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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why Brando's considered one of the best
'On The Waterfront' is a story about Terry Malloy, an ex-prizefighter who now works for gangsters on the docks. However, after being part of a murder, Malloy starts to feel guilty, yet his loyalty prevents his conscience from seeking penance. Through out the movie, Malloy is torn by his morals, particularly when he meets the sister of the murdered man.
Based on true...
Published on 27 Oct 2002 by G Griffiths

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars i cannot believe that Sony have dropped the fantastic audio commentary that was on the original 2001 DVD ...
Just got my UK Blu Ray copy today of this classic movie once again the UK market lose out!!!!!!!!!!! i cannot believe that Sony have dropped the fantastic audio commentary that was on the original 2001 DVD release by Brando's biographer Richard Schickel.This is not good enough what is the excuse for this all we get is the interview with director Elia Kazan,and a mastering...
Published 10 days ago by cinemascope


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why Brando's considered one of the best, 27 Oct 2002
By 
G Griffiths (Liverpool, Merseyside United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
'On The Waterfront' is a story about Terry Malloy, an ex-prizefighter who now works for gangsters on the docks. However, after being part of a murder, Malloy starts to feel guilty, yet his loyalty prevents his conscience from seeking penance. Through out the movie, Malloy is torn by his morals, particularly when he meets the sister of the murdered man.
Based on true events, the film paints a glum picture of working-class life, by shooting on location and in grimy black and white. Marlon Brando has gained phenomenal recognition for this role, and rightly so, offering one of the greatest performances in movie history - the torn and confused Terry Malloy - and yes, that famous scene - "I coulda been a contender." Rod Steiger is also brilliant as Malloy's brother Charley, who's deep underworld connections resulted in Malloy's present state. This movie deserves all the hype that surrounds it, as it is a genuinely classic, smart movie.
A brilliant morality tale, the "story of the redemption of Terry Malloy" is an astounding depiction of life and conscience, a man facing his personal demons and need to do the right thing. Despite the last two minutes of the movie (which went for a fairly misplaced up-beat feel), this is a must watch, must own, intelligent, thought-provoking classic.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done., 8 May 2004
The 1950's were a strange, strange time for American film. When watching On the Waterfront it’s helpful to consider two important events that occurred in this decade. Firstly there were the Communist witch-hunts, which lead to many directors being blacklisted (included Elia Kazan). Secondly there was a growing concern that America was becoming complacent. New products would come out and commercials would market them on the basis that they made life easier. In much of the same manner suburban housing became appealing to those who lived in the city with a lower income. Moving to the suburbs gave such people a chance to own a house and move themselves up the class ladder. By buying these products and moving into the mass-produced suburbs some felt that the country was conforming and loosing its identity.
It isn’t difficult to see that these two occurrences had great bearing on the film. At the beginning of the film we find that Terry Malloy (Brando) has resigned himself to the idea that he missed out on his dream of being a prize-fighter. So he lives his life running errands for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the Dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny's thugs, and later meets the dead man's sister (Edie Doyle) who he ultimately falls in love with. She introduces him to Father Barry (Karl Malden), who tries to make him supply information for the courts in order to destroy the dock racketeers.
The fact Terry is put in a situation at the end where he has to ‘ name names’ parallels Elia Kazan’s own dilemma. In fact he later said that ‘On the Waterfront is my own story; every day I worked on that film I was telling the world where I stood and my critics to go and **** themselves.’
America’s growing concern over complacency is also clear because Terry departs in every possible way from the groomed, well spoken leading man of the previous decades. Terry Malloy is strong yet gentle, invincible yet vulnerable. He was in fact born out of 50’s anxiety, as was James Dean’s character in Rebel Without a Cause.
For all the these reasons, as well as Marlon Brando’s method acting (a form of acting Elia Kazan invented in A Streetcar Named Desire) On The Waterfront is a seminal work. It’s worthy of your admiration, of your praise, of your time and of your money.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kazan's untouchable portrayal of Mafia brutality and menace, 2 Feb 2003
In 1954, acclaimed director of "A Streetcar Named Desire", Elia Kazan collaborated with one of the finest musicians of the time, Leonard Bernstein, and possibly the most gifted and versatile actors in screen history, Marlon Brando to create a film of nearly unmatchable power and disturbing realism.
"On the Waterfront" tells the emotional story of an ex-boxer, Terry Malloy (Brando), who, after seeing the immoral and deeply wrong nature of the mafia he is working for, realises the value of life and freedom and sets about to bring the organisation down for its crimes.
A superb performance on Brando's part as well as the film's supporting actors: Eva Marie Saint, who plays the attractive young nun, Edie, who convinces Malloy to listen to his conscience and eventually find his admirable view on life: Rod Steiger, who playsMalloy's brother, Charley The Gent, who shares the fantastic taxi scene with Brando, in which the relationship of the two brothers is seen in its real light: Karl Malden, who plays the creditable town priest whose goal from the outset is to persuade the workers at the dock to rise up against the mafia and expose their evil ways: and lee J. Cobb, who plays mafia leader, Johnny friendly whose ruthless and barbaric personality is mirrored perfectly in Cobbs performance.
