'You take a Streetcar named Desire, then change to one named Cemetary'. Blanche Dubois' directions to find her sister's home, sum up author Tennessee Williams' view of life, and how it is portrayed in this classic film.
Ellia Kazan's insightful and sensitive direction, coupled with wonderful acting, make this film compelling and electric. Vivian Leigh won the best actress Oscar for her performance. Karl Malden (of 'Streets of San Francisco' fame), and Kim Hunter won Oscars for supporting roles. Marlon Brando was nominated for best actor, but lost out to Humphrey Bogart in 'The African Queen'.
For me it is Brando's performance that stands out. You have to be careful that your TV screen does not get damaged, as he burns a trail across every scene he is in. Putting it crudely, the man oozes sex, passion and turmoil.
A whole disc of extras, tell the history of the play, and how it was transferred to film. I was fascinated to learn about changes that had to be made to the play, and cuts to the finished film that had to be made, so that it could play in 1951. The cuts to the film are restored in this version. It was interesting to learn that the Broadway cast were largely kept for the film. Only Jessica Tandy as Blanche Dubois was dropped, as they needed one bankable movie star amongst what was a cast of unknowns in Hollywood then. Vivian Leigh was drafted in, as she had played the role in London.
It's not a good film to watch if you like them light and easily entertaining, but if you like 'em meaty and thought provoking then this film is a classic must-have.
At the time of writing, the movie is available at a special low price, so what are you waiting for?
on 24 August 2006
As a playwright, Tennessee Williams was to the South what William Faulkner was as a fiction writer: a creative genius who revolutionized not only the region's arts scene and literature but that of 20th century America as a whole, bringing a Southern voice to the forefront while addressing universally important themes, and influencing and inspiring generations of later writers.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning "A Streetcar Named Desire" dates from the peak of Williams's creativity, the period between 1944 ("A Glass Menagerie") and 1955 ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," his second Pulitzer-winner). After its successful 1947 run on Broadway, "Streetcar" was adapted into a screenplay by Williams himself for this movie produced and directed by Elia Kazan, starring the entire Broadway cast except Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by the star of the play's London production, Vivien Leigh. The piece takes its title from one of the New Orleans streetcar lines that protagonist Blanche DuBois (Leigh) rides on her way to the apartment of her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), foreshadowing her later path, from (ever-unfulfilled) Desire to Cemetery (death, or the loss of reality) and a street called Elysian Fields, like the ancient mythological land of the dead.
Although Blanche is the person most visibly engaging in deception (of herself and others), almost everyone of the characters suffers loss after a brutal reality check: Stella, who hasn't been back home for years, first learns from Blanche that their genteel home Belle Reve (literally: "beautiful dream") is "lost" - although in what manner precisely Blanche doesn't specify, which immediately raises the suspicion of Stella's husband Stanley (Marlon Brando) - only to later hear from Stanley that under the veneer of Blanche's appearance as a delicate Southern lady lies a promiscuous past, and the true circumstances of her ouster from her job and ultimately from their home town were not as Blanche would have Stella believe. Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), who despite their disparate social backgrounds intends to marry Blanche after they are drawn to each other by their mutual need for "somebody" in their life, is similarly disillusioned by Stanley, and subsequently by Blanche herself when he insists on seeing her in bright light instead of the dim light of dancehalls and of the paper lamp she has insisted on hanging over Stella and Stanley's living room lamp, neither able to face the effects of age and a profligate lifestyle herself nor willing to reveal them to others. And Blanche's own loss of innocence, finally, set in years earlier, when she found her young husband in bed with another man and he committed suicide after she publicly reproached him. "Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life," Tennessee Williams says about "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Kazan's 1988 autobiography "A Life;" and in a letter opposing the movie's censoring before its release he described the story as being about "ravishment of the tender, the sensitive, the delicate, by the savage and brutal forces of modern society."
