I had put off watching Sergio Leone’s final western for many many years, believing it to be a lesser film in the director’s canon, but in fact it’s an incredibly dense and weighty affair, buoyed up by a pair of delightfully larger-than-life performances. Both Rod Steiger and James Coburn impress, not only with their Mexican and Irish accents, but in the versatility of their characters and the nuanced interplay of two reluctant partners propelled forward by their camaraderie and passion for rebellion. Beautifully shot, with an eccentric yet intoxicating Morricone score, this is definitely a film I will enjoy revisiting in the future.
A true masterpiece of American Cinema, accompanied by one of the greatest screen performances of all time, Marlon Brando would never be better than he is here, as boxer turned longshoreman Terry Malloy, who gradually works up the courage to face-off against his corrupt boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Directed by Elia Kazan, who had earlier founded NYC’s Actors Studio, he pioneered method acting and forever changed cinematic performing. Beyond all that, the film launched the career of Eva Marie Saint, gave us one of the best speeches of all time, when Brando dresses down his cowardly brother (Rod Steiger) for never standing up for him back in his boxing days, and also boasts phenomenal black & white photography from Boris Kaufman, which won the film one of its 8 Academy Awards.
I watched this on the newly released double disc Blu-ray edition from Criterion and cannot wait to dive into the extras and study the film again and again. It’s a gorgeous presentation of a real classic piece of filmmaking.