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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Midnight Cowboy


Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Sylvia Miles
MGM & Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Available 02 May 2011

Joe Buck is a naive country boy who moves to New York, with dreams of becoming a successful hustler, though lacking in even the basic skills, he soon discovers that he is on the receiving end of hustles, until he meets Ratso. The unlikely pair forms a partnership, which grows as the two spend time together. Joe, who is from the country desperate to be in the city and Ratso an urbanite, is equally desperate to get away. Their meeting proves that it does not matter where you come from, what matters is the quality of your relationships...

Midnight Cowboy (1969 - 1 hr, 53 min, 21 sec) is a drama directed by John Schlesinger with a screenplay by Waldo Salt, adapted from the original novel by James Leo Herlihy. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Midnight Cowboy was one of a number of films which were, for a time, to change the face of cinema. Between 1967 and the advent of Star Wars, there was a greater degree of freedom for the young Turks of Hollywood. Directors like Scorsese, Coppolla and Kubrick put out some of their best work in this period. Riding high on this new wave of liberation was English born director John Schlesinger (Billy Liar (1965), Marathon Man (1976)).

This freedom was not only afforded to directors. Dustin Hoffmann, having completed The Graduate (1965), would wait over a year before taking another leading role, primarily due to the fact that The Graduate was so successful and Hoffmann was afraid of being typecast. You really couldn’t have found more different roles than that of Ben Braddock, the clean cut college kid and Ratso a low life in almost every sense. It was a risk for Hoffmann, but a risk which paid off.

At the time of the film Jon Voight (Catch 22 (1970), Deliverance (1972) and National Treasure (2008)) was a relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene, having previously appeared in small parts on television. The impact he made in the film guaranteed him a long and successful career.

The story follows Joe's attempts to become a paid prostitute in New York, something he has neither the experience or aptitude for. When he asks one of his first clients for money she breaks down in tears, the scene ends with him giving her money. He has further liaisons, none successful either sexually or financially. When he is ripped off by Ratso he finds him again and instead of Ratso abandoning Buck he offers him the use of his rundown home and the two start to get to know each other.

Through this period Buck's story is told in a number of flashbacks and if his memories are true he has had a very weird upbringing. Ratso, by comparison, has had a poor but relatively normal childhood. When the two first meet it is summer and as the two men spend time together summer fades to autumn and then to winter, all the time Ratso’s cough is getting worse, the same symptom which killed his father.

The disc comes with a few extras, the most notable being the incisive, full length, commentary by producer Jerome Hellman. After Midnight: Reflecting on the classics 35 Years Later (29 min, 59 sec) is a pretty good retrospective on the film, featuring many of the cast and crew. Controversy and Acclaim (10 min, 09 sec) is a much smaller piece, and looks at how such an unexpected storyline would go on to win the Oscar for best picture and Celebrating Schlesinger (9 min, 36 sec) is a homage to the director.

The quality of the picture is not that great, the obvious grain I can accept as it was a deliberate artistic choice at the time, but the print shows dirt, which given the standing of the film should have been removed. Audio is a slightly flat English 5.1 DTS-HD, although you also get the option for another six European audio tracks.

The film is undoubtedly a cult classic, which has not aged at all over the years, it just a shame that the presentation isn’t as good as the acting.


Charles Packer

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