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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

One-Eyed Jacks [Blu-ray]

 

(Marlon Brando, 1961)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Pennebaker Productions

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #844 / Arrow Academy

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:21:23.516 / 2:21:10.795

Disc Size: 46,236,710,649 bytes / 49,768,053,791 bytes

Feature Size: 35,476,260,864 bytes / 41,635,906,944 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.59 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 23 / 12

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case (both)

Release date: November 22nd, 2016 / June 12th, 2017

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:
New introduction by Scorsese (2:55)
Excerpts from voice recordings director and star Marlon Brando made during the development of the film’s script (33:38)

A Million Feet of Film (23:09)
New video essays on the film’s production history and on its potent combination of the stage and screen icon Brando with the classic Hollywood western genre (24:02)
Trailer (4:44)
PLUS: An essay by film critic Howard Hamptons  

 

Brand new audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies, recorded exclusively for this release
Introduction by Martin Scorsese (2:55)
Marlon Brando: The Wild One, Paul Joyce's 1996 documentary on the actor, featuring interviews with Dennis Hopper, Shelley Winters, Martin Sheen and Anthony Hopkins (53:43)
Additional, previously unseen interview material from Marlon Brando: The Wild One with Francis Ford Coppola (44:31) and Arthur Penn (44:49)
Theatrical trailer (4:44)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet containing new writing on the film by Jason Wood and Filippo Ulivieri, Karl Malden on Marlon Brando, Paul Joyce on Marlon Brando: The Wild One and an excerpt from Stefan Kanfer's Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando.

DVD.

 

Bitrates:

 

1) Criterion Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

2) Arrow Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: This is a western like no other, combining the mythological scope of that most American of genres with the searing naturalism of a performance by Marlon Brando—all suffused with Freudian overtones and masculine anxiety. In his only directing stint, Brando captures rugged coastal and desert landscapes in gorgeous widescreen, Technicolor images, and elicits from his fellow actors (including Karl Malden and Pina Pellicer) nuanced depictions of conflicted characters. Though the production was overwhelmed by its director’s perfectionism and plagued by setbacks and studio reediting, One-Eyed Jacks stands as one of Brando’s great achievements, thanks above all to his tortured turn as Rio, a bank robber bent on revenge against his former partner in crime. Brooding and romantic, Rio is the last and perhaps the most tender of the iconic outsiders that the great actor imbued with such intensity throughout his career.

***

One-Eyed Jacks is a film with a troubled history. It was almost the feature debut of emerging television director Sam Peckinpah, who penned the original draft screenplay, and it was almost the only Western to be directed by Stanley Kubrick before he too left the project. The eventual director was Marlon Brando, stepping behind the camera for the first and only time.

Brando is Rio, a bank-robber who is double-crossed by his friend and mentor, Dad (Karl Malden). Rio is imprisoned for his role in the crime, but escapes with thoughts of revenge. He tracks down Dad only to find that, during those years spent behind bars, Dad has used his ill-gotten wealth to become the sheriff of Monterey...

A strange, baroque Western, One-Eyed Jacks met with bewilderment by critics and audiences upon release, but slowly developed a cult following despite a succession of below-par masters. Now, thanks to an outstanding new 4K restoration from Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation, audiences can finally see the film as intended once again and recognise the masterpiece it always was.

 

 

The Film:

Fascinating to see Brando directing this revenge Western - double-crossed by Malden, his outlaw partner, he erupts from the past to haunt the older man, now a lawman and proud father - exactly as he acts, so that the whole movie smoulders in a manner that is mean, moody and magnificent. At its origin is a novel by Charles Neider which, though changing the names, retold the story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Brando's further changes (Rio/Billy now kills rather than is killed by Dad Longworth/Garrett) were evidently made with a view to indicting shifty, mendacious society as the real villain. The Freudian intentions lurking in the character conflicts and the card symbolism, the homosexual and Oedipal intimations, are underpinned by the extraordinary settings. Surely uniquely in a Western, the key scenes are played out against the rocky Monterey sea coast, with waves crashing portentously in the background, so that nature echoes the Romantic agony of a hero much given to brooding in corners or gazing out into space shrouded in his Byronic cape. The result, laced with some fine traditional sequences and stretches of masochistic violence, is a Western of remarkable though sometimes muddled power.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Marlon Brando's only film as director, One-Eyed Jacks (1961) was the Heaven's Gate of its day. Famously over-budget and overlong, this Western melodrama has, in recent years, earned critical praises as a psychologically fascinating and visually stunning entry into the genre. Based on the 1956 Charles Neider novel, The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, the film draws heavily on the legend of Billy the Kid, particularly Billy's relationship to Pat Garrett. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the first to turn the novel into a screenplay was none other than Sam Peckinpah, who would go on to direct his own version of the story in 1973 entitled Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid starring Kris Kristofferson.