Bernstein's score also adds to the amazing power of the film, reflecting the fear, hatred, anger and confusion in every workers hearts and minds in the film. The famous scene where a truck threatens to run Malloy and Edie over in a remote alleyway is given a vital accompaniment of striking overscore to convey the sense of panic and terror that is so prominent in most scenes in the film.
Perhaps most astonishing of all, are the emotions the film can't help but send racing through your mind when viewing it. The savage and barbarous existence of the mafia is so infallably crafted that its very presence in the film fills the viewers heart with anxiety, dread and alarm that I am yet to see paralleled by another piece of filmwork. Also, the touching humbleness of Brando's reformed character has a unique ability of communicating to people from all walks of life, and it is this every-man quality that forms Malloy so perfectly.
8 Academy Awards very well earned and an essential and truly brilliant films in the life of cinema, which even houses one of the most famous and emotive screen lines ever "I coulda been a contender." This immortal line encapsulates the magnificance and power of one the greatest films in history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than that you can't find, 7 Jun 2010
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This review is from: On The Waterfront [DVD] (DVD)
Not so much of a great film as a great young actor. Marlon Brando is quite convincing in this early role. But the plot of the film is both true to the core and false to the bone. We are in New York, on the harbor, on the side of the dockworkers and the very strange atmosphere that existed in not so long ago a time and that may still exist in some harbors in Europe and the USA. To get a job, a daily job quite too often, short time anyway, you had to come in the morning to be selected in order to answer the numbers required by the bosses, in that case the authority of the harbor. These names were selected and called by the union itself. Such a power and the very comfortable income you can get out of it is of course captivated by some union leaders who look more like gang leaders than union leaders. And they accepted no dissent in the rank and file. Killing was even a game that brought some entertainment to those bored Mafiosi. Till one murder too many was done and performed on someone who had the heart of the dockworkers and a daughter who wanted him to be eulogized. That was enough to trigger an explosive situation, in which the local catholic priest is playing the "good devil" for these gangsters and the "guardian angel" for the dockworkers. Apart from that the film is rather trite. The end though is a marvelous piece of work. The defeated union leaders are rejected by a unanimous vote of all dockworkers in support of Terry Malloy who was the stake of the fight and thus vote with their feet against the already forgotten union leaders. But one detail may not be as visible as it should be. The dockworkers are able to walk to the ships when, and only when, the representative of the harbor authorities let them go through. In other words the gangsterized union leaders are only defeated because the harbor authorities say so. It is not class struggle but it is gang war and company within the union with the support that can change from one moment to the next from the bosses in the harbor. Do not think these practices are finished. Far from it. They are an everyday reality in some professions where the unions, or rather some groups of unionized people, have taken the control of the workforce. It is true in harbors, but also in airports and in train-transport companies, at least in Europe. And even if that is waning away little by little.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars i cannot believe that Sony have dropped the fantastic audio commentary that was on the original 2001 DVD ..., 12 Aug 2014
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Just got my UK Blu Ray copy today of this classic movie once again the UK market lose out!!!!!!!!!!! i cannot believe that Sony have dropped the fantastic audio commentary that was on the original 2001 DVD release by Brando's biographer Richard Schickel.This is not good enough what is the excuse for this all we get is the interview with director Elia Kazan,and a mastering method featurette which is at least to be expected.This film was one of Brando's classic performances and was awarded 8 Oscars one of which went to Marlon Brando,and to Kazan for direction this was one of Columbia pictures gems and has not been given the treatment it deserved.Shame on Sony i shall contact them and see what comments if any they make. Regarding the Hi Def transfer the 60 year old movie looks great but collectors and fans will be disappointed,not even any chapter points are included on the menu what on earth is going on pointless cost cutting.I will hang onto my old 2001 DVD copy because these so called film people just cant get it right hope this helps with your purchase of this Blu Ray. Mark,Wallasey,Merseyside.12/8/14.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Waterfront [1954] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [US Import], 13 July 2014
This review is from: Criterion Collection: On the Waterfront [Blu-ray] [1954] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
On the Waterfront [1954] [The Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Marlon Brando gives the performance of his career as the tough prize-fighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy in this masterpiece of urban poetry, a raggedly emotional tale of individual failure and institutional corruption. On the Waterfront charts Terry's deepening moral crisis as he must choose whether to remain loyal to the mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly [Lee J. Cobb] and Johnny's right-hand man, Terry's brother, Charley [Rod Steiger], as the authorities close in on them. Driven by the vivid, naturalistic direction of Elia Kazan and savy streetwise dialogue by Budd Schulberg.

