A rather inert drama with characters who aren’t very interesting and played by two glamorous movie stars who don’t have a speck of chemistry between them, George Stevens’ The Only Game in Town is only notable today as the last movie ever directed by the master director of such classics as A Place in the Sun and Giant (both, maybe not coincidentally, starring Elizabeth Taylor). A talky Broadway play brought to the screen with only slightly less talk in its screen incarnation, the movie lost a great deal of money and pretty much signaled the end of Elizabeth Taylor’s reign as a top box-office star.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
Las Vegas showgirl Fran Walker (Elizabeth Taylor) has spent five years biding her time in Las Vegas waiting for her married San Francisco businessman/lover (Charles Braswell) to divorce his wife and marry her. In the meantime, she meets nightclub pianist Joe Grady (Warren Beatty) who’s trying to save $5,000 in order to have a stake to try to make it in New York. But being a gambler, he can’t resist the lure of the crap tables at regular intervals where he inevitably loses everything. He moves in with Fran with a “no strings” arrangement while she keeps his money stored in a secret hiding place. When Lockwood finally arrives with divorce decree in hand, Fran turns down his proposal thinking that since they both fulfill a need for each other, it makes sense to stay with Joe. But Joe has his own plans for the future and doesn’t realize Fran has given up her chance for a comfortable life with Lockwood for him.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Despite the credentials of the previous Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Frank D. Gilroy, the play only lasted two weeks on Broadway and only made money for its producer due to its movie sale. Basically a two-character drama that involves more talk than action between the two protagonists, the wordy drama never really establishes the connection between these two rather lost souls. They don’t appear to have much in common other than sexual compatibility, and Joe’s man-child character continually disappoints and frustrates Fran making the film’s resolution seem somewhat unsatisfying and bogus. Director George Stevens does add one element to the film that was missing in the stage play: Joe’s excursions to the Caesar’s Palace crap tables. He manages to drum up some decent suspense as the bets are placed and the dice are tossed and does a nice piece of faking out the audience near the film’s climax. But because the film was produced in Paris rather than Las Vegas, the inserts of Elizabeth Taylor dancing (bouncing would be a more accurate description of what is shown) as a showgirl are ludicrously inept. Of course, Taylor no longer had the figure of a showgirl which requires some careful disguising of her waistline in a succession of sheaths and tent dresses.
The two stars are indeed glamorous looking with Taylor wearing a series of expensive wigs and high fashion make-up and Beatty looking dapper in a tux in his first appearance and later in a string of smart sports clothes. But while Beatty does manage to portray quite believably the disease of gambler’s fever and make us believe he’s something of a bounder when things don’t go his way, his character’s quips and quotes make him sometimes seem too smart for the room. Still, it's the best performance in the picture. Elizabeth Taylor is basically miscast as Fran. She’s either too old or not old enough for the character (depending on the actors playing Joe and Lockwood), has left her showgirl days long since behind her, and manages to seem rather shrill in moments of extreme agitation. The two don’t share much in the way of sexual chemistry or sexual tension either so their somewhat conventional path to the altar doesn’t generate any sparks or much interest. Charles Braswell does fine in his one scene with Taylor when she makes up her mind about their future.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is mostly very good except in scenes where glamour close-ups are applied to Elizabeth Taylor. There are also a couple of other scenes which seem decidedly strange from a sharpness point of view (one features a surprisingly spotty lens that looks like it belongs in another movie). Color is bright and bold and well controlled though flesh tones sometimes vary from realistic to overly rosy. Black levels are more than adequate, but there are some age-related dust specks still present in the transfer. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very typical for its era. Though Maurice Jarre’s underscoring and the sound effects generally blend well with the copious dialogue, there are occasions when the dialogue is somewhat hard to hear. Whether due to spotty sound recording, mumbling actors, or more volume needed in the encode, it’s hard to say. The track is free of age-related artifacts like hiss, crackle, and pops.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Isolated Score Track: Maurice Jarre’s score is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo presentation.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:55, SD)
6-Page Booklet: contains color stills from the film, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s interesting take on George Stevens’ last film and his overall career.
The Only Game in Town is not high among the achievements of either George Stevens, Elizabeth Taylor, or Warren Beatty. Still, fans of the stars and director will be glad to see this lesser achievement of theirs now available in high definition. Only 3,000 copies of the Blu-ray will be pressed. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still available. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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