The brute, of course, is Stanley, who not only becomes the catalyst of Blanche's fate and the destroyer of Stella's, Mitch's and Blanche's own illusions, but is her antagonist in everything from background to personality: Where she is a fading belle dreaming of days gone by he is all youthful virility, a working-class man living in the here and now; where she is refined he is crude, and where she engages in pretense, he tears down the facade behind which she is hiding. The conversation during which Stanley tells Stella about Blanche's past is pointedly set against Blanche's humming the Arlen/Harburg tune "It's Only a Paper Moon," which sees love transforming life into a fantasy world, which in turn however "wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me." Yet, as portrayed by Marlon Brando, who with this movie stormed into public awareness with his unique and volcanic approach to acting, Stanley is no mere vulgar beast but a complex, often controversial character, despite his brutal streak almost childishly dependant on his wife and frequently hiding his own insecurities under his raw appearance (thus putting up a certain front as well, but unlike Blanche's, a socially acceptable, even common one). Ever the method actor, Brando reportedly stayed in character even during filming breaks; much to the disgust of Vivien Leigh, for whom lines like "[h]e's like an animal. ... Thousands of years have passed him right by and there he is: Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the stone-age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle" must consequently have come from the bottom of her heart.
In early 1950s' society, "Streetcar" was considered way too risque - even downright sordid - to be presented to moviegoing audiences without severe censorship, which Williams and Kazan were only partly able to fight. One of the most substantial changes made in the adaptation was that at the end of the movie Stanley is punished for his brutality towards Blanche, whereas in the play's cynical original ending he is the only character experiencing no loss at all; indeed seeing his world restored after Blanche's exit. Since Kazan's suggestion to produce two alternate versions (one to please the censors, one in conformity with Williams's play) was rejected, even the 1993 "Original Director's Version" retains its altered, censorship-induced ending. Therefore, the play will forever constitute the last word on Williams's intentions. But even in its censored version this movie was a deserved quadruple Oscar- and multiple other award-winner (albeit undeservedly not for Brando). It has long-since become a true classic: a cinematic gem of first-rate direction and superlative performances throughout.
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower"
(Preface to the published version of Tennessee Williams's play.)
on 29 January 2013
Wow! We really are in the midst of a great period of home movie consumption. With much revered classics looking better than ever before on Bluray discs, it really is a marvellous time for movies in the home. The Bluray in question here is simply fantastic and Streetcar has never looked so glorious! The shaky old DVD copy is quite redundant now for all who love this classic movie. Dark and brooding is the order of the day here and this Bluray transfer is just so. And intentionaly so. For a 60 year old piece of celluloid this looks fabulous.
With a barnstorming and bestial performance from Brando, a fragile, mesmerising Vivien Leigh and great turns by Kim Hunter and Karl Malden the film deservedly won 4 Oscars in 1951 and is still a powerful piece today. Interestingly, 3 of the 4 leads won the Oscar in their category for acting with only Brando missing out in the lead actor category. To Humphrey Bogart no less.
The sumptuous set designs and art direction also triumphed and its easy to see why.
Extra features on the disc are ported from a previous edition of the movie but are extremely noteworthy. A brilliant, pieced together commentary track with the ever informative, if a little dry, Rudy Behlmer, actor Karl Malden and Jeff Young. A fascinating documentary on director Elia Kazan which is over an hour long, a couple of featurettes on the play from which the film came and its journey from stage to screen and some other interesting tidbits examining some background on the movie.
Easy to recommend this is a beautiful release of a magnificent movie!
on 25 December 2008
Elia Kazan's adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play 'A Streetcar Named Desire' translates beautifully to the screen in this 1951 film version. Anchored primarily by screen giants Vivien Leigh (Blanche DuBois) and Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), the film tells the story of a faded Southern Belle (Blanche) and her struggle to come to terms with her own existence in an increasingly faded world, and illustrates the dramatic conflict between Blanche and her brother-in-law Stanley, played by the sensual Brando.
Having directed the play just years earlier on the Broadway stage, Kazan was keen to put his own mark on this film translation, where there is an overwhelming sense of the steamy South, encapsulated and enclosed, literally, within the walls of the Kowalski apartment. Although Leigh holds her own against Method giant Brando, her performance ultimately pales into insignificance compared to Brando's revolutionary interpretation of Williams' sexually-charged hero. Not only did it signal the dawn of a style of acting unseen in film - paving the way for such performances of James Dean's Jim Stark and Paul Newman's Brick Pollitt - but represented an archtype in male sexuality and sensuality in post-war America. Wearing t-shirts that reveal rippling biceps, quite self-consciously on the part of Brando, and a body that reminds one of a modern-day Adonis, Brando stalks through Kazan's film. Certainly, it is Brando's Stanley, and not Leigh's Blanche, who becomes the eroticised object of the film, something that, it is worth noting, Williams' original play did not intend.