On the Waterfront was a critical and commercial success and received 12 Academy Award® nominations, winning eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint, and Best Director for Elia Kazan. In 1997 it was ranked by the American Film Institute as the 8th greatest American film of all time. It is Bernstein's only original film score not adapted from a stage production with songs.

Cast: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, Ben Wagner, James Westerfield, Katherine MacGregor, Fred Gwynne, Leif Erickson, Martin Balsam, Pat Hingle and Nehemiah Persoff

Director: Elia Kazan

Producer: Sam Spiegel

Screenwriter: Budd Schulberg

Composer: Leonard Bernstein

Cinematography: Boris Kaufman

Resolution: 1080p [Black and White]

Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1, 1.85:1 and 1.33:1

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 1.0 PCM Mono

Subtitles: English SDH

Running Time: 108 minutes

Number of discs: 2

Region: Region A/1

Studio: Criterion Collection

Andrew's Blu-ray Review - The truly great films have it all - a meaningful story, resonating themes, incisive direction, powerful performances, a literate screenplay, superior cinematography, and a driving narrative force that grabs the attention of an audience and keeps it spellbound from the opening frames to the closing credits. Not many films possess all these elusive components, but 'On the Waterfront' does - in spades. Elia Kazan's gripping study of mob corruption along the docks of New York and one man's willingness to stand up against it is that rare cinematic jewel that's blistering and tender, romantic and suspenseful, intelligent and entertaining. Featuring Marlon Brando's finest performance (and that includes Stanley Kowalski in 'A Streetcar Named Desire') and directed with artful realism and keen insight by Kazan, 'On the Waterfront,' almost six decades after it first premiered, remains one of Hollywood's most searing and riveting motion pictures. And this dynamite edition from Criterion gives this unforgettable movie the respect and attention it deserves. The year is still young, but it's impossible to imagine any other classic release eclipsing it.

'On the Waterfront' changed the face of movies with its emphasis on naturalistic photography and acting. Shot almost entirely on location in Hoboken, New Jersey and employing a number of actual longshoremen in bit parts and as extras, the film wears its grit on its sleeve, thrusting its viewers into a rough, lower class milieu among real people who perform back-breaking labour for a meagre wage and cow-tow to greedy bosses who bully and exploit them on a daily basis. All the workers abide by the "D and D" (deaf and dumb) code, accepting the culture of corruption and refusing to rat out the powerful syndicate for fear of dire repercussions. Johnny Friendly [Lee J. Cobb] runs the outfit and he's anything but. Blustery and ruthless, he's all about the take, and when Joey Doyle decides to snitch, he sends errand boy Terry Malloy [Marlon Brando] to lure him out of hiding and to his death. The naive Terry is shocked by the swift retribution ("I thought you were just gonna rough him up a little"), but Joey's fate fits Terry's philosophy of life to a T: "Do it to him before he does it to you."

The horrible deed, however, awakens Terry's dormant conscience. A former boxer whose promising future was thwarted by the mob, Terry has since become a thug, languishing in Friendly's posse, his passions and sensitivity quashed by the macho environment and manipulations of his own brother, Charlie the Gent [Rod Steiger], Johnny's right-hand man. His only refuge is the rooftop pigeon coop he tended with Joey, an oasis of solitude in the urban jungle, where his nurturing nature can flourish. Yet when Joey's devastated sister Edie [Eva Marie Saint] convinces the local priest, Father Barry [Karl Malden], to infiltrate the fraternity and foster positive change, Terry's loyalty begins to waver. Two police investigators [Leif Erickson and Martin Balsam] also exert pressure on Terry to spill the specifics of Joey's demise, serving him with a subpoena to testify at a city hearing. Whether Terry will tow his party's line or turn against his crooked compatriots and redeem his guilty soul forms the crux of the drama, as does Terry's burgeoning romance with Edie, who knows nothing of his involvement in her brother's death.

Socially conscious without being self-conscious, and a film with a preacher that's not overtly preachy, 'On the Waterfront' defends the right to turn on and turn in one's peers if the informer believes it's morally correct. The story's central dilemma, intentionally or not, strikingly mirrors the quandary Kazan himself faced two years earlier when he notoriously (and unapologetically) decided to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee during its rabid investigation into Communist infiltration in the U.S. Of course, Kazan's controversial and unpopular decision to betray former colleagues was seen as an act of cowardice and self-preservation, while Terry's choice is depicted as noble and courageous, but the crisis of conscience the two endured is similar, if coincidental. Though Kazan recognises the parallels, which add fascinating subtext to the story, he denies the notion he made 'On the Waterfront' to justify and absolve his actions.

