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directed by Michael Curtiz
USA 1950

 

Broke and with a family to support, charter-boat skipper Harry Morgan (John Garfield) makes a desperate gamble. For cash that will save his boat from creditors, he ferries gangsters to safety after a racing-track heist. But when you gamble, sometimes you lose. Tense and sinewy, The Breaking Point is a more faithful adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not than the earlier Bogart-Bacall classic. Garfield, one of the screen’s great anti-heroes, makes Morgan his own in a rugged portrayal etched with anguish. Director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), who guided Garfield to instant stardom in Four Daughters, turns the action scenes into movie dynamite, but the film’s quiet final image is the one that will haunt you.

***

Michael Curtiz brings a master skipper’s hand to the helm of this thriller, Hollywood’s second crack at Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. John Garfield stars as Harry Morgan, an honest charter-boat captain who, facing hard times, takes on dangerous cargo to save his boat, support his family, and preserve his dignity. Left in the lurch by a freeloading passenger, Harry starts to enter­tain the criminal propositions of a sleazy lawyer (Wallace Ford), as well as the playful come-ons of a cheeky blonde (Patricia Neal), making a series of compromises that stretch his morality—and his marriage—further than he’ll admit. Hewing closer to Hemingway’s novel than Howard Hawks’s Bogart-Bacall vehicle does, The Breaking Point charts a course through daylight noir and working-class tragedy, guided by Curtiz’s effortless visual fluency and a stoic, career-capping performance from Garfield.

Posters

Theatrical Release: 30 September 1950 (premiere)

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Comparison: 

Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the DVD Review!

 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

 

  

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion  - Spine # 889

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:37:12 1:37:36.559
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.64 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,953,227,645 bytes

Feature: 28,748,261,376 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.13 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio Dolby Digital Mono (English) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:13)

DVD Release Date: June 14, 2011
Keep Case

Chapters 27

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 39,953,227,645 bytes

Feature: 28,748,261,376 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.13 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• New interview with critic Alan K. Rode (Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film) (21:17)
New piece featuring actor and acting instructor Julie Garfield on her father, actor John Garfield (16:42)
New video essay by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou analyzing Curtiz’s methods (9:59)
Excerpts from a 1962 episode of Today showing contents of the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, including items related to To Have and Have Not, the novel on which The Breaking Point is based (4:51)
Trailer (2:17)
PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek

 

Blu-ray Release Date: August 8th, 2017
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 23

 

 

Comments

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A'  Blu-ray - July 2017: This Criterion transfer is described as a 'new 2K digital restoration'. It's on a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. Most prominently, the grain is far more visible giving the film a texture and presenting it in a far more film-like sense. It is a shade brighter, detail rises and depth is noticeable in a few scenes. Contrast is at Criterion's high levels. The image is clean, not a speckles or hint of digitization. It looks magnificent in-motion. Flawless.

The uncompressed linear PCM, mono, sound (24-bit) is excellent supporting the score by the iconic Max Steiner (Mildred Pierce, Key Largo, Casablanca, The Caine Mutiny, Bird of Paradise, Beyond the Forest, Pursued, The Fountainhead etc. etc.) score emboldening the drama, conflicts and atmosphere. There is also Patricia Neal in the bar singing Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone. Of course, the Criterion has optional English (SDH) subtitles and their Blu-ray disc is region 'A'-locked.

Criterion add some great new extras starting with a 22-minute interview with critic Alan K. Rode (author of Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film) discussing The Breaking Point, its director and giving fabulous background on the production and why circumstances made it so underrated. Wonderful. There is also a new, 17-minute, piece featuring actor and acting instructor Julie Garfield on her father, actor John Garfield discussing his performance in The Breaking Point. Fluid Style is a new 10-minute video essay by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos (Every Frame a Painting) analyzing Curtiz’s methods and understated artistry in The Breaking Point. It is an excellent addition. There are 5-minutes of excerpts from a 1962 episode of Today showing contents of the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, including items related to To Have and Have Not, the novel on which The Breaking Point is based plus a trailer. The package has a linear notes booklet with an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek.

This is a masterpiece film and deserves such a stellar Blu-ray release from Criterion. In my opinion, this is essential. I LOVE The Breaking Point. Out highest recommendation!

***

ON THE DVD: It's unfortunate that the best film based on Ernst Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not is overshadowed by Bogie and Bacall pairing in 1944 film of the same name (reviewed HERE). That honor goes to The Breaking Point with John Garfield and Patricia Neal, directed by Michael Curtiz in 1950. From 1937 novel, we get the same characters and motivations, only the location and the ending are changed, making this the most faithful adaption. Hollywood would make another stab at it in 1958 as The Gun Runners with Audie Murphy in Bogart/Garfield role of Harry Morgan and directed by Don Siegel. The Breaking Point is also the most noir of the three films, with overall air of despair and hopelessness hanging like a dark cloud over John Garfield's character, a former PT boat captain now trying to make a living off his fishing boat to feed his wife and two daughters. The supporting cast is just as excellent - Phyllis Thaxter as his suffering wife Lucy, Patricia Neal as potential love interest/femme fatale and Juano Hernandez in a thankless role of the shipmate and best friend. As correctly noted on the back cover, "the film’s quiet final image is the one that will haunt you."

The legal dispute kept the film out of circulation for a long time, with no recent TV airings or official home video release until 2011, when film debuted on TCM and a few months later got a DVD release as part of Warner Archive Collection on MOD disc. The disc is not labeled as remastered, but based on the quality of the print, this is definitely a new master. The single-layered disc features a very good progressive transfer, with very minimal damage and very good contrast. The mono audio is fine, but per usual standard for MOD discs, there is no subtitles or closed captioning. The disc features a 2-minute theatrical trailer and the film is divided onto 27 chapters. The film is clearly a winner and this is highly recommended release.

  - Gregory Meshman

 


DVD Menus
 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 


 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

 

1) Warner Archive - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP  

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Box Cover

 

 

  

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion  - Spine # 889

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 




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