Through the use of lighting and sound, and through, of course, the magic of Leigh's performance, the film represents Blanche as a woman undone in the emotional and physical sense. The film tracks her emotional disintegration, choosing to use Williams' original sound effects (most notably with the Varsouviana when Blanche talks of her dead husband), and lighting and shading that come to represent the darker sides of her behaviour. Karl Malden as Mitch is also a casting masterstroke, and with Kim Hunter as Stella, the film fails not to impress with its delve into the dynamics of sexual desire and mental illness.
Brando, however, becomes the film's scene-stealer - something Williams did not originally intend in his play. Brando is just too good looking for us to perceive his character as a menace and a bully. Kazan's attempts to translate and open out Williams' play on the silver screen in a Hollywood riddled with industry censorship ultimately created a landmark in film-making. A recommended watch at the highest level!
on 10 July 2012
Sixty years on Streetcar remains essential viewing, a tour de force drama which continues to be ageless as it examines the human condition in a way in which we can all relate to.
Based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name Streetcar follows Blanche who comes to live with her sister and brother in law harbouring a few secrets, she finds what awaits her is not what she expected.
Brando is oft discussed when it comes to Streetcar and with good reason, his performance is truly iconic here as Stanley, representing a brutish exciting and sexually charged male, predatory almost like an animal, albeit one with a bad temperament, he exudes all these features at times coming across more like a force of nature than anything else. His Oscar nomination accordingly deserved and arguably his most memorable performance outside the Godfather
However Leigh as Blanche for me is the central component, gorgeous, exciting, vulnerable and damaged a volatile mix, feminine but promiscuous, a woman of means reduced to staying in a run down housing block, repulsed and excited by Stanley's raw masculinity. As the film develops we discover the events that drive her forward in her precarious state, just how lonely she is, how badly she needs human connection an utterly complete performance of a complicated character. David Fincher commented the Vivien Leigh was fantastic in streetcar but will always be Scarlett O'Hara, for me however I saw Streetcar first and her performance as Blanche Du Bois is and forever will be engrained in my mind, a deserved Oscar win though the parallels in Leigh's real life make it an even darker role.
Spousal abuse as well as the entwining links between violence and sex are explored in as much detail as they could be during the 50's, at times necessarily subtle which if anything adds more to the picture and at it's core Streetcar remains a psychological study of emotionally driven or even damaged people, multi-layered performances from all the cast present a tragic picture. Blanche's need to create 'magic' to be courted like a lady to compensate for what she's done her continued downward spiral you find yourself unable to pull away from. It addresses the generational shift the old giving away to a new.
Indeed everything about streetcar worked, despite only taking place in a few locations the direction is never dull, the use of light and shadow important and creates a beautiful picture to look at amidst the streets of New Orleans, you can feel the grime and sweat as well as the steamy sexuality. The score represents the situations with aplomb with haunting polka covering Blanche's tragedy.
Still current and surpassing many a modern drama due to it's winning performances Streetcar is a timeless classic and always will be, long after 250 million dollar blockbusters like Transformers are gone people will still remember "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" and for good reason.
on 16 November 2002
In "A Streetcar Named Desire" Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski gives what is clearly the best acting performance not to win an Academy Award (he lost to Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen"). Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski, and Karl Malden as Mitch all won in their respective acting categories. Years later, with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" this same thing happened, with both of the ladies winning that time around.
Tennessee Williams' play is one of the major works in American drama, especially after the Second World War, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1947 (with Jessica Tandy as Blanche the only cast change from the film; although I should point out Leigh opened the play in England on stage). Although Brando's performance is riveting, representing the new "modern" method of acting at its best, the play is really about the mental and moral disintegration of Blanche, a neurotic former Southern belle whose genteel illusions are no match for the brutish realities of her brother-in-law, Stanley. The fact that Hollywood changed the ending to reflect conventional morality remains one of the great sins in movie history, but I have always thought the fact Brando's legendary stage performance was essentially preserved on film offsets that in the final judgment. Leigh's performance is often seen as an extension of the Scarlett O'Hara role that made her famous, but of course now we know her personal life was as tortured as the character she was playing.