Such theories, however, only enhance the reputation of this exceptional motion picture, which seamlessly blends elements of film noir, westerns, and documentaries into its rich fabric of characters and situations. Screenwriter Budd Schulberg fashions dialogue that's lyrical, snappy, and endlessly quotable ("He doesn't need a doctor, he needs a priest"). Sure, there's Brando's iconic and impassioned "I coulda been a contender" speech, but there's also a rousing oration by Father Barry and heart-breaking tender exchanges between Terry and Edie that evoke visceral responses. Furthermore, Schulberg's intensive research into the longshoreman culture yields a host of vivid characters whose attitudes and reactions never feel contrived. Nor does the obvious bird metaphor. It's no fluke Terry raises pigeons and may become a stool pigeon himself, but like the habitat of his ornithological friends, his soul is also caged, and he yearns to fly away from the waterfront's all-consuming grime and corruption and break free from its binding chains. Elegance and grace epitomize these birds, and the waifish Edie exudes the same qualities, which inspire Terry, who aches for affection, to pursue her.

The location settings brilliantly reflect the hopelessness and despair that engulf the characters, while Kazan's stark imagery lends impact to their respective passions. Boris Kaufman's natural cinematography creates a sombre mood, as he flawlessly captures the grey skies, frigid winter cityscapes, dingy tenements, cramped back rooms, dusty warehouses, and dark alleyways that define the dockside environment. Then tack on the one and only film score from musical genius Leonard Bernstein, which combines screaming progressive jazz with the plaintive moans of a solo horn to produce an accompaniment that's as potent and explosive as the on-screen action.

Brando also creates fantastic chemistry with Saint in her stunning film debut. Their deep longing and mutual need permeate their magnetic moments together, from the "improvised" glove scene in a park playground to their trepidations personal discovery in the saloon to their passionate embrace in Edie's apartment. Saint's shyness and conviction instantly win us over, and her natural, unassuming style complements Brando's more meticulous craftsmanship. When Edie says, "But there's a look in his eye" with such tender perception, the line encapsulates Terry's character and the reading cements their relationship even before it really begins. Both actors justly earned Academy Awards® for their mesmerizing work and for creating one of the most believable romances ever committed to celluloid.

In all, 'On the Waterfront' received a dozen Academy Award® nominations and won eight statuettes. In addition to Marlon Brando [Best Actor] and Eva Marie Saint [Best Supporting Actress], the film was honoured with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration prizes. A forerunner of the kind of independent picture that would one day become Oscar's darling, 'On the Waterfront' used its low budget, stark locations, and blue collar actors to its advantage, weaving them all into a taut, thrilling, yet lyrical ode to personal evolution, maturation, unabashed courage, and unblemished love.

'On the Waterfront' is a bona fide masterpiece, the kind of film that moves and inspires without pretence or manipulation. It addresses important issues in an intelligent manner, and its simple, unaffected artistry, alternately bold and nuanced presentation, and finely etched portrayals heighten its palpable impact. Yielding new rewards and kernels of brilliance with each viewing, it's a film to experience and scrutinise over and over again.

Blu-ray Video Quality - 'On the Waterfront' was caught in the crosshairs during a transitional period in cinema history, as studios began developing the widescreen process to combat the encroaching threat of television. When Kazan's film went into production, Columbia Pictures abruptly mandated all its movies be shot so they could be presented in both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios to accommodate various theatre preferences and projection capabilities. Cinematographer Boris Kaufman, however, cleverly split the difference at 1.66:1, making sure to leave room at the top and bottom of the frame to facilitate a full image. Ironically, though, 'On the Waterfront' has rarely been shown in its preferred format. It premiered in most theatres in 1954 at 1.85:1, which cuts off a bit of information at the top and bottom of the screen. The open-matte 1.33:1 version played exclusively on television and in prior home video releases, but here, for the first time, Criterion presents all three aspect ratios, so viewers can choose the format they prefer. The 1.66:1 version has been rightfully designated the default format and resides on Disc One. It presents the most pleasing and balanced composition, and is the manner in which both Kazan and Kaufman preferred the film to be viewed. The 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 renditions are both included on Disc Two.

Boris Kaufman's Oscar-winning black-and-white cinematography combines gritty naturalism with core noir elements to produce a stunning image that's always been difficult to faithfully reproduce in the home video realm. Criterion, however, has done a spectacular job, creating a new digital transfer in 4k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative. It's not perfect, but 'On the Waterfront' was never meant to look perfect. Here, the realism is uncompromised, with medium grain enhancing the tenement settings and rough dockside exteriors. Some of the solid backgrounds, especially the sky, appear a little noisy at times, and a few scenes suffer from a nagging bit of softness, but on the whole, the image is clear and well-modulated.

