has an average rating of 8.2 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 MA & the Original Mono
are great & include booklet packaging
– 135 minutes
This uses 25.4GB for the movie out of 41.3GB total.
Overall Verdict – A Classic Done Some Justice
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself was based on the novel written by Walter Tevis. The film was directed and the screenplay was co-wrote by Robert Rossen, best known for writing and directing the films “All the King’s Men” from 1949 and “Alexander the Great” from 1956. This film stars the late Paul Newman as a “pool shark” (“hustler” even) by the name of “Fast Eddie Felson“, who along with his business partner “Charlie Burns” (played by Myron McCormick), is on a mission to find a legendary fellow pool shark, challenge him to some big-dollar games of pool and walk away with what he hopes to be at least 10 grand. “Fast Eddie” has this desire to hustle (beat) this pool legend, a rather well-dressed and spoken man by the name of “Minnesota Fats” (played by Jackie Gleason). It’s worth mentioning that “Minnesota Fats” has been undefeated for over fifteen years the locals in the pool room claim.
It is in no way a spoiler to tell you that “Fast Eddie” follows through with the desire, as he finally meets the legend and of course challenges him to a game of pool. “Fast Eddie” and “Minnesota Fats” play a game of pool that ends up lasting many, many, many hours and that is essentially the basic beginning of the plot to the film. That and the fact that both men believe they are hustling one another; when it’s only logical that only one can rise the victor and one be left with the spoils (of being hustled). It would certainly be a spoiler to tell you which man wins, so don’t expect to hear anything regarding that. However I will mention a few other characters and details about the story and such. There’s a business man of sorts (gambler) that happens to come around and watch the pool game by the name of “Bert Gordon” (played by George C. Scott) who plays a vital role in the film — that’s all I’ll say about him. There’s also a girl that comes into the life of our main character, a girl by the name of “Sarah Packard” (played by Piper Laurie). A few other smaller characters that round out the cast include “Findley” (played by Murray Hamilton), “Big John” (played by Michael Constantine) and “Preacher” (played by Stefan Gierasch).
Looking back on “The Hustler“, a film now roughly 50 years in age, it’s safe to say that it stands up very much to the test of time. The acting here by Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott is all very memorable. In fact, all four of those cast members were nominated for Acadamy Awards for their roles in the film. Speaking of other “Oscar” nominations and wins. The film was nominated for a total of NINE “Oscars” and ended up winning TWO. Those to awards were for Art Direction (Black & White) and Cinematography (Black & White). The author who wrote the novel this was based on also wrote a sequel that was adapted into a film as well in 1986, “The Color of Money” which Martin Scorsese directed, Tom Cruise starred in and Newman reprised his role as “Fast Eddie“.
Their roles here prove to be some of the better performances from the late screen legends Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason; as these are two characters they are remembered for — by some.
Video Quality on this release is in Black & White full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. According to IMDb this was shot on 35MM film using the CinemaScope cinematographic process. The film (for those who haven’t seen it) is in Black & White — as mentioned earlier — and that comes by choice as color was obviously available in 1961. The black level here, which is very important, is very solid and helps to emphasize so much of this newfound amount of detail in the Hi-Def visual presentation. It’s not the sharpest material I’ve ever seen in Black & White come to Hi-Def but it does hold a great amount of detail as I mentioned. There’s also a pretty low amount of film grain visibly present here which makes me feel that DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) was used slightly and that the film print was touched up removing dirt, scratches, hair and such. It’s not the most amazing restoration I’ve seen to date but it’s certainly not bad either. For a 50-year-old film this looks great and is going to leave fans pleased and also help the film find some new fans via its debut to Hi-Def on Blu-ray Disc. This earns a pretty impressive “4.5 Star Rating” for overall video quality. The classic is done somewhat justice here.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio as well as the Original Mono (via Dolby Digital 2.0 @224kbps). I’ll first start off by saying that the dialogue, which is by far the most important part of this film, is presented very distinctly in both mixes and will require no volume adjustments whatsoever. I’ll also be honest and say up front that the new lossless 5.1 mix doesn’t really to me feel that it holds a huge amount of rear channel and LFE (bass) presence throughout the film — even during scenes with lots of background music. The only part that really seemed to have much LFE (bass) and rear channel was the intro title credit sequence 6 minutes in with the original music done by Kenyon Hopkins. Don’t get me wrong, the original music sounds great here but it’s just not something that takes up a good amount of the sound real-estate so-to-speak in this 5.1 lossless mix. Sure, there’s some cool little moments like when the pool room is silent about 13 minutes or so into the film and you can hear the pool balls smashing throughout the rear channels even. Also, the sound of a “break” — the first shot that splits up the balls in pool — is pretty decent and sure to grab your attention as being lifelike (realistic). In closing, I have to say it (the 5.1 mix) just comes across as pretty much “front heavy” to me for a very good majority of the film. That’s really to be expected from something with a mono source from 1961, as it tends to be the case here when film is this much dialogue-driven and 50 years in age. Still, having said that, don’t let those statements scare you away from the release.
The DTS-HD 5.1 MA mix here certainly gets the job done in terms of sound — despite my few complaints — and this earns a decently solid “4 Star Rating” for overall audio quality. As I said earlier, it gets the job done but don’t expect really all too much more than that, as it is after all a film about pool that involves the characters playing pool a majority of the time and is predominantly a dialogue-driven film as mentioned.
Bonus Materials are presented in both Hi-Def (HD) and Standard Definition (SD) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @224kbps sound.
- Audio Commentary by Paul Newman, Film Historian Jeff Young, Film Critic Richard Shickel and Others
- “Paul Newman at FOX” (27:11 – HD)
- “Jackie Gleason: The Big Man” (12:04 – HD) is a retrospective on the late actor/comedian. This focuses mainly on his role as “Minnesota Fats” in this film yet there is discussion of his other work (career) such as “The Honeymooners” and even a tad bit about his personal life.
- “The Real Hustler: Walter Tevis” (18:55 – HD) features at first a radio interview from 1984 with the author of the novel the film was based on. This also features interviews with his son Will Tevis, daughter Julie Tevis McGory and wife Eleanora Tevis — as well as others — all discussing the man, this story and his other work like “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and this film’s sequel “The Color of Money” which were both also adapted into films.
- “Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and the Search for Greatness” (11:49 – SD) is ported over from the previous (2006) DVD release and features interviews with (the late) Paul Newman and others.
- “Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler” (28:04 – SD) is a retrospective on the film itself that is ported over from the previous (2006) DVD release. It features interviews with the late Paul Newman, co-star Piper Laurie and others. This proves to be very much worth watching if you’ve not seen it before.
- “Swimming with Sharks: The Art of The Hustler” (9:38 – SD)
- “The Hustler: The Inside Story” (24:32 – SD)
- “Paul Newman: Hollywood’s Cool Hand” as seen on Biography on the A&E Network (43:44 – SD) is VERY nice to see included.
- “Trick Shot Analysis by Mike Massey” (13:51 – SD)
- “How to Make the Shot featuring Mike Massey” (3:41 – SD) includes these “how to make the shot” explanations for a total of five scenes from the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (3:20 – SD)
- Spanish Theatrical Trailer (3:21 – SD) is odd to see included, but sure enough, it’s here.
- 24-page Collectible Book Packaging
Overall, the bonus materials prove to be very impressive and will surely end up leaving old or new fans pleased. There’s THREE all-new featurettes that are in Hi-Def and the original 2006 DVD ports in Standard Def. Plus, the 24-page booklet is definitely worth the read.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.