With Peckinpah's script, Pennebaker Productions (Brando's film company) approached the young Stanley Kubrick. Brando had been impressed with Kubrick's first two features, Killer's Kiss (1955) and The Killing (1956) and he was convinced that Kubrick was the right man for the job. "We've got to get Kubrick," he is reported to have said. Kubrick agreed to direct but insisted on a new script by Calder Willingham. Karl Malden signed on and the producer, Frank Rosenberg, went to Mexico to search for an actress to play the young love interest. He returned after signing Pina Pellicer for her first film role.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

One-Eyed Jacks looks brilliant on Blu-ray from Criterion and is cited as a "New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by Universal Pictures in partnership with The Film Foundation and in consultation with filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg". The colors are stunning and the restoration magnificently maintains the integrity of the film's colors, and source density. Being hyper-critical it looked a shade thin to me in a couple of spots, not as much texture as I would have thought and some very minor edge-enhancement. But, for the most part, this is an absolutely mesmerizing image in-motion. I was floored. This dual-layered Blu-ray, with very high bitrate, produces an impressive 1080P presentation. Wow.

 

Same 'Film Foundation 4K Restoration' but Arrow have transferred it a bit more robustly. The static captures are exactly the same. Arrow might get the nudge for being superior in-motion, but I suspect few would detect it. It looks just as beautiful - great colors - so rich - highly appealing.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

2) Arrow Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

2) Arrow Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Criterion stay authentic using a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) - that carries subtle depth in the blowing wind, horses hooves and surprising depth in the gunplay and cracking whip. The score is by Hugo Friedhofer (Two Flags West, Man in the Attic, Ace in the Hole, Body and Soul, Gilda, The Bishop's Wife) and carries the western well with a pleasing theme sounding strong via the uncompressed rendering. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Same linear PCM mono transfer (24-bit) and I can detect no differences in the audio. It is exactly the same as the Criterion. The Arrow also offers optional English (SDH) subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Criterion add some good supplements. We get a new, 3-minute, introduction by Martin Scorsese recorded in 2016 by The Film Foundation on the occasion of the Cannes Film Festival's special presentation of the restoration of the film. During the development of One-Eyed Jacks, actor-director Marlon Brando made voice recordings of his ideas for every scene. Criterion include 33-minutes of excerpts from that audio that highlights differences between it and the finished film. A Million Feet of Film is a 23-minute new video essay on the production history of One-Eyed Jacks written and recorded by western blogger Toby Roan, who has been gathering memorabilia from, and facts about, Brando's singular directorial effort - since 1978. I Ain't Hung Yet is another new video essay - it is by filmmaker and critic David Cairns who considers the potency of actor-director Marlon Brando's take on the classical Hollywood western in One-Eyed Jacks, through a close examination of the film's framing, editing and other storytelling devices. There is also a long trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Howard Hamptons.

 

Supplements are where we see the biggest differences between the two packages. Arrow add a valuable new audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies, recorded exclusively for their release and it is excellent with plenty of interesting information on Brando and the production. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We get the same 3-minute introduction by Marty. Marlon Brando: The Wild One is Paul Joyce's, 54-minute, documentary on the actor, featuring interviews with Dennis Hopper, Shelley Winters, Martin Sheen and Anthony Hopkins. It was originally broadcast on Channel 4 on August 11th, 1994. There are additional, previously unseen interview material from Marlon Brando: The Wild One spending both 3/4 of an hour with Francis Ford Coppola and another 45-minutes with Arthur Penn. Both are revealing and relevant to the viewing appreciation of One-Eyed Jacks. There is a theatrical trailer and the package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips, plus, for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector s booklet containing new writing on the film by Jason Wood and Filippo Ulivieri, Karl Malden on Marlon Brando, Paul Joyce on Marlon Brando: The Wild One and an excerpt from Stefan Kanfer's Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando. A second disc DVD is included.       

 

Criterion Region 'A'  - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow Region 'B'  - Blu-ray
 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
One-Eyed Jacks
has gained the reputation, over the years, as a lost classic with its initial poor response and lack of viewing availability. This restoration has breathed new life into the film exposing to generations that were unaware of its existence. It's a wonderfully unique take on western lore and a gorgeous film to watch. Brando is as captivating as ever and the support performances are super. This Blu-ray package is an easy recommendation. Fascinating cinema and a brilliant 4K restoration make it irresistible. Enjoy!

 

It seems Arrow have bested Criterion - notably with the commentary and other extras. The Arrow is the definitive digital release for the film and we give it our highest recommendation!

 

Gary Tooze

October 18th, 2016

June 5th, 2017

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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