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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with Ron Briley, author of The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan
  • New interview with Andy Griffith biographer Evan Dalton Smith
  • Facing the Past, a 2005 documentary featuring actors Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Anthony Franciosa; screenwriter Budd Schulberg; and film scholars Leo Braudy and Jeff Young
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic April Wolfe and a 1957 New York Times Magazine profile of Andy Griffith

A Face in the Crowd

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Elia Kazan
1957 | 126 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #970
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 23, 2019
Review Date: April 21, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

A Face in the Crowd chronicles the rise and fall of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a boisterous entertainer discovered in an Arkansas drunk tank by Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), a local radio producer with ambitions of her own. His charisma and cunning soon shoot him to the heights of television stardom and political demagoguery, forcing Marcia to grapple with the manipulative, reactionary monster she has created. Directed by Elia Kazan from a screenplay by Budd Schulberg, this incisive satire features an extraordinary debut screen performance by Griffith, who brandishes his charm in an uncharacteristically sinister role. Though the film was a flop on its initial release, subsequent generations have marveled at its eerily prescient diagnosis of the toxic intimacy between media and politics in American life.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition master comes from a brand new 4K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Ignoring a title or two (like, oh, Death in Venice for starters) Criterion’s releases for Warner titles have been just astonishing when it comes to video presentations and A Face in the Crowd carries that on. Outside of a handful of slightly softer moments the picture is sharp and detailed, improving significantly over Warner’s old DVD. Grain looks beautiful, coming off fine and natural, and this helps render all of the finer details in the image, from the textures of the fabric, the slight stubble on faces, the dirt in the opening landscape, and so on. The gray scale is gorgeous, and the more noir-ish shots in the film deliver incredible shadows without destroying the details.

The restoration work is just about impeccable, cleaning up a number of issues that were still present on the old Warner DVD, like scratches, dirt and a slight pulse that was persistent. There are no digital artifacts to speak of, the grain again looking clean, and the picture keeps a nice photographic look. It looks just wonderful.

9/10

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AUDIO

The film comes with a very nice lossless PCM 1.0 monaural presentation. Some music can sound a little tinny but overall the sound manages to present decent fidelity and good amount of range between the lows and highs. There is some noticeable background noise at times, but this is pretty much expected. Outside of that there are no audible issues along the lines of cracks, drops, or pops. It’s clean and stable, sounding great despite its age.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion only creates a couple of new features for this edition: interviews with author Ron Briley (The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan) and Andy Griffith biographer Evan Dalton Smith. For his interview Briley talks about the origins of the “Lonesome” Rhodes character played by Griffith, who was probably based on Will Rogers and Arthur Godfrey, Briley even bringing up relevant stories around the two that somehow made their way into the film. He also gets into Kazan and Schulberg’s working relationship, and of course talks about Kazan’s politics (especially how they relate to this film) and his “dealings” with the House Unamerican Activities. It’s a short discussion, only running 21-minutes, but Briley contextualizes the film while also giving a decent production history.

Smith’s contribution solely focuses on Griffith, from the early days of his career (stage acting, his comic album release, and his performance in the hit play No Time for Sergeants) to how he got cast in A Face in the Crowd. During this portion Smith talks a bit about how Kazan pushed Griffith to get the performance he wanted, even belittling the man to make him feel resentment and anger (obviously using the “Method”). It proved to be a bit much for Griffith and it did turn him a bit nastier during this time (Griffith even acknowledges this in another feature found on this disc). Smith then explains how The Andy Griffith Show came to be and talks a bit about the actor’s legacy and the impact he has had, Smith even explaining the impact Griffith has had on him personally. Smith is obviously fond of Griffith and his performance here, leading to a rather loving tribute to the man.

Criterion the carries over the making-of documentary found on Warner’s previous DVD, Facing the Past, which features interviews with Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa (briefly), screenwriter Budd Schulberg, and then film scholars Leo Braudy and Jeff Young. The 29-minute feature is incredibly thorough as it goes through the project from inception to release (unsurprisingly the film bombed), with Braudy and Young explaining how the film’s reputation has grown over the years thanks to its still relevant themes. Griffith is also very open talking about his performance and what it was like working with Kazan, who could be brutal with him at times to get the performance he wanted. The documentary is especially worth it, though, just to hear Griffith tell how Kazan directed him during his reaction shots to Lee Remick’s introduction.

The disc features then close with the film’s original theatrical trailer (which I felt really tried to hit home the film’s premise and satire, possibly turning off potential audiences) and then Criterion includes an actual booklet instead of an insert. April Wolf first provides an excellent essay on the film’s satirical edge and its actual production (further expanding upon on what Kazan did to “push” Griffith’s performance), which is then followed by an excerpt from the preface for the film’s script, featuring Kazan writing about screenwriting and his collaboration with Budd Schulberg. The booklet then concludes with the reprinting of a superb profile on Andy Griffith, written by Gilbert Millstein in 1957 for the New York Times.

I would have expected a larger special edition for the film, but I’m happy Criterion carried over the making-of and the new features do contextualize things nicely.

7/10

CLOSING

The supplements leave one wanting, but the audio/video presentation is just wonderful and this edition is worth picking up for that aspect alone, even if you own the old Warner disc. It looks and sounds great.


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Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca