Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - RUN SILENT RUN DEEP, ELMER GANTRY and THE YOUNG SAVAGES on Blu-ray ""

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - RUN SILENT RUN DEEP, ELMER GANTRY and THE YOUNG SAVAGES on Blu-ray

RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (1958; Robert Wise)
I think one of the first times I really came to terms with my love of RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (and sub movies in general) was when I was watching CRIMSON TIDE for the first time. Maybe it wasn't even the first time, but it was the first time that I realized that Quentin Tarantino had worked on the script for that movie and I was starting to be able to spot some of his little touches. I was really into QT at the time (still am now, but I absolutely worshipped him way back then) and so I was fascinated with all the things he loved. He was a somewhat regular customer in the video store I first worked at when I moved to Los Angeles in 1999 and so I made a point to scour his purchase history for undiscovered gems (stalker-y I know, but I make no apologies for it). I devoured interviews with him at the time always looking for some odd film he'd made a passing reference to. I found a lot of great movies that way honestly. So when I was watching CRIMSON TIDE this time, a scene came on with the late great James Gandolfini talking to a younger seaman about two movies: THE ENEMY BELOW and RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. The focus of the conversation was Robert Mitchum and Curt Jergens in THE ENEMY BELOW but the fact that RUN SILENT was also mentioned I took as an endorsement from QT. I knew and liked RUN SILENT a lot and so I felt validated by this scene, like I was on the right track cinematically, it made me feel more connected to this great cinephile that I respected. I hadn't seen THE ENEMY BELOW at the time so I of course sought that out as well. But it was also neat to see that Tarantino had certainly thought about RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP during his work on CRIMSON TIDE. If you watch the two films back to back, you can see some similarities, especially in the main character department. Both films feature and older, more seasoned sub commander clashing with his executive officer (or XO). In the case of CRIMSON TIDE, it is Denzel Washington butting heads with Gene Hackman and in RUN SILENT it is of course Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable who are in conflict. There's just something really fantastic about submarine films. I guess it has to do with the confined space and the potential for a mistake that could lead to sinking death, but subs are an excellent setting for tense movies. I think I first fell in love with these movies when I saw THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER in the theater when it came out. That movie rocked my world. You see, I already had this fascination with the ocean and submarines in general. There was a time when I either wanted to work on a sub or be a marine biologist, but either way I was fascinated by the deep and wonderful unknown that is the large bodies of water that cover our planet. So when I finally saw RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, even though I was a huge fan of the genre, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. I was a moderate fan of Burt Lancaster (and since then he's become one of my favorite actors), but was truly not much into Clark Gable at all. He just seemed smarmy and obnoxious to me and I didn't think much of his acting abilities either. RUN SILENT turned me around though. Not only did I love it in the same way I had loved other sub movies before, but it made me a fan of Gable which I had thought could never happen. It's a great example of the best of what Robert Wise could do as a director in that it is well put together and has solid tension. Wise get's plenty of credit as a good filmmaker, but I still feel like this is one of his best efforts. In a career such as Wise's with benchmark films like WETS SIDE STORY, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE SAND PEBBLES and THE HAUNTING, I feel that a film like this one can sometimes get overlooked and it is just as strong as any of those movies.
Oh, I should mention that this movie also has some good supporting performers including Jack Warden, Don Rickles and Brad Dexter.
The Blu-ray looks nice and considering the non-anamorphic crappy MGM DVD that this movie had prior to this, the upgrade was a welcome one.

