Warner Bros. // 1951 // 125 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // April 30th, 1999
One of the greatest stage plays ever brought to the screen.
A Streetcar Named Desire is filled with powerful performances and a top notch story that, even though produced in 1951 and the script was brutally edited before filming began, is still compelling today.
A Streetcar Named Desire was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four. All four main players were nominated in their respective categories, and three of them won. This is how movies are supposed to be acted. Obviously, the first and foremost strong point to this film is the acting.
Believe it or not, the one actor that did not win an Oscar, Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) generates the strongest performance in this film. Brando is an absolute tour-de-force in this movie. For those of you who are not "into" older films, for whatever reason, and have only seen Brando recently -- rent this film! Brando, along with a few others, absolutely revolutionized acting in America. His portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in this film is perhaps the best evidence of that "new" (at the time) type of acting called "method acting."
No less great were the performances of Vivien Leigh (Gone with the Wind, Anna Karenina), Kim Hunter (Planet of the Apes, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and Karl Malden (On the Waterfront, Streets of San Francisco). Miss Leigh's performance is a particularly stellar portrayal of the awesomely troubled Blanche DuBois.
Equally impressive is the directorial effort of Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront, East of Eden, Splendor in the Grass), who can only be qualified as a bona fide genius, and whose talents rank up with the greatest directors of all time. His efforts to bring a certain realism to film will never be forgotten. And never will those efforts be more hated than during the time in 1951 when this movie was shot. Kazan fought long and hard with the powers that be to portray a fully realistic version of Streetcar, only to be rebuffed. He was forced to cut a number of scenes, and was not even allowed to film certain other scenes. This version of the movie restores about five minutes of footage that were not seen in the initial release of the film, and they are great additions. One is left to wonder, however, how the movie would have turned out had Kazan been left to his own devices. We will be left wondering forever more.
While there really is nothing bad to say about this film, I thought I should at least put something in this section. There are really only two gripes I could come up with and they are really not even gripes. The first is the video quality.
The transfer itself is really quite good. The problem is with the film elements used during the transfer process. I do not doubt that these were the finest available at the time of pressing. However, when compared to some of the outstanding restoration work being done at other studios (see Universal's fine work on Vertigo and Psycho as examples) this film deserved better. Perhaps we will see a restoration of sorts done in the future. The film certainly deserves it.
The last complaint one could lodge against the film is that the audio was in the original mono presentation. While one could disagree with this choice, I certainly will not. I am one who would like to see and hear the film as intended by the director whenever possible. As such, I cannot quibble with the choice not to re-master the soundtrack in some form of surround sound. I list it here, because I know some of you may have preferred it to be so.
A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the greatest examples of a play brought to the silver screen. Buy it, own it and watch it again and again!
Acquitted on all counts.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1951
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Production Notes
* Original Director's Version