On the Waterfront
"I could've been a contender." We all know "On the Waterfront." Or, at least, we thought we did. Criterion's latest release, spread out over three DVD discs, gives Elia Kazan's classic one of the most comprehensive studies any film has ever received through the format.
Before we even get to the extra features, they present the film in three separate aspect ratios! Records have shown the film to be projected in the 1.85:1 (which will fill up your widescreen TV,) 1.66:1 (which features slight black bars on the left and right side of a widescreen TV,) and 1.33:1 (the size of a square television) formats. Who needs to quibble over which is correct? Try each of them out and see which compositional style suits you best (if you're the type of person who cares how much breathing room a director gives an actor's forehead.)
Then there are the special features, which you can literally spend half a day digging through (and that's disregarding the two 'extra' presentations of the film!) First, the interviews: one with actress Eve Marie Saint, another with Elia Kazan (about 10 minutes, from 2001), another with Hoboken native/actor Thomas Hanley, and yet another with author James T. Fisher, who counts the film among his influences.
Second, the documentaries: an informative, hour-long take called "Elia Kazan: An Outsider" - thirty-years-old, and mainly comprised of interviews with Kazan, it's an irreplaceable time capsule. Next up is "I'm Standin' Over Here Now," produced by Criterion for this release, which interviews a handful of Kazan scholars for their thoughts on the film (45 minutes.) Finally, there's a couple of doc-style conversations: one with Kazan-obsessive Martin Scorsese and film critic Kent Jones; another where a group of critics and other film-people - James Lipton, Martin Landau, and Richard Schickel among them - consider the famous 'taxi scene' in light of Method acting.
And there's even more hidden away here: a full-length commentary with the aforementioned Schickel, a couple visual essays (one on the aspect ratio "controversy," another on Leornard Bernstein's score,) and even some archival trailers. "On the Waterfront" will forever be remembered as one of the great social melodramas, depicting one man's fight against the system that aimed to silence him. Criterion has crafted a package here as intimidating as Kazan's villains.
"On the Waterfront