ELMER GANTRY (1960; Richard Brooks)
As I mentioned, Burt Lancaster is one of my all-time favorite actors. He's just one of those guys that radiates a "movie star charisma" in all the movies he's ever been in. In all his years acting, he was nominated four times for Academy Awards. The films he was nominated for include FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, ATLANTIC CITY and of course ELMER GANTRY as well (for which he won the Best Actor Oscar). While his performances are all great in those films (and he rarely gave a bad performance), there are tons more I think he should have won (or at least been nominated) for. Some of my favorites include THE TRAIN, THE SWIMMER and THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. I feel all of these films exhibit his remarkable abilities as an actor in the most brilliant way. But I digress. In ELMER GANTRY, Lancaster plays the titular con man who ingratiates himself into an evangelical group led by a gal played by Jean Simmons. Lancaster's is one of those "layered" performances that are pretty neat to see because it's an actor playing an actor so to speak. It's a showy, larger-than-life (some may say over the top) role filled with speeches (often sermons) which Lancaster delivers as only Lancaster can. Though he is a manipulative and a less than scrupulous character, Gantry is nonetheless a master salesman and quite capable of delivering a powerful "fire and brimstone" kind of lecture to a crowd. It's this kind of role that is very interesting to see Lancaster play as it takes his star charisma and kind of turns it on its head in that it's being used for not-so-good purposes. It's quite disarming and powerful to see Lancaster this way. I put it kind of akin to how it feels to see Superman do bad things. Though this is far from Lancaster's only role along these lines, he really does it well and within the context of the story he brings out some redemptive bits and humanizes Gantry in a compelling way. He really seems to be playing a man who is more misguided than anything. If you ever want to see a "rotten-to-the-core" kind of evil performance from Lancaster, you need look no further than THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS from three years prior to this. I must say though, even as the basically unredeemable J.J. Hunsecker, Lancaster still manages to bring at least a hint of humanistic reasoning into the character. While ELMER GANTRY seems like a feel good movie in comparison to SWEET SMELL, they both are amazing showcases for the remarkable talent that Lancaster had as an actor. He is just in the upper strata above most everybody. This film also includes some other banner performances by the way. Jean Simmons, Shirley Jones and Arthur Kennedy are all outstanding here as well and it really is an ensemble and not just the Burt show. Also, I should mention that watching a film like this in today's political climate is rather interesting. There is much discussion in the movie of "selling Christianity" and regardless of my personal beliefs, it's hard not to see some commentary on things nowadays in the struggles that these people having in preaching to the masses and what means are okay to use to get their message across. 
The transfer here is solid and this disc also features a newly recorded on-camera interview with Shirley Jones (12 mins). Shirley goes into detail about being a fan of Lancaster's and how she came to be cast in the ELMER GANTRY. She also talks about Richard Brooks' process for casting and working with actors. I neglected to mention it above specifically, but Shirley Jones' performance in GANTRY is outstanding and she of course won the Oscar herself for the role. It's very neat to hear her thoughts on the character and how she developed it and what it was like doing a scene with Lancaster, who was an actor she adored.

Here is a fun clip of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas singing "It's Great Not to Be Nominated" at the 1958 Academy Awards:

And here's a clip of Lancaster winning the Best Actor oscar for ELMER GANTRY in 1961:

THE YOUNG SAVAGES (1961; John Frankenheimer)
From Kino's site:
"Screen Legend Burt Lancaster gives a forceful performance as a prosecutor, whose search for the truth puts his career in jeopardy, in this thought-provoking courtroom drama. The Young Savages is set in an East Harlem mired in racial tension and gang violence. While prosecuting the three Italian teens who murdered a 15-year-old blind Puerto Rican boy from a rival gang, Assistant D.A. Hank Bell (Lancaster) learns that there's is more to this case than meets the eye."Frankenheimer and Lancaster worked together a lot. THE YOUNG SAVAGES was the first of a long line of great films they made together including BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, THE TRAIN, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY and THE GYPSY MOTHS. That's a really nice group of movies there, so it is intriguing to see where it all got started. THE YOUNG SAVAGES is something of a juvenile delinquency film - one of many that came in the wake of movies like THE WILD ONE, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. This film is, as the above synopsis indicates, a little different in that it is more of a courtroom drama. I'd put it more in a camp with say 10 ANGRY MEN than those other delinquent pictures. If you're a fan of the genre, it's a good watch as who better to thrown down in a courtroom than Lancaster. The man can throw down anywhere and make it interesting. The cast here also includes Shelley Winters and Telly Savalas (in his first film role). Savalas plays a cop here by the way and it could be easily seen as him foreshadowing the KOJAK role he'd later become known for.

Here's "John Frankeneimer on Burt Lancaster":


Laura said...

Hi Brian!

Really enjoyed these reviews. I share your love of submarine movies (Dive! Dive!) and just caught up with RUN SILENT RUN DEEP a few months ago. Liked it a lot.

It's kind of funny, I don't like Lancaster all that much and yet he was in so many movies I really like a lot, everything from THE KILLERS to CRISS CROSS to SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS to FIELD OF DREAMS. So I have to give him his due, he must have been doing something right!! Have yet to see ELMER GANTRY, I should catch up with it.

Clark Gable on the other hand I have always loved. I admired how fearless he was playing an imperfect person in RUN SILENT RUN DEEP. I strongly recommend him in the WWII-set films COMMAND DECISION and HOMECOMING, both of which I have also seen this year. I feel that his WWII experience and the loss of his wife may have added extra depths of emotion to his war film performances.

Best wishes,

Rupert Pupkin said...

Thanks Laura! That's so funny cause I used to not love Gable, but have done a total 180 on him and now I am in your camp!
I really need to see COMMAND DECISION and HOMECOMING, thank you as always for the recommends!