Shot in the dead of winter, 'On the Waterfront' captures the frigid conditions with marvellous accuracy, from hazy, monochromatic street scenes to the harsh glare of the sun. You can see the steam emanating from the actors' mouths and feel the textures of the tattered jackets and scuffed hats that adorn the dock workers. Though the grey scale varies in intensity depending on the scene, there's a consistency to the look of 'On the Waterfront' that oftentimes lends it a documentary feel. Blacks are denser and contrast is stronger in indoor shots, although exterior nocturnal sequences brim with shadowy depth. Whites are vivid, too, and background elements, such as the venetian blinds in the taxi cab and stained glass in the church exude fine levels of detail.

The source material is practically spotless, allowing full immersion in the involving tale, and no digital enhancements of deficiencies disrupt the spell. Close-ups caress Brando's iconic face, the unspoiled loveliness of Saint, and the craggy, weathered visages of the downtrodden labourers. Even the wire cages of the pigeon coops are sharp and resist shimmering. Without a doubt, 'On the Waterfront' has never looked better, and this superior Criterion effort makes this unforgettable film even more powerful than when I saw it released in the cinema.

Blu-ray Audio Quality - Two audio options grace the 'On the Waterfront' disc, offering slightly different soundscapes. The default selection is a lossless monaural track re-mastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic tracks, and it most closely resembles what the film sounded like upon its initial release. Aside from a bit of surface noise afflicting the opening credit sequence, the track is free of any age-related imperfections, such as hiss, pops, and crackles, and pumps out solid audio. Sometimes the music overpowers the action and dialogue - a deficiency of the film's original mix and a fact that really upset Elia Kazan over the years - but only a few lines are lost as a result. Leonard Bernstein's innovative and highly active score does test the limits of the dynamic scale, with its bombastic highs and mellow lows, but no distortion creeps in, and the horns and strings sound wonderfully pure, bright, and full.

Dialogue can be problematic at times, but that's mostly due to the mumbling of Marlon Brando and the longshoremen, as well as their New York dialects and the music crescendos. Bass frequencies are strong, with elements such as foghorns and truck rumbles wielding appropriate weight, and accents like shattering glass and screeching tires are crisp and distinct.

The newly designed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track was also created from the original 35mm magnetic tracks, as well as the original stereo music recordings. This mix sounds a bit smoother and warmer than the monaural track, even though most of the audio is still anchored up front. Dialogue issues are identical, but the music possesses a broader feel with the addition of the rear speakers. Nuances are also a bit more pronounced, with ambient bar noise and exterior atmospherics easier to pick up. While some manufactured 5.1 tracks sound processed and artificial, this one seamlessly blends into the film's fabric.

Both audio options supply high-quality sound that beautifully complements this film classic and honours the only film score of composer Leonard Bernstein. I recommend giving both a try and deciding for yourself which one you prefer.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

Alternate presentations of the feature restoration in two additional aspect ratios: 1.85:1 [widescreen] and 1.33:1 [full-screen]

Alternate surround soundtrack, presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition

Commentary featuring authors Richard Schickel and Jeff Young: A terrific commentary by film critic and historian Richard Schickel and author Jeff Young, both of whom have interviewed and written books on Kazan, provides a wealth of fascinating insights, anecdotes, and bits of trivia concerning this classic picture and Kazan's personal connection to it. The two men talk about the film's ripped-from-the-headlines background, bitterly cold shoot, authentic locations, and Brando's genius. Schickel calls 'On the Waterfront' "the last great black-and-white movie" and "apotheosis of Actor's Studio acting," while both discuss how the story paralleled Kazan's own experiences with the House Un-American Activities Committee and quote their respective conversations with Kazan. They compare Kazan's penchant for cool blondes to Hitchcock's similar obsession, examine the movie's often "artless" presentation, and note Frank Sinatra was originally slated to play Terry Malloy. (One can only shudder to think how that would have turned out.) This is a great dialogue between two intelligent film scholars, and their relaxed demeanour and comfortable chemistry make the track fly by. Many commentaries are just a bunch of hot air; this one's a breath of fresh air, and well worth a listen.

New conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones [18:00] In this 2012 discussion, Scorsese and Jones, who co-directed the documentary 'A Letter to Elia,' reflect on Kazan's masterwork. Scorsese dominates the conversation, remembering the profound effect 'On the Waterfront' had on him as a young boy and his "special connection" to it. In addition to talking about the film's music, photography, and locations, the two men compare the movie to 'Force of Evil' and 'Citizen Kane,' and examine the similarities between Brando and another legendary cinema anti-hero, John Garfield.

