Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Blu-ray Review: One-Eyed Jacks

Based on Charles Neider's novel "The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones", "One-Eyed Jacks" was originally slated for Stanley Kubrick to direct.
Instead, the baton was handed to Marlon Brando for his first and only film as director. Guy Trosper and Brando wrote the screenplay, which turned out to be
a major revision of its source, and the film is now widely regarded as a masterpiece.

Brando himself headlines as Rio; a headstrong apprentice to Dad Longworth (Karl Malden). Together, the pair stage holdups which relieve law abiding folks of cash and jewellery.
Their latest heist - two bags of gold from a bank - sees them chased out of town by Mexican mounted police.
Holed up in the mountains and facing seemingly insurmountable odds, the pair decide one of them will strike out in search of fresh horses after Rio's mount is killed,
leaving the other to wait behind in a perilous situation.
Dad rides off into the sunset, never to return, leaving Rio to be captured with a jail term the result of his trust.
Deprivation of freedom, instigated by a revered friend, must have been a bitter pill that proved impossible to swallow and Rio escapes after 5 years in jail, with a burning desire for revenge.
Rio is soon on course for a long-awaited reunion when a conversation with outlaw Bob Amory (Ben Johnson) points him at towards the town of Montorey.
During the town's annual fiesta, the bank closes for two days,leaving potentially rich picking for Rio and his gang.
Rio soon gets the chance to meet with Dad, who is Sheriff of the town. During one of many memorable scenes, Rio rides out to call on Dad, with the latter resting on his front porch, observing Rio from behind bars reminding Rio of the jail that accounted for 5 years of his life.
There's now a real hatred between the pair, but love soon rears its head as Rio and Longworth's stepdaughter Louise (Pina Pellicer) fall for each other, leaving Rio with a choice to make.

Relationships old and new play a key part in proceedings here, with even Dad and his wife (played by Katy Jurado) clashing over Dad's increasingly cruel behaviour.
Witness the scene where Rio is brutally whipped and has his trigger hand badly damaged by his former friend, making Dad a particularly odious villain, closely followed by Amory and Slim Pickens' sleazy deputy in the forces of evil stakes.
Even Rio has his dark side, and it's fascinating to observe his good and bad splits fighting to hold sway.
Brando quite simply was superb on both sides of the camera, and if one approached this film with no prior knowledge, it would be difficult to discern anything other than the director was a seasoned filmmaker.
While it's true that "One-Eyed Jacks" went over budget - some 5 hours of footage no longer exists - the end result is a treat for the eyes, with Brando's wait for magic hour shots and the right kind of waves paying dividends.
Here, the photography of Charles Long Jr uses deep focus shots and panoramic sweep to capture cast and scenery in exemplary fashion.
This was the last Paramount film to be shot in Vistavision, and we must be thankful that Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg made this stunning restoration possible, banishing previously inadequate home video versions.

Aspiring actors and directors would do well to study this film, while the rest of us will be enthralled while possibly regretting this was Brando's only time in the director's chair. Maybe his standoff with Paramount regrading the ending left a bitter taste that wouldn't wash away?
Whatever the reason, he certainly made his mark as an accomplished director and his film remains one of the great Westerns.

The 4K rstoration on Arrow Academy's Blu-ray presentation is, along with "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia", one of this year's best.
Interior and exterior scenes boast fine detail, warm colours and, at times, are simply breathtaking.
The supplementary features begin with a commentary track from author Stephen Price who wrote "Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies."
Stephen picks out Peckinpah's influence on the script; draws comparisons with other westerns; talks about the revised ending and praises Brando's meticulous approach to filming. It's an enjoyable, highly informative track.

"Marlon Brando: The Wild One." (53m 43s)
This documentary was originally broadcast by Channel 4 on 11th August, 1996. Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, Shelley Winters, Francis Ford Coppola and Arthur Penn
are just some of the artists interviewed in this valuable tribute to Brando.
The actors studio, early stagework and just what it was like to be touched by Brando's brilliance are all discussed, with clips from the likes of "On The Waterfront",
"A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Last Tango In Paris". Paul Joyce's absorbing documentary is required viewing for all Brando buffs, with great stories and insight from those who were there when the magic happened.

"Francis Ford Coppola on Marlon Brando." (48m 30s)
Paul Joyce interviews Francis, who talks about a genius he rates alongside Welles and Kurosawa, and who left a legacy for actors everywhere.
We hear about how Brando landed the "One-Eyed Jacks" gig and of course, there's plenty of insight and anecdotes regarding "The Godfather". Coppola had a tough battle to
add Brando to his fine cast, and goes into the trials and tribulations of coming up against a stubborn film company.

"Arthur Penn on Marlon Brando>" (44m 49s)
Once again, Paul Joyce takes the microphone for another interview. As with Coppola, his Arthur Penn interview was recorded for the documentary, comprising of familiar material with plenty of additions. Brando's work with Stella Adler; his improvisational skills regarding the intent of words and the first time Penn saw Brando at work are just some of the areas discussed. It's also well worth a second hearing regarding Penn's ice cube story and Coppola's 'gong' gag.
There's also a 2m 55s introduction to the film by Martin Scorsese, and a 4m 44s trailer.

Arrow includes, on this first pressing only, a collectors booklet (which I haven't seen) containing new writing on the film by Jason Wood and Filippo Olivieri; Karl Malden on Marlon Brando; Paul Joyce on "Marlon Brando: The Wild One" and an excerpt from Stefan Kanfer's "Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando."

"One-Eyed Jacks" is available to buy now, and a surefire contender for those 'Discs of the Year' lists.

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