Top critical review
Brilliant film... lame DVD
on June 21, 2001
In typical MGM fashion, their presentation of this DVD is dissapointing -- I guess if it's not Bond it's not worth putting any effort in to. While it was nice to see them release a bunch of long-overdue titles on DVD recently (Something Wild, Salvador), this really should have been given more care (considering it's place and high regard). I can't imagine what Criterion would have done with this... Anyway, on with the review.
In brief -- J. J. Hunsecker, a megalomaniac New York gossip columnist enlists Sidney Falco, his press agent to break up a romance between his kid sister Susie and a jazz musician, ("I know how to handle Susie, you just handle the boy... preferably tonight").
There's not much that hasn't already been said about the film itself. Crisp dialogue ("Don't be a two-time loser Sidney, the penalty could be severe"), wonderful cinematography, superb acting, especially from the great Larry Dobkin as Leo Bartha, "Never mind my bilious private life - I print a decent, respectable column!", terrific New York locations, memorable music and of course the extraordinarily beautiful Susan Harrison (as Susie Hunsecker) all add up to an unforgettable experience.
The transfer to DVD is unremarkable. I couldn't detect any noticeable improvements over previous VHS versions or TV showings, although the picture quality may be a tad crisper. The opening titles look cleaner and overall picture quality is fairly sharp. As it always was, the sound is rather flat. Listening through my stereo with headphones made some of the dialogue easier to understand and noisy street sounds seemed more alive. The print doesn't seem to have been given any special treatment and various scratches still appear.
Disrepancies between the shooting script and the film are still evident -- when Sidney's put-upon secretary asks, "...why is Mr Hunsecker trying to squeeze your livelihood away? What do you stand this kind of treatment for?" - Sidney begins his reply with his his back to us in a voice that's decidedly different, "Hunsecker is the golden ladder to the places I wanna get!". It cuts back to Sidney facing us, proudly finishing his answer in his own voice, "Way up high Sam, where it's always balmy!".
No real extras are provided here, save for an enjoyable trailer. Ironically, the sound on the trailer is much richer and fuller than the movie -- the dialogue really comes across. How nice it would have been though to include a wealth of extras -- shooting script, production stills, remastered sound, commentary (Tony Curtis and Ernest Lehman and Susan Harrison would have made ideal candidates) and who knows what else.
As it is, despite the lack of extras and no real quality upgrade, the film stands out on it's own. If you own it video, you probably won't need it on DVD but anyone who finds themselves quoting lines at random and enacting scenes in their spare time (or is that just me?) will certainly enjoy zipping back and forth between scenes. If buying for the first time, it is of course, without question, highly recommended.