THE HUSTLER  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray]
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 October 2014
THE HUSTLER  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] It Delves Without Compromise Into The Hungers That Lie Deep Within Us All!
Racking up Nine Academy Award® Nominations, including Best Picture, this powerful and provocative cinematic masterpiece explodes on screen as never before on this Limited Edition SteelBook Blu-ray!
Paul Newman electrifies in his brilliant portrayal of Fast Eddie Felson, an arrogant hustler whose unbridled ambition drives him to challenge legendary pool player Minnesota Fats [Jackie Gleason] — but the stakes are higher than either of them could have imagined.
FILM FACT: 1961 Golden Globe Award: Nominated: Best Actor for Paul Newman. Nominated: Jackie Gleason for Best Supporting Actor Nominated: Best Supporting Actor for George C. Scott. Nominated: Best New Star of the Year for George C. Scott. 1962 BAFTA® Awards: Won: Best Film from Any Source for ‘The Hustler.’ Won: Best Foreign Actor for Paul Newman. Nominated: Best Foreign Actress for Piper Laurie. 1961 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures: Honoured: Best Supporting Actor for Jackie Gleason. 1961 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named ‘The Hustler’ the Ten Best Films of 1961. 1961 New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Director for Robert Rossen. 1961 Writers Guild of America Award: Best Written Drama for Robert Rossen and Sydney Carroll. The film was shot on location in New York City and stars Paul Newman as "Fast" Eddie Felson, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, Piper Laurie as Sarah, and George C. Scott as Bert.
Cast: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Stefan Gierasch, Clifford A. Pellow, Jake LaMotta, Gordon B. Clarke, Alexander Rose, Carolyn Coates, Carl York, Vincent Gardenia, William Adams (uncredited), Tom Ahearne (uncredited), Charles Andre (uncredited), Don Crabtree (uncredited), Gloria Curtis (uncredited), Don De Leo (uncredited), Charles Dierkop (uncredited), Willie Mosconi (Louisville Hustler) (uncredited), James Dukas (uncredited), Brendan Fay (uncredited), Larry Gaynes (uncredited), Jack Healy (uncredited), Hoke Howell (uncredited), Don Koll (uncredited), Charles McDaniel (uncredited), Charles Mosconi (uncredited), Willie Mosconi (uncredited), Sid Raymond (uncredited), Art Smith (uncredited) and Blue Washington (uncredited)
Director: Robert Rossen
Producer: Robert Rossen
Screenplay: Robert Rossen, Sidney Carroll and Walter S. Tevis (novel)
Composer: Kenyon Hopkins
Cinematography: Eugen Schüfftan
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [CinemasCope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital, French: 5.1 DTS-HD, German: 5.1 DTS-HD, Portuguese: 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Swedish, Thai and Turkish
Running Time: 129 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘The Hustler’ was nominated for Nine Oscars, winning for cinematography and art direction for a black and white film. The four main actors deservedly received nominations, although George C. Scott refused his. It was the second nomination for Paul Newman, the first of three for Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleason’s only nomination. The film deserved the recognition, but ‘West Side Story’ ended up with 10 Oscars that year. Newman received an honorary Oscar in 1986 and won a best supporting actor Oscar a year later when he reprised the role of Eddie Felson in ‘The Color of Money.’
The film is quite complex. Although a sports movie on the surface, there’s a strong romantic element. The story is essentially about strength of character. What would you do to get what you want in life? What if it means hurting people close to you? Is the goal worth the sacrifices? And, most important of all, how do we define success? Paul Newman was an emerging force in 1961, but his popularity hadn’t reached its peak. His portrayal of Fast Eddie Felson was convincing. He only took the role because another film he had committed to fell through.
