Blu-ray Review: THE HUSTLER

Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: May 17, 2011
MSRP: $34.98

Director: Robert Rossen
Stars: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott,

Paul Newman. What can you say? The man was not only an unbelievable actor, but a spectacular human being and from all accounts just a really nice guy. Not only was he been involved in politics, but gave until it hurt to charities. He started The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for disabled children, all of the profits for his Newman’s Own food company go to charity, and he sends money to help impoverished countries in Africa.

I first saw The Hustler when I was 17, and said, “Hmm. That was long and depressing…but good.” (I was 17.) The reason that I saw it was that I had gone to see The Color of Money, and thought it was a very good movie, and wanted to see where the Fast Eddie Felson character had started…and I liked to play pool. I have watched the film several times since then and have changed my opinion. It is long, yes. It is depressing, yes. But it is a very good movie. What I realize now is that it is not so much about pool, but about self destructive people; set in the seedy, smoky, alcohol filled world of pool halls.

Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler who thinks he is the best player in the world, and who wants to beat the reigning pool champion Minnesota Fats, played by Jackie Gleason.

Newman was nominated for an Academy Award (for the second time) for his role as Fast Eddie. He would not win, but 20 some years later when he reprised the role in The Color of Money, he would win the little, bald, gold one. Apparently he was the losingest actor in the history of the awards, so much so that they gave him a lifetime achievement award a few years before he won a trophy on his own. (Paul wouldn’t say it, but I will: IN YOUR FACE, ACADEMY AWARDS!) But because he was tired of losing, he decided not to attend the ceremony that year–oops.

The Hustler is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, in 1080p, using the AVC encode and looks very nice. Blacks are sharp and play a big role in the film looking as good as it does. There is some grain present, but not enough to hurt the overall viewing experience. Overall, the film looks far better than one would expect a film this old to look.

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is used, but not really needed here since, there are little audio gymnastics here. The jazz soundtrack sounds great, as does the dialogue.

Pretty much all of the extras from the last DVD release are included, along with a few new ones: “Paul Newman At Fox” (27:11), looks at the various films that Paul made with Fox, his relationship with the studio and his overall impact on the business. Very interesting, for both fans of cinema history as well as those that simply want to learn more about Mr. Paul.

“Jack Gleason: The Big Man” (12:04), looks at Big Jack and his stellar performance in The Hustler. Solid, but not as engaging as Paul’s piece.

“The Real Author” (18:55), focuses on author Walter S. Tevis, the man whose book the film is based on. We hear from his children as well as from the man himself, via old radio interviews.

The Hustler is a great film and Fox stepped up and delivered a damn nice release here. There are also 24 pages of photos and background info. The result is a release that is worth having. If you already own it on DVD, I would still recommended upgrading to this Blu-ray.