There will always be limitation with the source material that an older film is pulled from. However, in transferring 1961’s The Hustler from its original reel, Fox has imbued a sharpness to it that is hard to deny. With the crisp video print and corresponding sharp audio track, I cannot help but imagine that this is what moviegoers saw back in 1961. The film stars Paul Newman as a pool shark, who is attempting to fleece anyone and everyone in the hope that ey can cash out at some point. The action between Newman’s Fast Eddie and Jackie Gleason’s Minnesota Fats, a veteran of the pool racket, showcases an otherworldly quality.
Fox has provided an additional amount of featurettes owing to the release’s 50th Anniversary designation. The featurettes begin with a nearly half-hour bit of coverage about the body of work that Paul Newman did over at Fox, while there is the same sort of thing present for Jackie Gleason. While there is not a visual component to it, “The Real Hustler: Walter Tevis” is a fascinating twenty-minute interview with someone that has actually lived a hustler’s life. I am only scratching the tip of the iceberg with regards to the featurettes, too; there is also a commentary with practically every major actor from The Hustler, trailers, and even a set of trick shots shown by master Mike Massey. Finally, there is a full episode of A&E Biography about Paul Newman that gives viewers an additional hour of material.
The Hustler is a classic bit of American cinema that has finally received its definitive version. This Blu-Ray release has more material to it than any other one, while the sharp picture quality and amazing audio alone make up for any price increase over the DVD version.
The Hustler: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray) / 2011 Fox / 135 Minutes / http://www.fox.com