I heard an argument once that "A Streetcar Named Desire" was, at least on some level, a reponsible by Tennessee Williams to Eugene O'Neill's play "The Iceman Cometh" (then again, I have heard the same argument made, more forcefully to be sure, regarding Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"). O'Neill's classic play deals with the human need for illusion and hope as necessary weapons against despair. If you are teaching American drama in the 20th century, then using these plays in any combination you might like could be quite provocative for your students.
Personal aside: I was in New Orleans once and actually saw the bus named "Desire," which had replaced the city streetcars. There was certainly an odd little moment.
Most significant line: It does not seem right to talk about romantic lines with any of these characters, but there is a line that is one of the greatest character epitaphs ever. Of course, this is at the end where Blanches says to the doctor, "Whoever you are, I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers." I have usually found that at some point in a play there is a line that defines the character so well it could serve as their epitaph. This line is as clear an example of what I am talking about as you could ever hope to find.
on 25 April 2007
Tennesse Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire derived from a very successful Broadway Play in 1947, where the young man known as Brando made his extraordinary performance, which sent the audiences roaring, stamping on their feet and howling at his genisus of chewing gum street slicker, Stanley Kolawski.
Brando was reunited with director of the play, Elia Kazan for the film adaption in 1951, along with Karl Malden and Kim Hunter minus Jessica Tandy's plain and clear point she was mis-cast and couldn't stand up to the power of Brando, hence replaced by Vivien Leigh, who made her big comeback upon the screen.
Blanche DuBois, arrives in sweaty, jazz-orientated New Orleans to meet (and supposebly) live with her sister, Stella while she gets things sorted out. Blanche appears chidlish to Stella's jealous boyfriend where his taunting and short temperness proves too much for the pair...........
Brando as the chewing gum street slicker was practically effortless. This included narling speech which was very muffed; a horrendous devil-like chuckle; a cunningness quality and a staring posture with little eye contact with a leaning hand on the wall to emphasise a short attention span. Vivien Leigh showed a mentally troubled former school teacher in Blanche DuPois. For example, Leigh constantly used her hands to cover her face to highlight the feeling of disgust and the fear of ugliness as well as a boasting side to impress herself. Kim Hunter plays Stella as a woman who sees the arguments and make-ups with Stanley as commonplate and fails to break away as an independant mind. Karl Malden plays Butch, Stanley's best pal, who seeks the kindness in the fragile Blanche, but grows discontent with her elusive behaviour.
Kazan's theatrical setting provides a slow, riveting violent descent through the three main characters with ever winding consquences right to the very end of the piece. The themes of depression and mental illness as well as povery are seen, especially DuBoit's fear of the gastly sights and smells of the of the city and when she refuses to open up her heart to Butch, when he demands to know why she behaves like this.
The plight of physical violence in some scenes, but often happens off-screen, pushed the taboo and controversial decision to the limelight for the very first time, where the Academy board at the time, removed some of the explict content, but eventually ended up that year disbanding. The explict content was restored in 1991, with an additional four minutes running time which was stripped from the original theatrical version.
This remains one of America's finest films from the 1950s and possibly the best and most frank adaption of a Williams Play made within it's time period unlike later ones which were converted into slushy melodramas.
on 21 February 2013
'A Streetcar Named Desire' is a 1951 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play of the same name.
Basically, the film focuses on the character of Blanche DuBois, an ageing Southern belle who arrives in the French Quarter of New Orleans to visit her sister, Stella. As the film progresses, we discover that Blanche is an extremely troubled character and the situation is not at all helped when Blanche encounters Stella's husband, Stanley Kowalski (played magnificantly by a young Marlon Brando). By the film's end, Blanche winds up in an institution and you cannot help but feel it is all because of Stanley's treatment of her.
Anyhow, onto the Blu Ray quality.
The quality of this Blu Ray is absolutely top drawer, especially considering the age of this film (1951). The picture is so crisp and clear - you could almost swear that this film was made just recently, let alone in 1951!
