He may not look it, but Judge Patrick Naugle is a true romantic at heart.
"Ma, sooner or later, there comes a point in a man's life when he's gotta face some facts. And one fact I got to face is that, whatever it is that women like, I aint' got it."
Marty (Ernest Borgnine, The Poseidon Adventure) is a mid-30s Bronx butcher who lives with his mother (Esther Minciotti, The Wrong Man) and has given up on ever meeting the lady of his dreams. Considered a "fat little man" (by his own admission), Marty lives a lonely existence until the night he hesitantly heads out to a local dance at the Stardust Ballroom with some buddies. Through a chance encounter Marty meets Clara (Betsy Blair, Another Part of the Forest), a soft spoken school teacher who has just been ditched by her date. Marty and Clara strike up a conversation and a mutual interest grows between them. Yet their relationship doesn't come with without its own hurtles, including crass friends and Marty's widowed mother who can't seem to let go of the only man left in her life. Will Marty and Clara be able to make their newfound romance blossom?
Marty is something of a revelation, even in 2014. It's a film that is of the Hollywood system, but still feels as if it stands outside of it, without any pretense or glossy shine. It's a film about ordinary people in ordinary situations, each trying to find companionship even as the feeling that love isn't a luxury they can afford looms over them like a dark cloud. It's a sweet movie, a film of possibilities and heartbreak, and the very justifiable winner of the 1955 Best Picture winner. Almost sixty years later and all of the accolades and triumph afforded the film are well deserved; in short, Marty is one of the best films ever made.
There's a comfort in Marty that is palpable the moment the film starts. It doesn't take place in glamour or glitz, but in the meat shops and old apartments of New York's Bronx neighborhood. The film's basis is simple: a 34-year-old man has decided to give up on love because he's had his heart stomped on one time too many. A chance encounter with a homely schoolmarm ends up in sparks for both of them, and they now must traverse not only their own feelings but the hesitations of their family and friends. This is an easy story told in an emotionally complex way by screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (The Americanization of Emily) and director Dolbert Mann (Night Crossing), both of whom picked up Oscars for their work on Marty.
Each actor in Marty is top rate, most notable the late Ernest Borgnine (who won an Academy Award) as the immensely likable title character. Borgnine seems to have a knack for making his characters gruff but lovable, a quality that would serve him well for more than six decades of movies. Marty may be a sad sack, but he has an inner goodness that comes through, especially in his initial meeting with Clara (as his friends call her, "a real dog"). Betsy Blair makes a perfect match for Marty, dowdy looking with a hint of sadness. Clara's loneliness matches Marty's, and when they finally get together it's nothing less than a revelation. The only other main character—all the other actors feel more like bit parts—is Esther Minciotti as Marty's overbearing mother. Minciotti sometimes leans towards being a caricature more than a character, but she still finds the right balance of wanting her son to get married but not desiring to let go of being his mother.
There are scenes in Marty that shine not out of showy performance but from quiet intimacy and understatement. Early on Marty and Clara take a stroll down the street late in the evening and Marty—filled with the kind of excitement only the possibility of new love can bring—can't stop yammering on and on. It's an endearing scene, filled with the kinds of moments that anyone who's fallen in love can relate to. That's the beauty of Marty.
Marty is presented in 1.33:1/1080p HD full frame. Generally speaking this first ever Blu-ray presentation of the film is good, but not great. The image is mostly clear but there are some defects or imperfections in the print that show up intermittently. The black and white image is mostly solid with a fine amount of grain. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono in English. This is a pretty standard mono track that is exceptionally front heavy—Marty is a very dialogue heavy film (almost 100%), so there's no real need for anything more. There are no alternate subtitles or soundtracks included on this disc.
Disappointingly, the only extra feature included on this disc is a trailer for the film. It's a shame Kino or some other company couldn't have put some kind of retrospective or commentary track together for one of the best films Hollywood has ever churned out.
Marty deals honestly and humorously with universal themes like love, self acceptance, and cleaving from your family. I cannot recommend this film enough. Am I gushing? I suppose, but it's warranted. There's so much good in this movie, it's hard not to get a bit giddy at the prospect of another film fan discovering it.
One of the simplest, most honest movies about love ever made. Highly
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
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