Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Paul Newman, Piper
Laurie, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason 12, 2007
Director: Robert Rossen
Audio: Dolby Surround, Mono, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: June
“I’m the best you’ve ever
seen, Fats. I’m the best there is. Even if you beat me, I’m still the
In a career that has spawned endless masterful performances, Paul Newman delivered perhaps his first memorable portrait in The Hustler. Portraying the remarkably complicated pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, Newman created a character all his own, and the result would be a much deserved Oscar award twenty five years later when the actor reprised the role for Martin Scorsese’s equally terrific sequel, The Color of Money. The movie tackles with brutal honesty the addiction of making money through hustling, in this case through the sport of pocket billiards, and the swinging effect it can have on somebody, even if it’s a certain someone who claims to be the best of the best.
The film opens with Fast Eddie as a fast-talking and cocky pool shark, whose unique talent catches the immediate attention of anyone who enters the local bar where he shoots his game. He even manages to catch the attention of the alleged unbeatable Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), who is challenged by Eddie for a simple game that turns into a lengthy one, and before long Fats has left Eddie completely broke, though Eddie still believes in himself to be the downright best in the game.
Just when Eddie has completely run out of luck, he meets Sarah Parker (Piper Laurie) in a bar, and the two slowly but surely come to comfort one another, thus beginning a strong loving relationship. Eddie and Sarah are perfect for one another because they both have troubles, where as Eddie may have a hustling addiction, Sarah’s addiction lies within alcohol.
The Hustler is both an involving sports film as well as a tragic love story. The rest of the film consists of Eddie’s road to recovery from his loss and his attempt to re-challenge Minnesota Fats. Eddie encounters a thorn in his side in the form of Bert Gordon (George C. Scott), a local numbers runner who minds a devious plot to destroy Eddie before the film’s end. Scott wonderfully conveys a sinister presence in one of his first memorable roles.
The Hustler is a purely classic cinematic piece that is wonderfully acted and exuberantly directed, as well as perhaps the only movie to richly capture the sport of pool other than, well, The Color of Money.
The Hustler is one of few spectacularly looking Black and White films on DVD you are likely see. The wide anamorphic presentation glows with a terrifically sharp image quality. Fox has delivered the goods once again with a superb looking disc that is only flawed with a couple of instances of light dimming. Other than that, this is one Black and White presentation that is sure to astound and surprise.
Accompanying the impressive image quality is an equally terrific audio presentation. Fox delivers with a nice 2.0 track mix that makes this 46-year-old pic sound new and improved. The surrounding sets, most especially the pool halls, get some nice pick up background-wise. In the field of the classic films, The Hustler stands out as one that can also be considered a classic DVD with this most impressive transfer.
This all-new Two-Disc Collector’s Edition release has got enough extras to fill an 8-ball rack (ok, bad example but you know what I’m getting at.)
Disc One includes a Commentary track featuring Paul Newman, Carol Rossen (daughter of the director), Film Historian Jeff Young, Film Critic Richard Schickel, Co-star Siefan Gierasch, Assistant Director Ulu Grosbard, Film Editor Dede Allen and Jeff Young, a writer and producer. Also featured is a Trick Shot Analysis.
Disc Two includes 3 brand new featurettes; “Life In The
Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson And The Search For Greatness”, “Milestones In
Cinema History: The Hustler” and “Swimming With Sharks: The Art Of The Hustle”.
Also featured is a segment titled “How To Make The Shot Featuring Five Scenes”,
Two Additional Featurettes and a Photo and Trailer Gallery.
The Hustler is an outstanding triumph for all involved, especially for actor Paul Newman, whose work here is nothing short of astonishing. The new Two Disc Collector’s Edition is indeed a must have DVD!