Elia Kazan: Outsider [1982 Documentary] [53:00] "A mass of ambivalence" is how Kazan describes himself in this probing 1982 profile that provides an intimate look at the man and his career. Composed almost entirely of comments by Kazan taken from a series of interviews with French film critic Michel Ciment, the documentary allows the director the opportunity to expound on his Turkish immigrant background, tenure at The Group Theatre, and the genesis of the famed Actor's Studio, which he co-founded. Kazan explains the finer points of method acting, recalls working with Brando and Robert De Niro, recounts how he cast James Dean in 'East of Eden,' defends his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and discusses his various novels and personal relationships. Unfortunately, only clips from 'Baby Doll' and 'America, America' are used to illustrate his work, but Kazan's frank remarks and vibrant personality keep this well-made portrait lively and interesting.

I'm Standin' Over Here Now: Reconsidering 'On the Waterfront' [Documentary] [45:00] Another strong documentary, this 2012 collection of interviews with five noted authors, editors, and film scholars covers all aspects of 'On the Waterfront,' from its earliest origins (playwright Arthur Miller first brought the idea of a longshoreman movie to Kazan) all the way through the film's premiere, success, and legacy. Much attention is given to analysing Kazan's character, his suspicious nature, association with the Communist party, and decision to name names. (Author David Thomson believes Kazan blossomed artistically in the years following his testimony, noting "Being a better artist sometimes means being a worse human being.") We also learn about the real-life figures upon whom some of the characters are based, screenwriter Budd Schulberg's extensive first-hand research, how the movie delicately strives to advance civil rights, and how the naturalism of 'On the Waterfront' impacted actors and their profession. All the major performances are meticulously examined, as well as the striking cinematography and the movie's "acute sense of place." Though somewhat static visually, this is nevertheless an absorbing and informative documentary that no fan of this classic should miss.

Interview: Eva Marie Saint [11:00] Still beautiful at age 88, Saint sits down to reminisce about 'On the Waterfront' and her experiences making her debut film in this 2012 interview. She recalls her initial nerves, her chemistry with Brando, and how, contrary to popular belief, the famous glove scene resulted from a mishap that occurred during rehearsal - not during shooting - and was recreated on screen. Saint terms Brando and Kazan the best actor and director with whom she ever worked, and describes how the scene in which she and Brando are pursued by a speeding truck ended up being more realistic (and frightening) than she anticipated. She also compares Kazan's directing style to that of Alfred Hitchcock, who guided her through 'North by Northwest,' in this wonderfully nostalgic and sincere conversation.
Interview: Elia Kazan [12:00] In this 2001 interview with film critic and historian Richard Schickel, the director lauds the 'On the Waterfront' screenplay as "perfect," and says of the movie as a whole, "This was as close [as I ever came] to making a film exactly the way I wanted it." Kazan remembers "hanging out in Hoboken" to absorb the attitudes of the dock workers and meeting a real-life prototype of Terry Malloy; how producer Darryl F. Zanuck, despite his penchant for socially conscious pictures, refused to bankroll the production; and how eventual producer Sam Spiegel drove writer Budd Schulberg crazy with script revisions, but the two rose above the antagonisms to create a terrific work. Kazan admires the uncanny manner in which Brando could balance brutal toughness with a delicate tenderness, and confesses the iconic cab scene that features the immortal line, "I coulda been a contender," was basically self-directed by Brando and Rod Steiger. Kazan is always a kinetic presence, and here, even at age 92, he's as clear-headed and feisty as ever.

Contender: Mastering the Method [Documentary] [25:00] 'On the Waterfront' was the first movie to fully showcase method acting, and this 2001 featurette scrutinizes the famous taxicab scene between Brando and Rod Steiger that epitomizes the philosophy. Critic Richard Schickel, TV host James Lipton, actor Martin Landau, Brando biographer Patricia Bosworth, author Jeff Young, and Rod Steiger himself analyse the scene from every angle, discussing its slapdash shooting, various nuances, Brando's inherent insecurities, Rod Steiger's anger over having to shoot his close-ups with a stand-in (Marlon Brando was dismissed early that day so he could see his shrink), and the basic tenets of The Method. Rarely does any single sequence from any film deserve such attention, but this one does, and this piece honours it to the fullest.

Interview: Thomas Hanley [12:00] 'On the Waterfront' employed many local Hoboken non-actors, and Thomas Hanley was one of them. He portrays young Tommy Collins, the tenement boy who helps Terry tend his rooftop pigeon coop and becomes disillusioned when Terry turns snitch. In this revealing 2012 interview, Hanley looks back at his experiences, recalling how he lived in the building where much of the movie was shot, how he was cast, the embarrassment he felt about acting in a film, the familiar Hoboken locations, and how Kazan purposely antagonised him to provoke emotion. He also shares his fond memories of Brando, and details his 50-plus-year tenure as an actual longshoreman (he joined the ranks at age 16, just two years after 'On the Waterfront' premiered) and the corruption that existed then and continues to this day. With candour and insight, Hanley provides another unique perspective that enhances this enduring classic.