Fast Eddie Felson [Paul Newman] begins the story as a pool player who is building his reputation. He wants to take on the best and prove that he’s the better player. There are definite similarities between Fast Eddie Felson’s place in the pool world and Paul Newman’s status in the acting world at the time. We learn in the opening scenes that Fast Eddie Felson is a hustler. While playing a game with Charlie Burns [Myron McCormick], his manager, he deliberately misses his shots and also pretends to be drunk. The people watching are fooled and he wins $105 by betting that he can make a difficult shot and pulling it off. Then he leaves with Charlie Burns and they look for victims in another town. This is Fast Eddie Felson’s life. He makes a living conning people who don’t know that he has real ability. Fast Eddie Felson isn’t satisfied and dreams of making $10,000 in one night. In order to reach his lofty goal, he plans to play the best pool player in the country, Minnesota Fats [Jackie Gleason]. Minnesota Fats hasn’t lost a game for 15 years and has heard of Fast Eddie Felson. He agrees to the game. Charlie visits and we learn that he has $1,500 which was his cut of Fast Eddie Felson’s previous pool winnings. Fast Eddie Felson is angry and decides to cut Charlie Burns out of his life. Sarah Packard [Piper Laurie] wonders if she’s next. This part of the film moves a little slowly and some viewers may lose interest, but I felt it worked and was essential to give the film depth and additional meaning.
The stakes begin at $200 and quickly build to $1,000 per game. Fast Eddie Felson is cocky and talks a good game, but also backs it up with good play. He’s soon ahead by over $11,000 and Charlie Burns wants him to quit, but Fast Eddie Felson says he’ll play until Minnesota Fats [Jackie Gleason] says the game is over. He doesn’t just want to win, he’s looking to humiliate Fats and break his spirit. After 12 hours, Fast Eddie Felson is ahead $18,000, but still insists on continuing the game. You can see where the story is heading. Minnesota Fats freshens up, washes his hands and puts powder on them. Fast Eddie Felson teases him on how beautiful he looks. Minnesota Fats starts winning and Fast Eddie Felson keeps drinking. He eventually loses everything apart from $200. Who was hustling whom?
The pace of the film changes after the initial meeting with Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie Felson doesn’t have the necessary stake money for another game. He meets Sarah Packard [Piper Laurie] and eventually moves in with her. She has a limp from having polio as a child and enjoys drinking even more than Fast Eddie Felson. The two are a good match and each has flaws. The pace picks up when Fast Eddie Felson meets Bert Gordon [George C. Scott] who is Minnesota Fats’ manager and witnessed the first game between the two. Bert says that Fats was on the hook for the first time in 10 years, but Fast Eddie Felson let him off. He calls Fast Eddie Felson a born loser, but a loser with talent. He wants to be his manager and demands 75 percent of any winnings. He also issues a warning that Fast Eddie Felson could get hurt if he wanders into the wrong pool hall and they realise that he’s hustling.
After learning a few life lessons, Fast Eddie Felson takes Bert up on his offer. He takes Sarah for a meal and she comments that it’s the first time she’s seen him wear a tie. It’s a sign that he is willing to change. The two go on the road with Bert and Fast Eddie Felson plays billiards for big stakes. Billiards isn’t his game of choice; he prefers pool. Fast Eddie Felson loses initially, but something in his demeanour convinces Bert to continue staking him. He eventually wins enough for another showdown with Minnesota Fats. The final 10 minutes of the film show the second game between the two. Fast Eddie Felson has changed since the first meeting and life has toughened him up. He’s still brash, but won’t take a drink while he’s playing. I won’t reveal who wins, but the film reflects on how we define winning and success in life.
The film has an authentic feel. The pool rooms are dark, seedy and potentially dangerous places. They match the gritty feel of the film. The pool scenes were shot in real pool halls rather than on a set. The only thing that wasn’t convincing is the way the actors held a cue in a few shots. A professional player wouldn’t have his head so far away from the cue and certainly wouldn’t wear a jacket in case it touched another ball and caused a foul shot. But the actors did a good job and both performed most of their shots. The remainder were performed by former billiards world champion Willie Mosconi.