As for the sound, I have to say that it is pretty good - the dialogue is more or less spot on (although, I did have to put subtitles on at times when Brando spoke) and the music score (which is just as important as the dialogue, especially in this film) sounds amazing.
Overall, a fine Blu Ray transfer is guaranteed here.
Last, but not least, the Special Features here are very good. However, if I had any complaint to make, I would say that they focus a bit too much on Marlon Brando (not that that's a bad thing... with the context of this film, it certainly isn't).
Thanks for reading my review. I hope it helps.
on 15 February 2015
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE  [60th Anniversary Edition] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Perhaps The Most Thrilling Display of Ensemble Acting in this All American Film!
`A Streetcar Named Desire'  [The Original Restored Version] is the Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams film moviegoers would have not have seen, because of the Legion of Decency censorship occurred at the last minute in 1951. Here it makes its Blu-ray debuted, stunningly restored and digital re-mastered to brilliant 1080p clarity. This classic is presented in a collectable, premium 40 page Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook, with behind-the-scenes photography, production notes, biographies and more! Plus Three minutes of previously unseen footage underscoring, among other things, the sexual tension between Blanche DuBois [Vivien Leigh] and Stanley Kowalski [Marlon Brando], and Stella Kowalski's [Kim Hunter] passion for husband Stanley Kowalski. This is the Original Restored Version.
FILM FACT: `A Streetcar Named Desire' won Four Awards at the 1951 24th Academy Awards® where the film set an OSCAR® record when it became the first film to win in three acting categories and they are as follows: Won: Vivien Leigh for Best Actress. Won: Karl Malden for Best Supporting Actor. Won: Kim Hunter for Best Supporting Actress. Won: Richard Day and George Hopkins for Best Art Direction for Set Decoration in Black-and-White. Nominated: Charles K. Feldman [Producer] for Best Motion Picture. Nominated: Elia Kazan for Best Director. Nominated: Marlon Brando for Best Actor. Nominated: Tennessee Williams for Best Writing and Screenplay. Nominated: Harry Stradling for Best Cinematography in Black-and-White. Nominated: Lucinda Ballard for Best Costume Design in Black-and-White. Nominated: Alex North for Best Music, Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Nominated: Nathan Levinson for Best Sound Recording. Its contributions continue to be celebrated, and holds a place on the AFI's list of Top 100 films.
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden, Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis, Peg Hillias, Wright King, Richard Garrick, Ann Dere, Edna Thomas, Mickey Kuhn, Mel Archer (uncredited), Dahn Ben Amotz (uncredited), Marietta Canty (uncredited), John George (uncredited), John Gonetos (uncredited), Chester Jones (uncredited), Lyle Latell (uncredited), Maxie Thrower (uncredited), Charles Wagenheim (uncredited), John B. Williams (uncredited) and Buck Woods (uncredited)
Director: Elia Kazan
Producer: Charles K. Feldman
Screenplay: Tennessee Williams and Oscar Saul (adaptation)
Composer: Alex North
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Portuguese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Romanian, Slovenian and Swedish
Running Time: 125 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: `A Streetcar Named Desire' originally garnered most of the drama prizes awards when it was playing on Broadway. But with director Elia Kazan and a simply superlative cast have fashioned a motion picture that throbs with passion and poignancy. Indeed, through the haunting performance England's great Vivien Leigh gives in the heart-breaking role of Tennessee Williams's deteriorating Southern belle and through the mesmerising moods with the help of Elia Kazan and with his brilliant techniques that you view on the screen, this picture has now become a fine, if not finer, than the stage play. Inner torments are seldom projected with such sensitivity and clarity on the screen.
Blanche DuBois is an aging schoolteacher who leaves her hometown under mysterious circumstances and stays with her pregnant sister Stella in New Orleans. Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski's brutish husband, resents Blanche DuBois's presence and accuses her of squandering the family inheritance. Stanley Kowalski sets about tearing down the fragile world of illusion with which Blanche DuBois attempts to surround herself.
Of course, the first factor in this triumph is Tennessee Williams's original play, which embraced, among its many virtues, an essential human conflict in visual terms. The last brave, defiant, hopeless struggle of the lonely and decaying Blanche du Bois to hold on to her faded gentility against the heartless badgering of her roughneck brother-in-law is a tangible cat-and-dog set to, marked with manifold physical episodes as well as a wealth of fluctuations of verbally fashioned images and moods. And all of these graphic components have been fully preserved in Oscar Saul's film script and availed of by the brilliant director Elia Kazan in his cinematic tour-de-force.
