The Hustler (1961) Blind Spot Review

Today would have been Paul Newman’s birthday, so I’m reviewing his film The Hustler for my Blind Spot 2017 Series as well as my IMDB Top 250 Project. Like many classics, this was in the Top 250 when I started the project on 01/01/13 but is currently not on the list.

Let’s see what I thought of The Hustler (as well as its 1986 sequel The Color Of Money, which I’m reviewing tomorrow)…

The Hustler (1961)

Directed by Robert Rossen

Based on The Hustler by Walter Tevis

Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Stefan Gierasch, Clifford Pellow, Jake LaMotta

IMDB Rank: 197 out of 250 (as of 01/01/13)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Hustler tells the story of small-time pool hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson and his desire to break into the “major league” of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country; seeking to best the legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats.”

My Opinion:

Paul Newman was so damn hot. What a hunk. I lusted after him through this whole movie. It’s quite disappointing that it’s in black & white because I like seeing those baby blue eyes of his in color. But even in black & white, he’s still dreamy. *sigh*

The Hustler is very good and I can see why it’s a classic and it totally sucks that current films keep knocking old films such as this one out of the IMDB Top 250. I can sort of understand why, though, as I’m guilty myself of not exploring many movies that are pre-1970 or so but it does annoy me that most young people want to watch nothing but current stuff these days. Anyway, I enjoyed The Hustler and the acting is phenomenal, which I think it what makes this one such a classic. Surprisingly, though, it was Piper Laurie who stole the show. Wow. More about her later…

Newman was his usual self: Full of charm & charisma. He was such a great actor and one of only a handful over the years who I feel had that extra “something” that made him my definition of a true movie star. You know that “something” that’s hard to explain? I feel that “something” is missing from most artists nowadays (especially within the music industry – even more so than in film). I haven’t explored as much of Newman’s work as I’d like but I can now say that The Hustler is a must-see for anyone wanting to see him in his best roles. There’s more than just his usual charm & charisma here – he’s a lonely, complex character and the movie truly comes alive when he becomes involved with Piper Laurie’s similarly lost soul.

Newman is fantastic and it’s a shame he didn’t win the Oscar but Laurie is stunning. I’m glad, like Newman, that she also got a nomination but it’s a shame that she hasn’t gotten more recognition for this role. I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know she was in The Hustler! I’ll also be totally honest & admit that I’ve never really known her as anything other than Margaret White in Carrie. I LOVE her in Carrie (she easily topped my list of My Top Ten Crazy Ladies In Movies). Who knew she could play a disturbed character with such sympathetic subtlety in The Hustler just as well as she did full-on batshit crazy in Carrie?? I love her in both roles but have a new respect for her – I’m very glad I got to see this performance.

Clearly the relationship between Newman & Laurie is what I latched onto and what made the movie for me but there are of course some other important characters and, yes – plenty of pool. The two really worth mentioning are Jackie Gleason as “Minnesota Fats”, a brilliant pool-playing rival to Newman, and George C. Scott as an evil, greedy bastard. Seriously – what a dick. I wanted to punch him in the face. Therefore, I guess he played his role well!

Summary:

The Hustler is worthy of its status as a classic and it’s a great way to kick off my choice of 2017 Blind Spot films. I admit, however, that it did drag for me at times in a way that older movies often do for those who have mostly watched post-1970 movies (like me). I have zero interest whatsoever in pool and, while this movie is not actually about pool and more about human interaction, there’s still plenty of pool. Some will of course love the actual pool scenes but the final game of pool is the only one that really matters and the one that fully held my attention. The movie is a little slow-going at first but the phenomenal performances from all involved, especially from Newman & Laurie, make the second half of the film intense & gripping. The Hustler is well worth your time if you have an interest in old Hollywood classics.

My Rating: 8/10

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Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) IMDB Top 250 & Argumentative August Review 

I’ve done a review of courtroom crime drama classic Anatomy Of A Murder, starring James Stewart, for the Argumentative August Blogathon hosted by MovieRob & by Ryan of Ten Stars Or Less. AND… this doubles as one of my own reviews for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge! This movie was ranked 203 out of 250 when I started my project on 01/01/2013.

You can read my review HERE. Thanks for letting me take part, guys! 🙂

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Thanks for the review, Kelechi! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, IMDB rank 37 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can’t hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that’s much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I’m coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine… Good… Well, it’s good that you’re fine and… and I’m fine… I agree with you, it’s great to be fine… a-ha-ha-ha-ha… Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The *Bomb*, Dmitri… The *hydrogen* bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… *Of course* I like to speak to you!” – President Murkin Muffley

Nominated for four Oscars at the 1965 Academy Awards, Dr. Strangelove is based on a fictional and calamitous series of events where an insane general sets in motion the path to a nuclear war.  Fighting to save the world from total annihilation, it is up to the President of the United States (Peter Sellers), other leaders and generals in the war room to save us all.

