NPR logo

Home Video Review: 'On The Waterfront'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/172122533/172519432" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Home Video Review: 'On The Waterfront'

Home Video

Home Video Review: 'On The Waterfront'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/172122533/172519432" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to an Oscar-winning crime drama, a tale of moral crisis from 1954 that's been brushed up and restored for modern home viewing. "On the Waterfront" is now out in a Blu-ray edition and our critic, Bob Mondello, has been watching.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

BOB MONDELLO: Mugs and palookas, racketeers and dock workers, mob boss Lee J. Cobb running the union with an iron fist, Marlon Brando tripping up its control when Eva Marie Saint appeals to his conscious, urging him to go to the feds and rat out the rats.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: Director Elia Kazan knew from trouble. Two years before making "On the Waterfront," he'd named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee, becoming the most notorious Hollywood figure in the communist witch hunts of the 1950s. Though screenwriter Budd Schulberg always denied a connection to the film's plot, Brando's character is also called to testify.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: He is also castigated and reviled before giving a full-throated defense of his testimony.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: Kazan wrote many years later that he'd intended the parallels, but when Brando yells at the mob boss, that was him too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: Glad I'd testified as I had.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: Included in Criterion's boxed set is the text of an ad Kazan took out defending his naming of names. But as it was with audiences in 1954, the film is the thing here; a superb Blu-ray transfer, all velvety blacks and shimmering whites, not a scratch or flaw anywhere.

In a bow to the era when TV was making Hollywood rethink screen size, a second disk has the complete film in two other aspect ratios: widescreen and full-frame. Which means that there are three different ways to watch Brando make a vibrant case for method acting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

MONDELLO: No madness to his method in "On the Waterfront." I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

BLOCK: Pretty tough to follow Brando. This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.