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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Hustler: 50th Anniversary Edition


Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 23 May 2011

Fast Eddie Felson is an arrogant, amoral hustler who haunts back street pool rooms fleecing anyone who’ll pick up a cue. Determined to be acclaimed as the best, Eddie seeks out legendary Minnesota Fats, who’s backed by Bert Gordon. The love of a lonely woman could turn Eddie’s life around, but he won’t rest until he beats Minnesota Fats, no matter what price he must pay...

The Hustler (1961) is a black and white drama that borders on film noir. Paul Newman stars as Eddie Felson who, with his partner Charlie (Myron McCormick), travels from state to state conning people out of money in seedy pool halls. His latest target is the famed pool player who hasn't been beat, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). After Fats beats him, Eddie goes on a downwards spiral and starts drinking heavily. He meets fellow lost soul Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie) and the two spend a great deal of time getting drunk together. Eventually Eddie is given another chance to claw his way back into the pool halls, but his real goal is to prepare to take on Fats once again.

This is a dark tale which explores how we perceive what makes a person a winner or a loser, and what we are prepared to sacrifice to become a winner in other people's eyes.

Extras include: An audio commentary with Paul Newman, Carol Rossen, Dede Allen et al. (this is better than your usual commentary as it's actually a collection of interviews that are played over the film to provide a much more interesting listening experience); Paul Newman at Fox (27 min, 11 sec look at Newman's shift from Warner to Fox studios); Jackie Gleason: The Big Man (12 min, 04 sec look at the career of Gleason); The Real Hustler: Walter Tevis (18 min, 55 sec look at the author of the original book that the movie was based on); Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and the Search for Greatness (11 min, 49 sec exploration of the movie's themes); Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler (28 min, 04 sec featurette that puts the movie into its historical context); Swimming with Sharks: The Art of the Hustle (9 min, 38 sec look at the history of pool hustling, some of the lingo and a few trick shots); The Hustler: The Inside Story (24 min, 32 sec exploration of the film and pool hustling); Paul Newman: Hollywood’s Cool Hand (43 min, 44 sec retrospective look at Newman's career); Trick Shot Analysis by Mike Massey (13 min, 51 sec breakdown of the tricks in the movie); How to Make the Shot With Mike Massey (3 min, 41 sec where Massey performs a few of the trick shots in the film. He doesn't really show you how to perform them, he just performs them himself); Theatrical Trailer and Spanish Theatrical Trailer.

While this is a classic Hollywood movie, it hasn't aged aged as well as it should have and I wonder how it would fair with a new, younger audience. The acting too is rather overrated (all of the main cast were Oscar nominated) but there isn't much acting required by anyone other than Laurie. Gleason's role mainly seems him playing pool with very little dialogue or true acting required and likewise, Newman's acting isn't really stretched. He plays drunk, angry and moody... and that's about your lot.

Having said that, this is an important movie in American cinematic history and is beautifully shot. It could have done with shaving about 30 minutes from the final cut to really tighten everything up, but otherwise you can't really fault this 50 year old picture.


Darren Rea

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