No less brilliant, however, within his area is Marlon Brando in the role of the loud, lusty, brawling, brutal, amoral Polish brother-in-law. Marlon Brando created the role in the Broadway stage play and he carries over all the energy and the steel-spring characteristics that made him vivid on the stage. But here, where we're so much closer to him, he seems that much more highly charged, his despairs seem that much more pathetic, and his comic moments that much more slyly enjoyed.
Other actors from the Broadway cast of the stage play, Kim Hunter as the torn young sister and wife, Karl Malden as a timid, boorish suitor, Nick Dennis as a pal, and all the rest fill out the human pattern within a sleazy environment that is so fitly and graphically created that you can almost sense its sweatiness and smells. Alex North's incidental music deserves prominent commendation, too, as do all of the technical aspects of this film which Charles K. Feldman has produced.
Needless to say, the filming of `A Streetcar Named Desire' was more problematic than the stage production. Vivien Leigh clashed with Elia Kazan over her interpretation of Blanche DuBois and also had problems connecting with her fellow cast members who were trained in the "Stanislavsky Method." "In many ways she was Blanche DuBois." Marlon Brando said in his autobiography, Vivien Leigh was memorably beautiful, one of the great beauties of the screen, but she was also vulnerable, and her own life had been very much like that of Tennessee Williams's wounded butterfly...like Blanche DuBois, and was beginning to dissolve mentally and frayed at the end physically.
While in production, `A Streetcar Named Desire' began to encounter resistance from the film industry's self-regulating production code office with references to the sexuality of Blanche DuBois's deceased husband were removed and the harsh original ending was altered, with Stella rejecting her husband rather than remaining by his side. Still, the film encountered controversy during its release and Warner Bros. deleted an additional five minutes of material, it was later added back in a 1993 restoration, which included dialogue references to Blanche DuBois's past promiscuity and visual evidence of the lustful relationship between Stanley Kowalski and Stella Kowalski.
All the troubles were well worth it in the end because `A Streetcar Named Desire' is now considered a landmark film in terms of the ensemble performances. Elia Kazan's direction and the evocative art direction by Richard Day. The derelict New Orleans tenement is given a convincing presence through the accumulation of image details, such as crumbling stucco and bricks, peeling wallpaper, streaks of dirt on the walls and the dramatic courtyard staircase with wrought iron railings. In collaboration with Harry Stradling's evocative textures of light and shadow, the sets provide crucial atmospheric support for the actors' naturalistic performances. Plus the Composer Alex North's haunting film score, which unfortunately was only nominated for Best Music, Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
While in production, `A Streetcar Named Desire' began to encounter resistance from the film industry's self-regulating production code office. References to Blanche DuBois's deceased [gay] husband were removed and the harsh original ending was altered, with Stella Kowalski rejecting her husband rather than remaining by his side. Still, the film encountered controversy during its release and Warner Bros. deleted an additional five minutes of material, it was later added back in a 1993 restoration, which included dialogue references to Blanche DuBois's past promiscuity and visual evidence of the lustful relationship between Stanley Kowalski and Stella Kowalski.
