Drama. The stuff that millions of sonnets, songs and stories are made of. While some of them can turn out to be quite fetching, there are others that don’t seem to possess that necessary element of allurement. Of course, it’s all in the execution: a competent poet, songwriter or filmmaker can deliver the goods — whereas pompous, pretentious parables performed by the world’s less-talented artistes (the poseurs, if you will) often inadvertently deliver the completely wrong kind of execution to viewers and listeners. Assembled here for your own pleasure and/or agony are several recent home video releases, all of which are positively bursting at the seams with drama.
· The Hustler (1961) (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Short Version: It’s back, and more depressing than ever!
The Slightly-Elongated Version: A few years before he passed away in 1966, once-blacklisted Hollywood filmmaker Robert Rossen created this gripping and unforgettable piece of cinema — one that’s just as marvelous as it was back when it was first released and earned a heap of Oscar nominations. The story here — which is anything but a happy one — is based on the novel by Walter Tevis, tells of a young pool hall hustler named “Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman, in a role he would reprise 25 years later in The Color Of Money with Tom Cruise) who moseys his way into a high-stakes championship against billiards champ Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). But his eagerness to become King of the Cues by hook or crook may prove to be his undoing once said aim becomes an obsession. Piper Laurie turns in a riveting performance as a young handicapped woman who vies for Eddie’s attention, and George C. Scott plays Jackie Gleason’s manager. Murray Hamilton and Michael Constantine also co-star, and Vincent Gardenia has an early bit part as a bartender. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of The Hustler is an amazing one, and boasts a number of impressive special features to boot.
· Knockout (2011) (Phase 4 Films)
The Short Version: Steve Austin’s Thousand Dollar Baby.