Paul Newman .Eddie Felson
Jackie Gleason .Minnesota Fats
Piper Laurie .Sarah Packard
George C. Scott .Bert Gordon
It’s always interesting to see how a character is seen through the eyes of two different directors. In the case of Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), two of the legendary directors of our time crafted two different versions of the man. Martin Scorsese in The Color of Money gave us Felson as a warrior long since retired, attempting to pass on what he knew to a younger man with more talent than he ever had. It’s interesting to look back at Robert Rossen’s interpretation of the character in perhaps the more famous performance for Newman in The Hustler.
Felson is a small time pool hustler, traveling from town to town hustling people out of their money. Felson has an interesting life going for him, when he comes upon the man he’s been looking for: Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), the best player in the country. After a 36-hour marathon match with the man, Eddie is left defeated and broken. From there it’s a further descent down, as Eddie falls into a further cycle of gambling and alcoholism. It’s a brilliant story from a master of it, as Robert Rossen has crafted a story about a man’s descent from the top and further into the depths of his soul; Rossen turned out perhaps his most important (and his best) work in a career that wasn’t as acclaimed when he was making films as it was when he passed.
It’s a brilliant character study featuring an actor at perhaps his absolute peak. Newman may have been early in his career – this was the film that made him a star – but it’s hard to argue he was better at any other point in his career. Felson is the sort of character only Newman could play; he’s a classic anti-hero with enough redeeming qualities to make him iconic. Newman would never match the sort of heights he crafted in The Hustler, nominated for an Academy Award for the character but winning the award for Scorsese’s interpretation and not this one. Which is a shame really, as this is easily the better performance and the better film in comparison to Scorsese’s The Color of Money.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the film’s soundtrack has been given an upgrade in this new edition as it sounds much better than before. The audio track takes splendid advantage of the format and uses the entire surround system.
Presented in a widescreen format, the film is in black and white so its potential as a picture isn’t what other films have. The film’s grays, blacks and whites are all very crisp and solid, though, and the film is a bit sharper than it’s been in past editions.
Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and The Search for Greatness follows the tale of Newman’s iconic Eddie Felson through history’s perspective via the remaining members of the cast. Featuring an interview with Newman, he got lucky in getting the part. Having another film fall through, he was mailed the script by Rossen and told him halfway through reading it that he wanted the part no matter what. It’s fascinating to hear members of the cast discuss Newman’s presence at such an early stage in his career, as this film was the one that launched him into superstardom.
Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler is a feature looking back at the historical aspects of the film. Tracking everyone from their place in time when they were picked for the film, through the film, and their career afterwards, it’s a fascinating look at one of the more influential films of our time.
Swimming with Sharks: The Art of the Hustle is a quick instructional guide from several professional players on how pool hustling actually works, as well as some quick anecdotes about it as well.
The Hustler: The Inside Story is more of a historical perspective on where the film’s motivations came from in the post McCarthy era of U.S history. Interjecting facts about the three main stars, Scott, Newman and Gleason, it’s interesting to hear how Gleason could’ve been a professional at the sport and Newman had never played until he made the film. The feature looks at a variety of topics with lots of interesting trivia scattered throughout it.
Paul Newman: Hollywood’s Cool Hand is a feature from A&E’s Biography series about the star of the film. Featuring a lot about his past, and going through his life through cinema, it’s an interesting look at one of the great stars of our time.
How to Make the Shot is a tutorial on how to make all of the famous shots from the film.
Also included are some Theatrical Trailers and a Still Gallery, as well as a listing of The Films of Paul Newman. Also there’s a Commentary featuring Newman, Rossen, Dede Allen, Stefan Gierasch, Ulu Grosbard, Richard Schickel and Jeff Young and an interactive Trick Shot Analysis.
The Hustler: Collector’s Edition