character, that is arguably true. Karl Malden’s Father Barry, convincingly acted though he is, remains little more than a priest with a strong sense of morality. Johnny Friendly is a one-dimensional mob boss. And so on. These characters are barely sketched and come alive purely because of the actors. Terry – with his past as a prize fighter, his work for Friendly and his fondness for his pigeons – is the only real exception. But as in any good melodrama, these characters serve the story perfectly, and it’s easy to see why Budd Schulberg won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The story is also not as simple as it seems, or at least it isn’t as predictable as one might expect. It often confounds audience expectations, themselves conditioned by years of crime dramas. For example, Terry does not shoot Friendly (Father Barry talks him out of it), but defeats him by other means, first by testifying against him in court and then by furiously defying him at the docks, taking a beating and still getting back to his feet; the result is that the dockworkers turn on Friendly and throw him into the river. The film’s climax has notoriously been seen as director Eliz Kazan’s justification of his testimony in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (Lindsay Anderson described the ending as “fascist”) but it provides a fitting end to the narrative. Indeed the final scene is a triumph, as the camera follows a battered and bloody Terry proudly leading his fellow workers into the warehouse, whilst Barry and Edie look on and the dishevelled Friendly rants impotently. Marlon Brando is indeed impressive here. He brings his famously naturalistic acting style to the role of Terry and makes it his own. If Brando’s acting seems visible, it’s only because generations of cinema fans have spent years examining what he’s actually doing. That shouldn’t distract us from the fact that he is entirely believable as Terry from his first scene, and he’s electrifying in the scenes that everybody tends to wax lyrical about, including the Contender scene. He’s notable too when Terry is gradually getting to know Edie, showing her his pigeons and almost shyly opening up to her about his past. Later, when he tells Edie that he’d like to help her but can’t, the audience believes him. Terry’s scenes with Edie as they gradually become closer are crucial to the plot – they have to convince us, since they relationship is the catalyst for his decision to betray Friendly, despite the risk he faces in doing so. This is particularly important because Terry is very much an anti-hero in a film from a time when these weren’t common in mainstream Hollywood cinema – he’s basically a small time crook convinced to do the right thing as much as by his attraction to Edie and revenge for his brother’s murder as by Father Barry’s appeals to his conscience. Whilst Brando is undoubtedly the star, there are excellent performances too from Karl Malden as Father Barry, Eva Marie Saint as Edie Doyle, Lee J. Cobb as Friendly, and Rod Steiger as Charley. Steiger was just as much of a method actor than Brando and arguably more versatile, whilst Malden’s impassioned performance as Father Barry is no less impressive than Brando’s as Terry. All of the bit players convince, the likelihood being that Kazan wouldn’t have accepted anything else; indeed, in search of naturalism, he cast former professional boxers as some of Friendly’s heavies. Lots of factors make On the Waterfront deserving of its classic status. They include Leonard Bernstein’s economically used, often discordant, deliberately jarring score, which becomes increasingly prominent after the taxi cab scene as the film starts to build to a climax. Then there’s Boris Kaufman’s cinematography, with his use of the low- and high-angle shots that help Kazan to exploit the often claustrophobic locations to maximum effect. It’s a very visual film, with creative camerawork and almost noir-ish lighting. The use of sound is masterful: there’s a fascinating scene in which Terry confesses his part in Joey’s murder to Edie, but we don’t hear it because the dialogue is drowned out by a ship’s horn; the meaning of the scene is conveyed by Brando and Saint’s facial and physical expressions. There are innumerable other small details – the costumes are one, the clothing worn by Friendly and his men emphasising their opulent, crime-funded lifestyle and contrasting with the rough working clothes of the dockworkers, including Terry. A film as extensively written about and as frequently lauded as On the Waterfront can struggle to live up expectations. It’s not the only Eliza Kazan film worth watching, and it isn’t the only Marlon Brando vehicle worth watching; nevertheless, it is every bit the classic people say it is. Whilst cinema techniques have changed dramatically since 1954, it remains a masterful example of the film-makers art and – perhaps more importantly – it remains a gripping slice of melodrama.
There are 3 versions of this film. 1 The original cinema release. 2 The 1986 restored version, which has 20 minutes more than the cinema version.With a sccreen ratio of 1:1.37. 3 The revised 2008 version with a screen ration of 1:1.85. WOULDN'T IT BE WONDREFUL IF THE SELLER WAS TO TELL US WHICH VERSION THEY ARE SELLING! I do not like 'Blind' buying and too many sellers fail to give full information on items like books and films. They seem to have an attitude of, "You got wot yer asked for" Even if it was not what you wanted. If you feel like me then slam it to Amazon and maybe we will get better product information in future.
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this. Three weeks ago I watched it with my daughter,who belongs to a different age to me, and we both sat, mesmerised by Brando's performance, because this must be the role that made him - a punch-drunk ex-boxer who waqnts to be somebody. Great
5.0 out of 5 starsBrando's best performance in a movie that will never lose its relevance!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 20, 2013
This is a movie you must see. Set in the tough docklands of 1950's New York, it tells the story of failed boxer, Terry Molloy (Marlon Brando), whose punchy conscience is managed by his brother, Charlie (Rod Steiger), following the suspicious death of a docker.
Charlie, a sharp-dressed lawyer working for the local mob-controlled Union boss, instructs Terry (an unwitting stool pigeon who became inadvertently responsible for the murder of the docker) to keep his mouth shut and his head down for a while.
The denim-clad and brooding Brando is superb as Terry, who escapes the machinations of the mob heavies and the FBI by retreating to his pigeon loft on the roof of a grimy apartment block.
The key to freeing his troubled conscience is turned by the feisty and beautiful daughter who, along with the help of the local priest, is determined to expose local corruption and those responsible for her father's murder.
The setting is superbly staged and filmed in atmospheric monochrome in the soot-blackened streets and alleys of New York, matched brilliantly by a Leonard Bernstein score and some of the best acting you will ever witness. All this, and the strong suggestion that director, Elia Kazan, made the movie as an apology for exposing friends and colleagues to the McCarthy anti-Communist 'investigations', creates a rare and stunning cinematic experience as relevant now as it was then!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 4, 2016
A Classic (capital C intended). Great performances all round, a thought provoking plot, some good twists. The film is too well know for those in my age group to go through the plot and it should come as a welcome surprise to younger viewers. This is how films were made before they relied on lots of explosions and CGI to carry a weak production.