The Last Tycoon
Length: 123 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1 English, Restored English Mono
S.R.P. $19.99 USD
The Last Tycoon requires patience on the part of the viewer. It is an understated film with generally realistic but underplayed performances, and is episodic - short on plot. This is a “slice of life” film, with a lot of characters that you aren’t supposed to particularly like or understand. The threads are not all tied up in a nice bow at the end, either. It’s kind of ironic, really: a film about Hollywood that, in it’s delivery, is the antithesis of the product Hollywood generally delivers
The story revolves around young and driven Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr (a thinly disguised Irving Thalberg), well-played by Robert DeNiro, and the heavy Hollywood politics of the 1930’s. Based on the unfinished, final novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald (who, in his later years worked as a contract writer for MGM), the film was scripted by Harold Pinter and directed by Elia Kazan.
The Last Tycoon is somewhat disappointing as a period piece, because we just don’t see enough of the 1930’s moviemaking world. We see the office politics, and we see glimpses of work on the set. We also see screenings where Stahr offers his expertise, “Cut 20 minutes, and it’ll be a great film.” The movie within a movie, though, is quite reminiscent of Casablanca, judging from what little we see - but Casablanca itself wasn’t made until considerably later than this time period.
The second and third acts are dominated by a highly unusual romance between Stahr and a girl who looks like an old flame. While this is what makes Stahr “live” again, DeNiro’s performance is best when in his office or at a screening, arguing with writers.
The most enjoyable aspect of the film is the presence of so many big name actors. The cast includes DeNiro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Theresa Russell, Anjelica Huston, Donald Pleasance and Jack Nicholson. Russell turned in a star-making performance, and it was a joy watching Nicholson and DeNiro working together.
The Last Tycoon is one of those films that most people either love or hate. While I wasn’t at all engaged by the story, the performances made it worth watching.
The Last Tycoon is presented in anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1.
The picture is moderately bright with good contrast and deep blacks. Unfortunately, shadow detail is lacking. Grain is moderate in some sequences, and mild in others - but it is always present. Occasional instances of dust can be seen in the print, which has “fair” sharpness and no apparent edge enhancement. I’ve never seen this film theatrically, but I imagine the grain in the transfer is representative of the original elements.
The disc includes a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a restored English Mono track. The 5.1 track adds a touch of ambience to the surrounds, but mostly serves to open up the score. There is a remarkable absence of a musical score for the first act of the film, but once it kicks in, it sounds very nice on the 5.1 track, utilizing the entire front soundstage and pushing some mild reverb in the surrounds. Dialog is consistently clear and full-bodied. While the 5.1 re-mix is well done, I would have been happy with just a restored mono track (this isn’t a film that really screams for 5.1). Speaking of which, the mono track is crisp and clean throughout, with good frequency response and full-bodied dialog.
This is a no-frills catalog release from Paramount. The audio and video are perfectly acceptable, if not exceptional. The film itself is most notable for its large supporting cast.