All the trouble was worth it in the end because ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is now considered a landmark classic film in terms of the ensemble performances, Elia Kazan's direction and the evocative art direction by Richard Day. The derelict New Orleans tenement is given a convincing presence through the accumulation of details such as crumbling stucco and bricks, peeling wallpaper, streaks of dirt on the walls and the dramatic courtyard staircase with wrought iron railings. In collaboration with Harry Stradling's evocative textures of light and shadow, the sets provide crucial atmospheric support for the actors' naturalistic performances.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This Blu-ray has a stunning 1080p encoded transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 that was achieved with many of the original film's black-and-white elements. It is typical of the fine work Warner Home Video has done with some it prestige titles like ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘Casablanca.’ Fine detail is more variable, struggling a bit in wider shots, and faring better in close ups, yet film grain looks intact with no evidence of excessive noise reduction measures. Dupes and other image manipulations (one standing out more than others), made in the original edit, can be starkly obvious next to the sharper and tighter extra supplements material. But the transfer ultimately proves faithful to the source elements, even though those elements may not always look the most perfect.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – `A Streetcar Named Desire' is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Considering that `A Streetcar Named Desire' is more than sixty years old, the sound quality is still impresive. Sure, there are modest limitations in fidelity, but the track is a very strong performer. Alex North’s music comes across with good sense of character. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Actor Karl Malden, and Film Historians Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young: features supplements producer Laurent Bouzereau hosting and we get comments from co- star Karl Malden [Actor], Rudy Behlmer [Film Historian] and Jeff Young (all recorded separately). Jeff Young got to know Elia Kazan quite well when Jeff Young was an executive of Paramount Pictures and has some good anecdotes about the director Elia Kazan. Rudy Behlmer contributes more of an overall historical perspective and Karl Malden is able to give an actor's viewpoint, on both the stage and screen versions. Some of Karl Malden's comments about Marlon Brando in his early career are quite surprising, and there are some wonderful anecdotes shared about the original Broadway run, including some great stories about the "mother hen," the original star Jessica Tandy. This is an extremely worthwhile and informative piece that should appeal equally to scholars and film fans alike.
Special Feature Length Profile of Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey  [480i] [4:3] [1:15:30] Written and directed by film critic and film historian Richard Schickel, and narrated by Eli Wallach, the documentary traces Elia Kazan's career from his beginnings as a stage actor to his work as an award-winning film director. An extensive interview with the director himself provides much of the film's structure and content, following a predictable pattern that alternates between the interview and material from the films. As it focuses almost exclusively on his directing work, there's little examination of Elia Kazan's controversial actions related to the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s. Nevertheless, it provides a fitting tribute to a very talented director. We also get a very interesting insight into the journey Elia Kazan journey from his native land where he was born and eventually ending up directing top quality Hollywood and New York films that have won endless plaudits. This is a definite documentary not to be missed.
Special Feature Documentary: A Streetcar on Broadway  [480i] [4:3] [22:00] This feature documentary describes with the development, production, and reception of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning play how it made its journey to the silver screen. Contributing to this documentary, we get intimate information from the likes of Elia Kazan [Director], Karl Malden [Actor], Rudy Behlmer [Film Historian] and Richard Schickel [Author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] provide most of the interview material, but also includes an archival interview with Kim Hunter [Actress].
Special Feature Documentary: A Streetcar in Hollywood  [480i] [4:3] [28:08] A continuation of the previous feature documentary which describes the play's next phase as it moves from the stage to the silver screen. Once again contributing to this very interesting documentary, we again get insightful intimate information from the likes of Elia Kazan [Director], Karl Malden [Actor], Rudy Behlmer [Film Historian] and Richard Schickel [Author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] and Kim Hunter [Actress].
Special Feature Documentary: Censorship and Desire  [480i] [4:3] [16:20] With this particular documentary, we get details about the National Legion of Decency's objections and moral outrage to some of the sexual contents in the film, and the ultimate edits made in order for it to be "morally objectionable in part" as opposed to be completely condemned. It also informs us how the director's sleight of hand was instrumented in making subtle changes to allow the censors to pass the film. This interesting feature also provides helpful side-by-side views of the edited and original versions of key scenes. Contribution to this documentary is Rudy Behlmer [Film Historian], Karl Malden [Actor], Kim Hunter [Actress] and Robert Townson [Record Producer]. We also get to hear how Alex North [Composer] and how he had to re-score the film music, as the censors thought certain scenes were too provocative with his original score. But luckily by accident they found a can of film with all the censored scenes and were carefully restored to the original restored version.
Special Feature Documentary: North and the Music of the South  [480i] [4:3] [9:14] This fascinating documentary gives an interesting insight into the composer Alex North and how he gave the film its distinctive film score. Contributions comes in the form of Robert Townson [Record Producer] of Varese Sarabande talks about the work of the award nominated composer Alex North, and shares how he got involved with producing and releasing Alex North's abandoned score to Stanley Kubrick's ‘2001: A Space Oddysey’ with the help of Jerry Goldsmith [composer, which you can now hear the full score on a CD Album. We also get to find out that Robert Townson got to know Alex North personally in his later years before he sadly passed way.
