The Screening Room
THE STUDIO GATE
In 2008, we lost Paul Newman. In recent years, he'd been fairly quiet
on the big screen, but had put his time and passion into auto racing and
his food company. His film career was wide and filled with brilliant
performances, even if some of the films weren't very strong. Newman
could almost always be counted on to bring his best to the screen.
Warner Bros. has released another wave of Paul Newman films on DVD, many
of which I can say I've never seen. Some of the films are downright
clunkers, but others showcase Newman's acting. He was indeed a brilliant
actor who could bring finesse and fiery strength to a role.
THE SILVER CHALICE (1954)
The one that put Newman on the map. The one that Newman later apologized
for. During the 1950s, widescreen Bible epics were all the rage, and a
young actor named Paul Newman was introduced in a clunker called "The
Silver Chalice." Yes my followers, this is a bad movie. It's so bad
Newman plays the sculpture, Basil, who's job it is to find Jesus' silver
The movie has bad written all over it, from the clunky and laughable
dialogue, to the sets that would fit right in a junior high school drama
production. The cheesy visual effects only add to the fun. Almost
everyone overacts, except for Newman, who holds his composure. The man
was a true professional to get through muck like this! The movie is
worth buying if only for the its camp value.
THE HELEN MORGAN STORY (1957)
Newman came back a few years later and really shows off his acting chops
in this melodrama. Director Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca") lends his
sure-handed direction to the film. It's a fairly standard rags-to-riches
story about singer Helen Morgan. We've seen this type of story of the
stage numerous times. The film could've easily been made in the 1940s
with its occasional overacting by Ann Blyth and numerous dissolves to
bright marquees. But it's a handsomely mounted production and Newman
shows an early hint of his on-screen charisma.
THE OUTRAGE (1964)
The most surprising film out of this collection is a good western that
uses Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon" as a guide. Cleverly shot and
directed, "The Outrage" is an early-1960s gem.
Told in flashback from various points of view, the film surprised me
with its adult theme of rape, lying, and a sense of humor. Martin Ritt
directs with confidence, and James Wong Howe's brilliant Panavision
(anamorphic) cinematography lends the film its dark atmosphere.
Newman plays, though probably seen today as racist, a Mexican bandit who
rapes proper Southern lady, Nina Wakefield (Claire Bloom) in front of
her husband, Col. Wakefield (Laurence Harvey). Or does he? I didn't
recognize Newman at first until Howe's camera focuses in tight, then we
see his blue eyes in glorious black-and-white. He's such a fine actor
that he convincingly plays a Mexican bandit. There is some stereotyping
in his role, but as you watch the movie, you realize that his character
is a bit deeper than even the on-screen characters think.
RACHEL, RACHEL (1968)
Produced and directed by Newman, this is a difficult film to sit
through. The acting is excellent by Joanne Woodward and Newman's
direction is fine. But I found the movie too steeped in its very
late-1960s film style to really enjoy it. Plus, the pacing is slow. This
is an actor's film that works almost like a play. The story is set in a
small town with just a few characters, and the film mainly revolves
around lots of talking and voices inside Woodward's head. Yes, I
understood Rachel's desire to break free (and who didn't seem to in the
1960s) of authority and convention. But at 101 minutes, it's a long
WHEN TIME RAN OUT (1980)
In the 1970s, producer Irwin Allen owned disaster cinema. His clunky
productions held audiences spellbound, yet had their own sick charm.
Audiences couldn't get enough of cruise liners being overturned by a
giant tidal wave ("The Poseidon Adventure," 1972), or tall skyscrapers
being engulfed in flames ("The Towering Inferno," 1974). They enjoyed
the all-star casts of old time hoofers and former NFL players, mixed in
with spectacular effects and people falling to their death.
"When Time Ran Out" is a movie trapped in Allen's world of the 1970s,
despite being released in 1980 as the world was changing. The
cinematography (though capably done by Fred J. Koenekamp, ASC) is lit
with tons of bright light one would associate with "The Love Boat."
Nearly every single character, except for Newman, is a cliche from the
Irwin Allen Book of Disaster Movies. Where else could one find actors as
diverse as Red Buttons, Pat Morita, Burgess Meredith and the
mannaquin-like Edward Albert in the same movie? And check out former NFL
player Alex Karras carrying a game cock...for a cock fight! (I'm not
making this stuff up, readers).
By 1980, disaster films were out, and visual effects had been perfected.
For a high budget movie, "When Time Ran Out" has some of the cheapest
effects I've seen. Even the sets look cheap in some of the jungle
scenes. The film was such a bomb at the box office that poor Irwin
Allen's feature film career never recovered (it didn't help that his
previous major productions, "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" and "The
Swarm" were turkeys, too).
Yet because of Allen's love for bad cinema, and Newman's credible
performance, "When Time Ran Out" is cheesy delight.
Special thanks to Kayla Keller
Photos: © Warner Bros. All
DVD Quick Glimpse
Classic and mediocre movies from Paul
Director: Victor Saville ("The Silver
Michael Curtiz ("The Helen Morgan Story")
Martin Ritt ("The Outrage")
Paul Newman ("Rachel, Rachel")
James Goldstone ("When Time Ran Out")
Cast: Paul Newman, Virgina Mayo, Joanne
Woodward, William Holden
Some trailers and special features on some
PG and Not Rated
Sound: Good to Very Good
Even if some of the films aren't all that
great, they're still worth watching Newman act
Aspect Ratio (1.85:1) and (2.39:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 1.0
DVD RELEASE DATE
February 17, 2009