‘The Hustler’ is an outstanding film. It's a great story brought to life by a talented cast at the hands of a capable director. The grittiness of the city and the lives of these people are visceral, thanks in part to Academy Award-winning work of cinematographer Eugene Shuftan and art director Harry Horner and set decorator Gene Callahan. But the person who gained the most from ‘The Hustler’ was Paul Newman. Although he had survived his disastrous debut in ‘The Silver Chalice’  to become a popular leading man and male sex symbol, Paul Newman's performance in ‘The Hustler’ propelled him into the top ranks of actors and made him the reigning male superstar of the next decade. The role, and Paul Newman's performance of it, also paved the way for the rebel anti-heroes of the 60s, the tormented, less-than-sympathetic characters who would be the central focus of many films and performances by the likes of such 1970s successors to Fast Eddie as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty.
Blu-ray Video Quality – 20th Century Fox presents ‘The Hustler’ in its original Cinemascope ratio of 2:35:1 with a faithful transfer. When dealing with the black and white photography of catalogue releases results seem to be a mixed bag, but this boasts great clarity in image with only slight blurring around the edges that inherently comes with the use of wide lenses. Certain textures aren’t as sharp as they could be, but the picture is void of any grain, specks, or debris, and delivers great depth of detail. What matters most is the translation of performance, and that is what shines about this transfer. Take for instance the final scene that uses the wide frame to show Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and George C. Scott in the same shot. Scott is situated in the background of the shot, but his performance is of the utmost importance. In earlier transfers of this film, the intensity of Scott’s face before he shouts “YOU OWE ME MONEY!” is almost lost. But it, along with the nuanced performance of every actor, is beautifully presented.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – There are always inherent audio problems when filming on location. Considering the technology at the time, the coherence of the audio is remarkable. Even still, there remains a consistent hiss throughout the film that while not necessarily distracting is ever present. The biggest problem comes with sudden sharp sounds that seem to be lost – especially a smashed cup of coffee is almost entirely lost as the sound peaks. Even still, there is nothing nearly enough to ruin the experience of this film. In fact 20th Century Fox’s 5.1 DTS-HD Audio Mastering of the original mono track provides a great representation of the while still remaining faithful to the original vision of the film.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: 20th Century Fox’s dedication to their catalogue releases is quite impressive. They have pulled no stops in presenting as much material as they could for this release, and there is very little to complain about. The smallest qualm would be that this cries out to be two discs, but somehow they managed to consolidate everything into a single disc by providing half of the features in standard definition.
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Stuart Galbraith: Stuart Galbraith compiles this audio commentary from personal interviews with the cast, crew, and relatives of the filmmakers. Actors Paul Newman and Stefan Gierasch, assistant director Ulu Grosbard, film editor Dede Allen, Carol Rossen (director Robert Rossen’s daughter), and film historians Richard Schickel and Jeff Young share their thoughts and memories of ‘The Hustler.’ This commentary is quite insightful, but most of the information can be gleaned from the other special features. The most interesting and worthy part of the commentary is the insight Dede Allen provides about the editing process and its place in cinema history.
Special Feature: Paul Newman at Fox  [1080p] [27:11] This is a brief overview of Paul Newman’s career from his rise to fame as a pretty boy in the studio system, his independent sense of filmmaking, and his foray into philanthropy and auto racing. This feature was produced specifically for this release by 20th Century Fox, and puts more of a focus on Paul Newman’s time spent at 20th Century Fox with pictures like ‘The Hustler’ and ‘Rally Round the Flag, Boys!’ and other productions with his wife Joanne Woodward. Other contributors include Rick Jewell, Scott Klavan, Jonathan Kuntz, Eric Lax, Thomas Schatz and Gene Shalit. Directed by John Cork.
Special Feature: Jackie Gleason: The Big Man  [1080p] [12:04] This mini-biography delves into the unconventional casting of the television comedian in a serious role, and what Jackie Gleason brought to the film that no other actor could. This also briefly goes into his history with television, and his post-Hustler film career. Other contributors include Rick Jewell and Thomas Schatz.
Special Feature: The Real Hustler: Walter Tevis  [1080p] [18:55] Walter Tevis is the author of the novel that ‘The Hustler’ is based upon. This mini-documentary provides the background on the author who struggled with alcoholism and the difficulties of writing. Other contributors include Ross Klavan and Julie Tevis McGory.
Special Feature: Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and the Search for Greatness  [480i] [11:49] Interviews with actors Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, Michael Constantine, film editor Dede Allen, film historian Dr. Drew Casper, reflect on the power of ‘The Hustler.’ The commentary of the interviewees ranges from incredibly insightful to merely entertaining. Great anecdotes and analysis can be found here. Directed by Constantine Nasr.
Special Feature: Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler  [480i] [28:04] Another deliberation on ‘The Hustler’ in its place in cinema history with interviews with Dr. Drew Casper, Paul Newman, Michael Constantine, Piper Laurie, and Dede Allen. This is a great commentary that will give viewers a new perspective on the film. Directed by Constantine Nasr.
Special Feature: Swimming with Sharks: The Art of the Hustle  [480i] [9:38] Professional pool players and authors explain the history of the game of pool as well as a background on the act of hustling. Tricks of the trade are divulged in how to spot a hustler, and the thorough research that one must endure to become a successful hustler.
Special Feature: The Hustler: The Inside Story  [480i] [24:32] Actor Jerry Orbach, World Artistic Champion Mike Massey, assistant director Ulu Grosbard, Carol Eve Rossen, Richard Schickel, and other billiard historians give yet another outlook on how ‘The Hustler’ fits into the history of the game of pocket billiards. This feature also talks a bit about the research that the actors and crew went through to prepare for the film. Other contributors include Stanley Cohen, Jackie Gleason (archive footage), Piper Laurie (archive footage), Willie Mosconi (archive footage), Paul Newman (archive footage), Robert Rossen (archive footage), George C. Scott (archive footage) and Charles Ursitti. Narrated by Bruce Chandler. Directed by David Naylor.
Special Feature: Paul Newman: Hollywood’s Cool Hand  [480i] [43:44] This is an episode of Biography [TV Series] with the focus on Paul Newman. It provides a more in-depth look at Newman’s career and life than Newman at 20th Century Fox, with by providing candid interviews with Paul Newman and wife Joanne Woodward. While forty-four minutes doesn’t seem like enough time to cover the entire life of a man as talented and intriguing as Paul Newman, this hits all of the interesting points.
Special Feature: Trick Shot Analysis by Mike Massey  [480i] [13:51] Perhaps the least interesting feature on this disc, Pool Champion Mike Massey gives his commentary on the pool playing from each scene in the film. His nervous demeanour provides little insight and culminates in him dictating what’s happening on screen.
Special Feature: How to Make the Shot  [480i] [3:41] Again, Mike Massey’s nervous on-screen persona doesn’t provide anything too useful here, he demonstrates mostly that he can make the trick shots seen in the film, and not necessarily how to make them, as the title of this feature suggests.
Theatrical Trailers  [1080p] American and Spanish Trailers of ‘The Hustler.’
Finally, bolstered by a quartet of simply amazing performances by Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott. This is an acting tour de force the likes of which must have amazed 1961 audiences. The film's achievement is so shattering that the depth, nuance and power of those performances seem hardly diminished by the intervening years. Though ‘The Hustler’ is undeniably seedy, and it's a gritty, grimy look at desperate characters trying to carve out a piece of their own twisted version of the American Dream. It's sad, it's compelling and it is completely and utterly unforgettable. The ensemble cast also seized the opportunity to make this a breakthrough movie for them. Piper Laurie got the chance to break the mould of pretty ingénue parts she had mostly been offered for a decade. Jackie Gleason, whose film career had gone nowhere in the 50s, was able to prove he was a dramatic actor to be reckoned with and not just a popular TV comedy star. New York stage actor George C. Scott added another outstanding performance to his early film career, and garnered perhaps the best reviews of the picture, today, many people consider George C. Scott's and Jackie Gleason's performances to hold far more interest than that of the leading actors. An appropriately nervous jazz score keeps the eardrums sharp. ‘The Hustler’ is one of the most compelling character-based films to emerge from the decade of the 1960s. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
14 people found this helpful