Strange One (The) AKA End as a Man (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (6th May 2020).
The Film

Adapted from Calder Willingham’s novel, End as a Man, this uncompromising exposé of the practice of hazing in a military college features a number of actors from New York’s famed Actors Studio – including Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Clifton James, and George Peppard – each at the start of their lengthy careers in film.

Video

Grim drama about military hazing and corruption amongst cadets in a training centre in the US Deep South and based on a Calder Winningham stage play, starring the actor who originated the role. A bizarre rettiling makes the film seem more catchpenny but in the UK it saw release under the original End as a Man; both title cards are seamlessly branched so the viewer can choose which they prefer. The quality on both is equal.

This isn't the most dynamic visual experience being content to present it's drama visually couched in chiaroscuro lighting but given an overall flat, strait forward look. Contrast is extremely low key and there are few white highlights; even outdoor sequences are couched in cloud and modest lighting. A chosen look perhaps designed to not draw attention away from the characters.

Black levels are whispery dark and deep; the first act of the film is set at night in the barracks where an injustice is done and lit mainly by an overhead lamp; best seen in a room with as little ambient light as possible to get the best stygian effect. Gamma is perfectly handled with no signs of colour bias to taint the monochrome. Grayscale is wide and well handled and grain is plentiful, occasionally course in low light or skies. The encode by David MacKenzie and Fidelity in Motion is as smooth and effective as always.

Shy of 4K UHD BD this ain't gonna get any better! Great job all round Powerhouse!

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 99:39 (USA title), 99:44 (UK title)

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

Pretty standard mono track of the period with a certain amount of depth and limited range. Very occasionally there's mild distortion on louder bits involving the score or shouting voices but only the most discerning will notice. It's been restored very nicely ala the image. Very much a stage derived talk piece so it's important that dialogue is crystal clear and it always is. The jazz main theme hit some base; this isn't a terribly active soundtrack but it's presented in as good a state as it's possible to get without an audio genius unpicking it and rebuilding it into stereophonic form or using the original sound stems (assuming they exist) to an upmix.

Subtitles are as comprehensive as we've come to expect from Powerhouse Films. Top marks all round.

Extras

Audio commentary with critic Nick Pinkerton

Detailed commentary from journo Pinkerton who fills the track with plenty of ephemera and trivia covering all key cast members and their careers, how the got the part etc. Those behind the scenes are also covered. Pinkerton has a no nonsense delivery and he rattles through the film with pace.

"Finding Direction: Jack Garfein on The Strange One" 2020 featurette (10:11)

A fascinating individual, the late Garfein (died in December 2019 age 89) was an Auschwitz survivor and an early supporter of the Actors Studio. He made only two feature films as director and had a larger carer on the stage as an actor and producer. This interview has Gafein discussing his life and career starting with his early life. An interesting story; He covers the film in some detail focussing on the performances.

"Ben Gazzara: The Strange One" 2009 featurette (10:38)

Vintage piece ported over from Sony's 2009 US DVD. Gazzara is an animated, garrulous, rumbly voiced subject and seems to enjoy discussing his life and career; his time in the actors studio, Calder Willingham, Jack Garfein etc.



Goofy trailer focusses on the film's antihero with pretty unintentionally hilarious narration from various characters.

The Strange One Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (16 images)

Decent HD gallery, if limited.

Includes a 36-page liner notes booklet by Brad Stevens, Ben Gazzara on The Strange One, an archival interview with Jack Garfein, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Another kickass booklet from Powerhouse kicks off with an excellent Brad Stevens piece analysing the film, it's subtexts, themes and stage origins, realism, catchpenny retitling (producer Sam Spiegel) as well as covering more prosaic elements like cast and crew etc. Also covered are Gazzara, Garfein, critical responses etc. Essential.

Packaging

Standard clear Blu-ray case.

Overall

A hard hitting drama about military hazing and corruption gets theatrical treatment. Image and sound are as good as can be and extras are more limited than usual for Powerhouse Films but choice nonetheless. Pride of place goes to a typically meticulous
Pinkerton yaktrak and the booklet, which is always a highlight. Two brief video pieces cover the late star and late director but aren't hugely in depth. In any case valuable. A solid recommendation for those so inclined.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A

 


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