Who Is Mr. Big? [Documentary] [26:00] Author and waterfront expert James T. Fisher chronicles the fascinating real-life history behind Kazan's film. We learn how Irish immigrants dominated the port and made it their "fiefdom," creating a hierarchy that both protected and exploited the workers, and how the self-regulating system hinged on a code of silence that brushed nefarious deeds and illegalities under the rug. Fisher also discusses the birth of the waterfront priest, the explosive public hearings generated by a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles by Malcolm Johnson (which inspired Budd Schulberg to write his screenplay), and links historical figures, such as Father Pete Corridan, Joe Ryan, and Bill McCormick (the prototype for the mob boss seen fleetingly after Terry's testimony), to their fictional counterparts in the movie. (Terry Malloy is a composite of many characters Schulberg encountered during his exhaustive immersion in the longshoreman culture.) Though conditions have improved on the docks over time, Fisher explains how the workers ultimately refused to end the corruption when they had the chance, allowing the Johnny Friendly's of the world to reclaim their position of power despite the efforts of Terry Malloys and Father Barrys. This 2012 documentary is another first-class offering from Criterion that provides essential background and context necessary to fully understand and appreciate 'On the Waterfront.'

Jon Burlingame on Leonard Bernstein's Score [Video Essay] [20:00] The legendary composer only wrote one film score during his storied career, and it was for 'On the Waterfront.' This absorbing video essay examines the "ground-breaking" nature of the music through the three major themes and how they complement the action and dovetail during key moments. We also learn Bernstein played jazz piano during the bar scene; both Kazan and Schulberg complained about the score, but respect it; and possible reasons why Bernstein didn't win the Oscar for his work. Film clips and stills illustrate the various points and engender additional admiration for the potent and moving music.

On the Aspect Ratio [Documentary] [5:00] This fascinating documentary examines the multiple aspect ratios of 'On the Waterfront' and how cinematographer Boris Kaufman shot the film using the "shoot and protect" technique to allow it to be exhibited in various formats. Examples of each ratio are shown, along with a discussion of their respective pros and cons. Cine aficionados will definitely want to check this one out.

Theatrical Trailer [3:00] The original preview for 'On the Waterfront' touts the picture's greatness, but also amusingly terms its story "as warm and moving as 'Going My Way' (but with brass knuckles!)." What advertising hack wrote that ridiculous copy?!

PLUS: A stunning booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Almereyda and reprints of Kazan's 1952 ad in the New York Times defending his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, one of the 1948 New York Sun articles by Malcolm Johnson on which the film was based, and a 1953 Commonweal piece by screenwriter Budd Schulberg.

Finally, though the year is still young, Criterion's Blu-ray edition of 'On the Waterfront' easily leads the pack in the race for 2013's best classic release. Elia Kazan's scorching study of blue-collar corruption and the lone wolf who dares to break ranks and expose the mob's dirty deeds remains relevant, riveting, and deeply affecting almost six decades after it first wowed its way to eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Marlon Brando gives the performance of his career, and exceptional support from a superior cast, as well as extensive location shooting and naturalistic photography, lend this memorable picture a supremely authentic feel. Criterion's high-definition presentation features top-notch video and audio transfers, and enough fascinating extras to make every viewer an authority on this classic film. Like the best movies, it satisfies on many levels, kicking us in the gut, tugging our heart strings, and forcing us to think about and reflect on a variety of substantive themes. It also inspires unabashed admiration for the sheer talent on display in front of and behind the camera. From the opening frames straight through to its brutal and inspiring finish, 'On the Waterfront' proves its way more than a contender; it's one of Hollywood's truly great films, and an absolute must own, as it is the ultimate version you will ever have and I am so proud and honoured to have this in my ever increasing Criterion Blu-ray Collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Andrew C. Miller - Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood Acting Masterclass, 15 Dec 2011
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Elia Kazan's 1954 masterpiece of New York dockland crime and corruption is a true Hollywood classic (back in the days when such a concept wasn't a rarity) and contains some of the finest acting performances to originate from that bygone era. The film rightly won eight Oscars, including that for Best Film, Best Director (Kazan) and Best Actor (Marlon Brando).

The film's main protagonist Terry Malloy (Brando) is torn between, on the one hand, his loyalty to the dockland 'mafia gang' run by Johnny Friendly (Lee J Cobb), whose members include chief henchman Charley (Terry's brother played by Rod Steiger), and, on the other hand, his burgeoning love for dockland new arrival Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint), whose brother Joey has recently been murdered by Friendly's gang. At the prompting of local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) Terry is persuaded to testify in court against Friendly's gang with predictably tragic consequences.