One thing I absolutely love about Dr. Strangelove is that it’s filmed in black and white.  If you’re watching this for the first time without reading the plot or having no knowledge of the film, on the surface you probably see this as a dark, tense documentary style film based on a very serious matter.  There’s nothing to hide in a black and white film – all the permutations are laid out on the screen.  However, there is one thing that sets it apart.  When you see the delightful Peter Sellers playing three distinctive yet memorable characters, your mind is put at ease.  What you have let yourself in for is 95 minutes worth of genius, satirical comedy.

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The greatest achievement in Dr. Strangelove is taking a familiar and fearful concept and turning it into a comedy that is both hilarious but also a social commentary on the real world.  It’s the biggest hurdle the film faces and in the wrong hands, Dr. Strangelove could have been remembered as something entirely different.  Originally it was meant to be a serious piece until director Stanley Kubrick and writer of the novel (which this film was based on) Peter George decided to change its tone.  What they delivered was a particular type of comedy.  This is not a slapstick comedy in the vein of Airplane or The Naked Gun.  The humour is more deadpan and cerebral as if every character totally and genuinely believes in what they’re saying and doing.  As the audience, this only increases the disbelief and the laughter we get from it.

The theme of the entire film is based on one principle – fear.  It’s the fear from the enemy.  It’s the fear from your closest friends and their actions.  It’s the fear of not fulfilling your duty and your job to the letter.  What sets off this chain of events belongs to one general – General Ripper (Sterling Hayden).

Ripper believes that politicians and leaders are incapable of handling war situations – too much talking and not enough affirmative action.  He’s a no-nonsense style general who would rather let his soldiers shoot first then ask questions later.  Through sheer paranoia based on the idea that the commies are going to take over our fluids (yes you read that correctly), he takes matters into his own hands and gives the order to a B-52 bomber to drop a nuclear bomb on the Russians.  Trust me, if you suddenly feel the urge to shake your head wondering how he came to this conclusion, you are not alone!

Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.” – General “Buck” Turgidson

Because Dr. Strangelove is set during the height of the Cold War doesn’t make it irrelevant.  I think there are plenty of lessons that Kubrick infuses which make the war room aspect easier to parody.  The whole idea of the film is designed to make you feel uncomfortable and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if scenarios like in Dr. Strangelove happened in real life.

It’s a scary notion seeing how easy it is to launch an attack on another country, with one man “pushing” the self-destruction button with such ease and no concern for anyone else.  It’s a scary notion knowing that all the failsafe plans to stop it, has an abundance of technical or procedural loopholes, which can’t be overturned.  It’s a scary notion how people of authority can react so stupidly, like Colonel Guano telling Mandrake that he would have to answer to Coca-Cola for shooting at the vending machine for change.  There are many more examples which I won’t spoil for you, but everything descends into madness all based on fine margins of political and diplomatic posturing.

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The film does have its tense moments with the paratroopers on board Major Kong’s B-52 plane as a case example.  They go through their manual checks before locating their target and dropping the bomb, all to the backdrop soundtrack of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”  This reinforces the scare factor of the film with precise attention to detail of the crew’s operations.  It reminds the audience the seriousness amongst the humorous stupidity.

Even the character names are interesting – General Jack D. Ripper aka Jack the Ripper.  Coincidence?  I think not, but these supposedly cool-headed individuals in the highest positions of power revert to uncontrollable eccentric behaviour.  Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove is a classic example.  His character is in the film for the briefest of moments but his impact is unforgettable, playing a former Nazi German scientist, most likely pardoned for his crimes but enthusiastically provides advice on eugenics to the President of the United States.  Turginson who rapidly inserts chewing gum into his mouth in every scene he’s in, is an animated individual. He’s always concerned about what the enemy is going to do in a particular scenario and his energy feeds into that paranoia.  It’s a brilliant performance by George C. Scott who is a standout alongside Peter Sellers.

Dr. Strangelove is a film hell bent on showing humanity at its lowest ebb.  Even when the world is at stake, common sense should prevail but the distrust and fear of the enemy is the real winner.  It’s filled with surreal moments such as the often-parodied scene where Major Kong rides the bomb as if he’s participating at a rodeo.  The ending with Vera Lynn singing while the world blows itself up is a bleak reminder of what the world could become and the whole absurdity of war.  Kubrick’s careful balance keeps the message on point yet at the same time the satirical jokes will live with you for years.

It’s safe to say, you will have a blast watching this!