Special Feature Documentary: An Actor Named Brando  [480i] [4:3] [8:52] Fellow performers and historians talk about the impression the actor made in the theatre and film industry and through his work on the Academy Award® winning film ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ We are also informed how Marlon Brando [Actor] personality is so different from his screen persona and how he hated the character he played in the film. Contributing to this documentary, we see Elia Kazan [Director], Karl Malden [Actor], Richard Schickel [Author of "Elia Kazan: A Biography"] and Kim Hunter [Actress].
Special Feature: Marlon Brando Screen Test  [480i] [4:3] [5:05] Here we get to see the young Marlon Brando with Warner Bros. Test shots. Also segments from Marlon Brando's screen test for ‘Rebel Without A Cause.’ But we also get intimate shots of a well-dressed Marlon Brando, who is obviously very self-conscious. Sometimes you get no audio sound at all.
Special Feature: Outtakes  [480i] [4:3] [15:38] Here we get to see a series of unused film clips from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire' that is somewhat sort of interesting, but without any context and hard to understand, especially as they are not in any set order and some are very short in appearance, but you also get a lot of repeat outtakes, especially with a voice over with the director Elia Kazan.
Special Feature: Outtakes [Audio only]  [1080p] [16:9] [17:01] Similar to the film outtakes, which is difficult to discern the context from seemingly random snippets of audio recordings and all the time you listen to this, you get a colorized still image from the film. To be honest I cannot understand the point of this section.
Theatrical Trailers: We get to see three trailers, starting with Warner Bros. [1951 Release] [480i] [2:34]. 20th Century Fox [1958 Reissue] [480i] [2:08]. United Artists [1970 Reissue] [480i] [1:48].
BONUS: A Special Collectible Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook: The nicely produced book packaging that includes cast and crew biographies, background on the production and numerous photographs.
Finally, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is a cinematic classic that has been beautifully rendered in high definition. Warner Home Video Blu-ray delivers a strong presentation of Elia Kazan's award-winning adaptation of the equally acclaimed Broadway play. This All Region Blu-ray release comes with awesome Special Features, that have been transferred from the 2006 special edition inferior NTSC DVD, making the purchase of this Blu-ray release, which is well worthwhile for those looking to upgrade 100%, as well as for first time purchasers of this Blu-ray disc. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on 10 May 2004
Originally a play by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire follows Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) as she is shunned off of the family plantation after sleeping with one of her students. She goes to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter). Stella is married to the working class Stanley Kowalski (Brando). He is a passionate, violent, self-conscious mess of contradictions. A rivalry ensues between Blanche and Stanley that ultimately ends her.
What is interesting about this film is its place in film history. The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), which Will Hays created in 1929, monitored and censored the content of films closely during its reigning years. However following the Supreme Court's decision in the 1950s, (where they conceded that film should be protected under the First Amendment) it was decided that the Hays Office's demands were not legally obligatory. As a result of this the MPPDA ultimately transformed into the more relaxed MPAA, or Motion Picture Association of America..
A Streetcar Named Desire was made at a time when the MPPDA still had some power in Hollywood, thus enabling them to influence and force director Elia Kazan to cut "unacceptable" scenes from the film. For instance, scenes about Blanche's late husband's homosexuality and her continual desire to have sex had to be eliminated. Likewise the end of the movie, which is more vague than it is explicit, originally showed the event that is, in the final version, only implied. Because of the struggle with the ratings board, even to just allow the implied rape, A Streetcar Named Desire is an important film because it diminished the iron grip the MPPDA's had on cinema and helped in destroying film censorship. So the film deserves plenty of credit for helping end Hollywood censorship, which prevented creative freedom and burdened the movie industry for decades.
Also of note, Brando's performance was revolutionary in 1951. Elia Kazan is credited for inventing method acting. Marlon Brando put this new form into good use as his performance was passionate, animalistic and brutally realistic. Brando’s representation of Stanley Kowalski marked a change in masculine depiction in the 50s. Although previous actors had shown anger and violent predispositions, they never quite mastered Brando's passion and realism.
This is a film that is worthy of remembrance, not only because it is credit with being the reason method acting started but also because it is an interesting psychological examination of the characters within it.
I enjoyed it, although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.