Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, a slice of Bronx-Italian life, had its first incarnation in 1953 as a live broadcast on the Goodyear Television Playhouse. Two years later, expanded by about a half hour, the teleplay became the Oscar-winning Marty directed for the screen by its original television director Delbert Mann. Both productions capture beautifully the hearts and souls of two lonely people who find one another one fateful night (each production has its own strengths and weaknesses), and the simple story and honest performances once again capture the attention just through the beauty of its ethnic language and a modest, unadorned presentation.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 07/29/2014
Bronx butcher Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) is constantly harangued by his family, friends, and even customers about why at age thirty-four he’s still single. Trouble is, Marty has absolutely no luck with women and is about at the stage where he’s tired of looking and enduring heartache week after week. A final plea from his outspoken widowed mother (Esther Minciotti) sends him in his blue serge suit to the Stardust Ballroom where he meets high school chemistry teacher Clara (Betsy Blair) who’s had similar bad luck with blind dates and indifference from men. The two have an instant rapport and as the evening stretches into the morning hours, Marty is convinced he’s found a nice girl who feels similarly about him. But a brief meeting between his mother and Clara leaves Mrs. Piletti unimpressed (along with warnings from her belligerent sister Catherine – Augusta Ciolli – that Marty’s new wife will have no use for a live-in mother-in-law), and Marty’s friends, particularly Marty’s similarly single best friend Angie (Joe Mantell), think Marty can do better.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
In expanding his teleplay for the big screen, Paddy Chayefsky retains every scene from his TV version but adds interesting backstory for Clara (we even meet her parents in a crucial scene that’s sometimes omitted from prints of the movie; it is present in this release) along with exploring a bit of Marty’s friend Angie’s obvious jealousy that Marty has finally found a special someone while he’s still looking and also offering a bit more of the subplot involving Aunt Catherine and her uneasy relationship with her daughter-in-law-now-a-new-mother (Karen Steele) and her son (Jerry Paris) who feels acres of Catholic guilt for asking his mother to leave his home. All of these additions don’t feel like padding at all but give breadth to the domestic drama unfolding for Marty, his friends, his family, and the girl who, he hopes, will one day be a part of it all. (The conflict with the mother who’s urging him to marry one minute and imploring him to ditch a perfectly nice girl the next because she’s not gorgeous or Italian does seem a trifle manufactured and phony, but it’s really the only misstep in Chayefsky’s script and it happens in both the TV and movie versions.) Delbert Mann’s direction doesn’t push for effects but keeps the focus clearly on Marty and Clara for a large part of the film as Marty’s motormouth just won’t stop yapping (finally, he's found someone he’s willing and eager to talk to about anything and everything) and Clara’s sweet smiles at his clumsiness and puppy dog-eagerness (which tell us mounds about her personality and character). And in one priceless moment, the lonely Angie, searching for Marty who’s otherwise occupied, eavesdrops on two gossipy older ladies and almost seems ready to sit down with them and dish the dirt.
While Ernest Borgnine is tremendously earnest and forthright as the title character, he doesn’t quite capture the same amount of deep-seated angst about his miserable single life and the repeated rejections that Rod Steiger imbued into his TV performance. He plays it a bit lighter and more chatty which seems right for the film but less dramatically heavy (though at the time, the impact of Borgnine’s sweet-natured performance was dynamic due to a series of sadistic supporting performances which had preceded this one). On the other hand, Chayefsky’s expansion of the screenplay means much more depth in the role of Clara, and Betsy Blair handles the part with aplomb and great sympathy. A scene late in the film as she sits with her parents silently weeping while waiting for a phone that doesn’t ring is one of the most devastating images in the entire film. Three actors repeat their TV performances in the movie version: Joe Mantell’s Angie, Esther Minciotti as Mama Piletti, and Augusta Ciolli as Aunt Catherine, and they all build splendidly on the performances they gave two years previously making the most of their additional dialogue and screen time. Karen Steele and Jerry Paris as the young marrieds are just fine.
The film intended for a 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented here in 1.33:1 (with windowboxed credits and opening scene). Apart from the scene at the ballroom when Marty and Clara dance and talk, the image does not appear to be zoomed in (but I state up front I’m no expert on these matters), and I did completely rewatch the film zoomed to 1.66:1 with no ill effects and with still an acceptable amount of headroom in the frame to spare (and it was a much more enjoyable experience in widescreen). While sharpness is generally fine, there are occasional shots that don’t match well with those which precede or follow them (an optical near the 19-minute mark really goes wonky). Grayscale is very good with black levels that aren’t inky but are much better than average and white levels that aren’t ever in danger of blooming. There are dust specks, some occasional scratches, and a little bit of print damage along the way, and Mrs. Piletti’s polka-dot dress quivers uneasily in a couple of shots. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix offers much better than average fidelity. With the dialogue being such an important feature of the soundtrack, it comes across clearly and cleanly and is never compromised by Roy Webb and George Bassman’s background music or the accompanying sound effects. And age-related problems like hiss, crackle, or flutter never pose much of a problem.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:59, SD): Burt Lancaster (whose production company produced the film) introduces the movie to audiences.
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Marty doesn’t get quite the pristine high definition presentation one might have wished for it, and a film this honored (the first American film ever to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes) certainly deserves some additional analysis and celebration with more developed and extensive bonus features. But despite the compromised aspect ratio, the film does look mostly quite nice, so fans of the film will have to decide for themselves if these compromises are serious enough not to add the film to their collections.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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