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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

On the Bowery - The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Vol. 1 (2-disc) [Blu-ray]



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Rogosin Films

Video: Milestone



Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:04:55.683

Disc Size: 24,255,127,209 bytes

Feature Size: 16,695,487,104 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.02 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 21st, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit






The collection features:
1. On the Bowery. Directed by Lionel Rogosin. United States. 1956. Mono sound. Aspect ratio 4:3. Restoration by the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna. Mastered from the 2K restoration. (65.00)
2. Introduction by Martin Scorsese. Produced for Milestone's release.
3. The Perfect Team: The Making of "On the Bowery." Directed by Michael Rogosin. (46:30).
4. A Walk Through the Bowery. Directed by Michael Rogosin. (12:12).
5. Street of Forgotten Men. United States. 1933. Courtesy of Oddball Film + Video, San Francisco (2:12).
6. Bowery Men's Shelter. Directed by Rhody Streeter and Tony Ganz. United States. 1972. Courtesy of New York Public Library Film and Video Collection. Restored by Colorlab. (10:19).
7. On the Bowery. Theatrical Trailer (2:12).

Disc 2
8. Good Times, Wonderful Times. Directed by Lionel Rogosin. England/United States. 1964. Aspect ratio 4:3. Restoration by the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna. Mastered from the 2K restoration. (69.00)
9. Man's Peril: The Making of "Good Times, Wonderful Times." Directed by Michael Rogosin. (24:15)
10. Out. Directed by Lionel Rogosin. 1957. United States. Aspect Ratio 4:3. Courtesy of United Nations Multimedia Resources Unit. (25:33)






The old days don't look terribly good in Lionel Rogosin's narrative documentary ''ON THE BOWERY'' (1956), but they do look astonishing. A slice of down-and-out life, this black-and-white (and newly restored) portrait of lost New York tracks the arrival and rapid downward spiral of a young man (Ray Sayler), who lands on the Bowery with a suitcase and a deceitful thirst. —MANOHLA DARGIS, NEW YORK TIMES

The astonishing 1957 film "On the Bowery,"... brings this piece of history and human existence to immediate, vivid life — from flophouses and bottles of "sneaky-pete" to Bowery Mission sermons and hand-to-mouth day-laboring. It's a landmark of urban realism and independent filmmaking, and one of the essential New York movies. —NICOLAS RAPOLD, NEW YORK SUN

Lionel Rogosin's 1957 skid-row quasi-doc is a quintessential chunk of New York history. —J. HOBERMAN, VILLAGE VOICE



The Film:

On The Bowery was the first of Lionel Rogosin’s award-winning films, garnering the Grand Prize for Documentary at the 1956 Venice Film Festival, the British Award for Best Documentary and nomination for an Oscar® as best documentary.

From the beginning, Rogosin’s style as an independent filmmaker was straightforward and compassionate. His films were made “from the inside,” showing subjects in their normal surroundings and allowing them to speak in their own words. By choosing ordinary people caught up in universal problems — homelessness, racial discrimination, war and peace, labor strife, and poverty — Rogosin made his point poignantly. Interestingly, he chose the Bowery and its inhabitants as his first subject — intending to reveal the reality of people who were drinking away their lives in an attempt to escape from it.

At the famed White Horse Tavern (just around the corner from Rogosin’s apartment at 96 Perry Street), Rogosin met Mark Sufrin, a young Greenwich Village writer. Sufrin had just come back from working on documentaries in Israel and he became excited about working with Rogosin. The director described Sufrin as a “highly intelligent, freelance writer, aggressive and volatile, full of ingenious ideas.” Sufrin convinced Rogosin to hire another White Horse Tavern regular, talented cameraman Richard Bagley, who had shot Sidney Meyer’s The Quiet One. Written by James Agee, with contributions by Helen Leavitt and Janice Loeb, it signaled the birth of a new cinema that soon included the likes of Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive) and Rogosin.

They discovered their main character, a forty-year-old itinerant railroad worker by the name of Ray Salyer, who had just turned up on the Bowery after a drunken weekend. Still fairly young looking but weathered by the years, he was the perfect combination of a man perpetually down on his luck but not yet totally lost.

For the other character they chose Gorman Hendricks, a longtime Bowery mainstay who claimed he had once worked for the Washington Herald. During Rogosin’s early wanderings through the Bowery, Hendricks had been his guide. Grizzled and in bad health, Hendricks still had a glint in his eye and an intelligence behind it.

Although the plot was to cover a three-day period in the life of the character, the actual shooting took place from July to October of 1955. While some scenes were staged, the rest of the film was shot in an early cinéma vérité style, recording the action on the streets and in the bars and the Bowery flophouses.

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

It is surprising how good 'On the Bowery' can look via the Milestone Blu-ray. There are plenty of powerful, and iconic, still photographs from this era and the 1080P transfer is living version of those unforgettable black and white images. The Cineteca del Comune di Bologna restoration is impressive. This is only single-layered but the 65-minute 1.37:1 film has a high bitrate and infrequent depth exported. The package has a second Blu-ray that contains other pieces of varying quality (16mm and 35mm) but generally the visuals are consistent within each piece.  On the second disc is the Good Times, Wonderful Times which has vintage war images and clips that are quite damaged but this is no fault of the transfer. Hopefully the screen captures will give you a good idea of what the presentation is like. I thought the 2K transfer was excellent. I never imagined that it would look this good.

















Audio :

Keeping with an authentic representation we get a linear PCM mono track at 1536 kbps. There is still a hollowness, present in the original production, but the lossless does what it can. Films like On the Bowery speak so powerfully with visuals - the audio gladly takes a back seat. There are no subtitles (excepting the forced ones on Good Times, Wonderful Times) and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

We get a brief introduction by Martin Scorsese for On the Bowery and a 45-minute piece entitled The Perfect Team: The Making of "On the Bowery" directed by Michael Rogosin as well as his dozen-minute long A Walk Through the Bowery. Street of Forgotten Men is a 2-minute film from 1933 and Bowery Men's Shelter is restored. It is directed by Rhody Streeter and Tony Ganz - made in 1972. One disc one there is also a trailer for On the Bowery. Disc 2 has Lionel Rogosin's 1964 film Good Times, Wonderful Times - also restored by the Cineteca del Comune di Bologna and mastered from 2K running 1 hour 19-minutes. The rest of that disc has a Making of entitled Man's Peril for 25-minutes - directed by Michael Rogosin and lastly, Out - a 1957, 25-minute short, directed by Lionel Rogosin.



This is impressive stuff - almost along the lines of Cassavetes - very American-centric allowing images to portray brutal honesty in a vérité-style. Actually this entire Blu-ray package is amazing and anyone even remotely keen should rake advantage of the hi-res format and the recent restoration to indulge in this impressive piece of American cinema history! Thumbs up! 

Gary Tooze

February 19th, 2012



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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