In addition to Brando's career-best performance, there are also outstanding performances from Karl Malden (nominated for Best Supporting Actor) and a remarkably assured film debut performance from Eva Marie Saint (at the surprisingly mature age of 30), a performance which garnered Saint the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. But, for me, the two outstanding acting plaudits go to Rod Steiger in a brilliantly underplayed role as Charlie, and the much underrated Lee J Cobb, who exudes menace as the ruthless Johnny Friendly. Cobb's performance ranks alongside his other career-crowning glory that was his film-stealing role as the anonymously-named Juror No. 3 in Sidney Lumet's 1957 courtroom classic 12 Angry Men. Both Steiger and Cobb were (along with Malden) also unsuccessful in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The final, but absolutely key, component to Kazan's film is the terrific score composed by Leonard Bernstein. Reminiscent in parts to some of the incidental music he wrote for West Side Story, the score brilliantly tracks the film's tension and high-octane action sequences.

Of course, the film is also justly famous for the seminal scene in the back of a New York cab between brothers Terry and Charley, as Charley confronts Terry with the ultimatum either not to testify against Johnny Friendly or to face the consequences. This scene represents pure gold in screen acting. (As a slight aside, the DVD also provides fascinating additional detail on the making of this scene - including the fact that producer Sam Spiegel would not provide Kazan with an actual cab for the shoot and so Kazan was forced to improvise using one half of another vehicle! .. and that Marlon Brando decided to leave the shoot midway in order to make an analyst's appointment, leaving Steiger (somewhat annoyed) to complete his half of the scene alone!)

As a final word, On The Waterfront is often cited as Kazan's answer to those who criticised him for testifying to HUAC (House Committee on Un-American Activities) against (alleged) Communists working in Hollywood at the time. I think it slightly fanciful, if true, of Kazan to equate the gangster activities of a character like Johnny Friendly with those of many creative Hollywood artists such as Edward Dmytryk, Lillian Hellman, Elmer Bernstein and Dalton Trumbo, whose careers were effectively ended by this witchhunt.

Still, this reservation aside, Kazan undoubtedly made some great Hollywood films, of which On The Waterfront is the finest.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brando's BEST, 25 Mar 2002
By A Customer
The 'Contender' scene should be spliced into every single film reel to show audiences what acting is really all about. Right before Schwarzenegger spits out his latest catch phrase or Adam Sandler plays the angry young man again, movie viewers should witness the timing, the choices and the emotion included in this 4 minute scene. Not only this, the entire movie displays how Hollywood used to get it right. How acting ability ment a movie became a hit and not merely due to a face on a poster or months of teaser trailers (thank you George Lucas). A story that shows more than 'One man's struggle...' Eliah Kazan's direction off screen and Brando's on screen performance meant that the primary cast produce mouth watering characters that probably existed on the dock's of New York in the 40's. Other noticable performances are by Malden (a name that should be as well known as all his peers), Steiger (watch his face during the contender scene and you can see the turmoil in his character's mind contest his feelings) and Eva Marie Saint (an oscar winner for supporting actress). The features add a nice touch to the DVD - especially the 'Mastering the Method' feature, however the movie alone should justify the purchase of this title. Terry Malloy should be a name up there or ahead of Vito Corleone in cinematic histroy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hit the rewind button and marvel in his excellence !!!, 6 Oct 2007
By 
Multi Oscar winning film, brilliantly directed, with a superb cast. Eva Marie Saint is excellent, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, but the genius of this film is of course Marlon Brando.

Marlon Brando - A stunningly handsome man, who wasnt just a beautiful face, this man was possibly the greatest actor of all time.

With his unique voice and a face that has you transfixed at the screen, Marlon Brando delivers an absolutely stunning performance in this film.

The scene in the car with Rod Steiger, where Brando says ' I could have been someone'...just hit the rewind button over and over again....that is one of the finest scenes in cinema history. It's 'real' and he acts to perfection.

Marlon Brando gives the performance of a lifetime in this film. We all know Brando is excellent in the Godfather, but this is Brando at his finest.

Anyone who wants to be an actor, just watch that scene over and over again, because Brando is the Master.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars KAZAN's greatest film, BRANDO's 1st OSCAR:key Post WW2 film!, 26 Mar 2005
By 
Jeff Markham (Walton-on-Thames, UK) - See all my reviews
On the Waterfront (1954) - Oscar-winning Brando's early peak and a key post-war American film that remains hugely admired and controversial in equal measure. Don't forget just how equally superb are the lovely Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger in key supporting roles, in this monochrome masterpiece that remains Elia Kazan's best film.
Who can ever forget he classic "I coulda been a contender Charlie...instead of a bum which is what I am" dialogue with brother Steiger in the back of the taxi cab. Stunning 50s cinema, influenced by film noir and brilliantly shot by ace lensman BORIS KAUFMAN.
Buy it, rent it, marvel at BRANDO's performance. Sheer class Marlon/Terry Malloy - you WERE a contender and in fact wiped the floor with 99.9% of the American acting establishment. A TRULY GREAT FILM.
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Criterion Collection: On the Waterfront [Blu-ray] [1954] [US Import]
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