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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Misfits Blu-ray Review

Directed by the legendary John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Miller, The Misfits has made its debut on Blu-ray.  Divorced and disillusioned, Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) befriends a group of misfits, including an aging cowboy (Clark Gable), a heartbroken mechanic (Eli Wallach) and a worn-out rodeo rider (Montgomery Clift). Through their live-for-the-moment lifestyle, Roslyn experiences her first taste of freedom, exhilaration and passion. But when her innocent idealism clashes with their hard-edged practicality, conflicts are bound to happen which can change everything.






Film (4 out of 5 stars)

The Misfits is a very melancholy film not only because it’s the final film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, but also due to it’s meditative examination of how some people respond to change.  Although the title of the movie refers to a group of wild malnourished mustangs, it’s obvious that it could just as easily apply to the four main characters as well.  Each of them are running from something, whether it’s life, marriage, the past, or a future, and it just leaves them in stasis while ostensibly living in Reno, Nevada.

Marilyn Monroe plays Roslyn Taber, a recent divorcee who came to Reno to get a quick divorce.  She wants a divorce because her husband couldn’t provide the warmth she needed since he was emotionally absent with her.  Her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) tries cheering her up and playfully warns Roslyn about the Reno men.  That warning is thrown out the window when Roslyn meets  Guido (Eli Wallach) who helps her with her broken down car, and she is especially interested in the local cowboy Gay Langland (Clark Gable) musch to Guido’s despair.  Guido happens to be a widower and he is instantly smitten by the beautiful blond but can only watch as Roslyn and Gay focus on each other.  Gay is one of the few last real cowboys and to avoid working at a real job making “wages” as he calls it with disdain, he rounds up wild mustangs. 

 In the old days, the horses he captured would be sold as pets for children but as times move on, the horses are now slaughtered and made into dog food which will cause a serious issue for Roslyn later when she discovers that. In the meantime, Gay and Roslyn move into Guido’s old house and fix it up and play house together.  For two people that can’t accept life as it’s been handed to them, the two happily remain in their self-made cocoon, cut off from the rest of the world while Guido silently seethes with jealousy.  When the trio go to a rodeo, that triangle is expanded by one, when they meet an old friend of Gay’s named Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift) who’s rides bulls for a living.  It turns out that he is just as messed up emotionally and mentally as the others so he fits right in.  When he is injured after falling from a bull, Roslyn’s super sized empathy kicks in and she worries about him more than necessary and more than either Gay or Guido like.  When all four join forces to ostensibly round up the wild mustangs, every one of them has a secret reason for going and it’s only a matter of time before everyone finally lays their cards down and exposes what they truly want and believe.  

This film is famous for its behind the scenes trouble which has been elevated to mythic heights due to the people involved in it.  Those difficulties also resulted in the disjointed feel of the movie with a third act that should have been better.  Because of that, poor Thelma Ritter’s role just disappears without an explanation or reason.  The script was written by Arthur Miller for his wife Marilyn Monroe but by the time the movie premiered, they were getting divorced.  Their personal difficulties slowly seemed into the script which feels highly biographical for both Monroe and Gable.  Despite the issues with her husband, this role did show Marilyn in a different way than her traditional roles did and it feels honest and is most likely the closest to her actual personality.  

Gable’s role as the old cowboy who can’t believe life has changed so much and passed him by seemed real to him and could possibly even a metaphor for the way Hollywood and it’s stars were changing at the time.  Gable felt that this role was his finest performance and without a doubt it’s his most vulnerable.  Director John Huston did some amazing work on this film despite by all accounts, spent much of the production either gambling ,drunk, or asleep.  Between his breaks and Monroe’s tendency to show up later for shooting, it’s a wonder this turned out as well as it did.  Clift, who was so good in Red River, is also very good in the small but integral role as Perce, as is Wallach as Guido, which is a role he could do in his sleep.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.66:1) transfer makes the black and white cinematography look stunning.  There’s a lot of nice detail offered which is easily appreciated during the many close ups.  This transfer is beautiful despite a few white specks here and there and a few soft shots.  Black levels are suitably dark while the shots of the bright desert aren’t overdone either.  There’s a lot of grain present but it’s rich and natural and it’s just the right amount to give the picture the right mood and feeling.  This is most likely the best this movie is ever going to look and I am very happy with the final result.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars)

The Misfits‘ DTS-HD Mono mix is acceptable but it’s nothing amazing.  By choosing to keep the original mono mix, the studio will make film purists happy, but I would have liked to have seen a new 5.1 mix even though this movie doesn’t really need it.  This is primarily a dialogue driven film with few scenes that would take full advantage of a surround mix, but the final roundup of the horses and Gay’s wrestling of the wild mustang could have benefited from it.  Dialogue is clear and easy to understand and Alex North’s score is well represented.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars)

The only extra on the disc is the theatrical trailer in 1080p.

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

Despite some script and plot issubes, The Misfits is a nice testament to the talents of everyone involved.  This film is filled with superb performances across the board and it serves as a time capsule for a time long past and stars that are gone but not forgotten.

Order your copy today!


 

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