The Sting (1973) - Legacy Series Edition
|Genre(s): Comedy / Crime / Drama / Mystery|
|Universal || PG - 129 minutes - $26.98 || September 6, 2005|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-09-09|
Writer(s): David S. Ward (written by)
Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, John Heffernan, Robert Earl Jones
Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 1973
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You're right, it's not enough. But it's close."
The Sting. A film in which hundreds of other crime-capers could only wish to emulate, but either are pale comparisons or downright failures (including its own lame "sequel").
The scheme in this caper is about con-artist named Johnny Hooker (Redford) who unknowingly conned out $11k from a money runner for the mob; now his life is on the line. After one of his old time partners (played by Robert Earl Jones, father of Darth Vader voice James) is killed. He seeks out old-timer Henry Gondorff (Newman) where the two join forces to take down Irish mobman Doyle Lonnegan (Shaw) out of revenge.
I've seen The Sting only two times in my life. I purchased the original fullscreen, watched it and really, really enjoyed it (despite already knowing the "twist" ending). This second viewing was just as enjoyable and what I most appreciated about it is even though there are a few twists and turns, it's also an easy-going film that you don't have to think about.
Beyond the story, the set design (taking place in the 30s) is incredible and seems authentic. Also, and more importantly to me, the cast was great. Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who teamed up together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, are perfect together (not unlike Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon)...
And that's what makes this movie so memorable and such a classic. How many films out there have great scripts? Although they are fewer than the stinkers, there are still a good number of them. But, it's the actor(s) who fill the roles that make or break a film and when both work on all levels, it's incredible.
If you haven't seen the film yet and are fortunate enough to not have seen the twist (I found out while watching one of those AFI specials), or even if you know the ending but haven't seen the entire entity, you are surely missing something special. Now, don't pop in the DVD thinking this is a masterpiece in the same veign as The Godfather, it is still a masterpiece on its own level.
It's a bit surprising that despite a nice DVD case and solid audio/video transfers, that Universal pretty much skimped out on the extras.
The Art of The Sting is a 55-minute documentary featuring current interviews with the cast and crew of the classic film. It is split up into three parts: "A Perfect Script", "Making a Masterpiece" and "The Legacy". Each covers certain aspects of the movie and has interviews with Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan, Dimitra Arliss and Ray Walston -- who died in 2001, which could mean this documentary could be 4 years old and not made for this release.
Even though this doesn't look like an actual *new* documentary, it's still decent and good enough as a replacement for a commentary track. Redford and Newman both (their interviews were sadly separate) call back to their time making the film and the pranks played (Newman hid Redford's Porsche). The other interviewees gush some about director George Roy Hill, his style on dealing with the actors and their hopes he gets the recognition he deserves. Writer David Ward recalls how he came up with the concept and about how he wrote it (liked to write while listening to music).
While the information provided was interesting and the documentary itself was good, the fact that ouside of a theatrical trailer is VERY disappointing. No introductions? No featurettes on the making of the film (though one might be available in fairness)? How about a featurette on remastering the audio and video? With such a nice DVD box and an entire second disc to use, it's sad that they only managed two items... Very sad for a movie that won 7 Oscars, including one for Best Picture.
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
This disc features several sound mixes including the original 2.0 mono (English, French) as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 which sounds just fine, though it seems the background noise isn't as noticable (vs. using 2.0), but that is very minor as the voices have a good vibration coming through the speakers. Surprisingly the people at Universal decided to put a DTS track which I find inexplicable. I watched the entire film with the DTS mix on but wasn't all that impressed. It seems to me that since there was no commentary track, they decided to put DTS on because they could... In any case, doesn't hurt having it there, but for those without a decoder, I don't think you're missing much.
Besides the sound, with a film over 30 years old, it's difficult to remaster footage if the master isn't all there. For my money, the picture looks pretty damn good. There are little scratches/grains here and there, but overall it looks great. Now, for some controversy. I am one of those DVD snobs who hates Full Screen and cannot understand people who prefer that over widescreen (unless they have small TVs). So, when I saw that this version was in the glory of widescreen, I got excited (as one can for a DVD), however, the problem is director George Roy Hill filmed it in the standard 4:3 ratio (or so I read). I'm not too sure how this was done, but it seems that in order to convert the film to widescreen, they basically went the opposite of converting from wide to full screen... they cropped off a portion of the top and bottom.
EDIT: After some research and learning more about the technical aspects of wide versus full screen, I realized what happened here was The Sting was shot in full screen and this widescreen transfer is matted...
On the surface, this looks like a DVD that is leaps and bounds better than the barebones release, but when looking under the hood, outside of a decent documentary, there isn't much there. I like that Universal remastered the video and audio so if you're one who appreciates that sort of thing, then this disc is worth it. If you're someone who likes the special features, be warned, in only 3 years will be the 35th Anniversary which Universal might sadly try to exploit...