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DVD Review HTF Review: Charly

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Mar 7, 2005.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    Charly




    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1968
    Rated: PG
    Running Time: 104 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Frame (4:3)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Monaural





    Release Date:
    March 8th, 2005



    Adapted from Daniel Keyes’ absorbing novel, “Flowers for Algernon” by screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, Charly is the tale of a mentally retarded man named Charly Gordon (Cliff Robertson), who undergoes an experimental brain surgery that doctors hope will allow him to function much as a “normal” person would. Miraculously, the operation is a success, and Charly’s mental faculties rapidly improve, which changes his life in a myriad of ways!

    The movie starts slowly, introducing us to Charly, who is a very gentle and good-natured person, as it turns out. We also see that Charly is eager to learn, and hopeful of overcoming his limitations, and yet meets with little success for all his efforts. For instance, although Charly hopes against hope to develop his mind by going to night school, he can commit almost nothing he learns to memory, so he is continually starting from square one.

    Admirably, Charly also tries to function in the working world as other people do, by holding down a job as a custodian. Sadly, Charly meets with resistance in his working environment as well, for his fellow employees taunt him unremorsefully. Still, however, the always upbeat Charly is undeterred by their abhorrent behavior, and even refers to these imbeciles as his “friends”.

    Things finally begin to look up for our friend Charly, however, after he undergoes the groundbreaking operation referred to above. Indeed, subsequent to the procedure, Charly’s cognitive functions demonstrate marked improvement in a very short period of time. Even this comes with some degree of trouble though, for Charly’s maturity level does not increase as rapidly as his mental ability (and in no way could it be expected to)!

    Fortunately for Charly, Alice Kinian (Claire Bloom), the night school instructor that admired Charly’s determination to better his situation, and steered him towards the institution that performed his neuro-surgery, is willing to help him try to adjust. As you might expect, the two fall in love as they get to know each other better, and Alice tries to help Charly bridge the gap between his emotional development and the dramatic improvement in his mental abilities.

    Tragically, despite his initial improvement, positive outlook, and the help of his new friend, the benefits of Charly’s operation suddenly (and inexplicably) begin to dissipate! As his condition worsens, Charly searches frantically for some means of holding onto both his intellect and his close relationship with Alice. For me, this aspect of the story (and film), when Charly tries to resolve the crisis he is faced with, desperate to keep from once again being trapped within the confines of his own mind, was the most compelling!

    Now if you want to find out how things turn out for Mr. Gordon, you’ll have to watch the film, but I can tell you this much: Daniel Keyes’ simple, touching story provided good source material for a film, and it is re-told fairly well onscreen by director Ralph Nelson. That being said, Charly is a worthwhile and rewarding viewing experience largely for two other reasons. In particular, Cliff Robertson’s Academy Award®-winning reprisal of an earlier television role (United States Steel Hour: The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon) as a mentally challenged person that becomes a genius after an experimental operation is awe-inspiring, especially since it was done long before playing such a role would mean an almost instant Oscar® nomination. Claire Bloom’s performance as Alice, the young teacher that becomes romantically involved with Charly, is almost as wonderful.

    In my opinion, the film does have a couple of minor drawbacks that warrant mentioning though. To begin with, it is overloaded with improbable sounding scientific gobbledygook pertaining to the experimental procedure performed on the title character. The subplot concerning the surgeon that operates on Charly, and later plans to take his prize patient to a convention, also detracts from the film.

    Finally, once the characters make the disappointing discovery that the improvement Charly made after the operation will be short-lived; the expected battle to keep Charly’s mental functions in their present state follows, dragging the latter stages of the film towards mediocrity. Personally, I think that the scientific subplot should have been pared down, as it makes the film rather one-dimensional towards the end. The film works best when it focuses on Charly, and tries to reach its audience on a human level, and deals with complexities of the grave situation he is facing and with his blossoming romance with Alice.

    Still, even though the film loses its firm footing a little bit during its latter stages, the performances by Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom are mesmerizing, and it is a pretty good film overall. At the very least, Charly may make you interested in seeking out Daniel Keyes’ book, which is an excellent read!







    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    NOTE: The disc is a flipper, with a “16x 9 enhanced widescreen” (2.35:1) version of the film on one side and the dreaded “full screen” version of the film on the other.

    As for the actual image quality, Charly’s anamorphic widescreen transfer is something of a mixed bag. Let’s start with the good: Clearly Charly is not the most visually appealing film, being set largely in laboratories or building interiors, but color reproduction is fine and black level remains consistent throughout, resulting in a satisfying amount of shadow delineation.

    Unfortunately, however, there are several instances where either a fair amount of debris is visible or the image exhibits a serious case of the “jitters”. For the most part, the image is relatively stable, but these sequences containing unintended motion, most noticeable at the movie’s outset and during its latter stages, definitely detracted from the viewing experience for me. At least there were no serious problems related to compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    On the whole, the image transfer is a lot like the film - good, but with enough flaws to keep it from being great.




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    Charly’s soundtrack is presented by MGM in good old stereo, and the results are fairly straightforward. For instance, the film is very heavy on dialogue, and this track reproduces it in a warm, distraction-free manner, ensuring that the character’s discussions are easily discernable.

    Further, although the mix does not boast a terribly spacious soundstage, Ravi Shankar’s score is placed nicely within it, and music and effects never overcome the character’s speech. As you probably expected, both the subwoofer and surrounds pretty much take the day off here. All in all, it is a decent reproduction of Charly’s soundtrack, and does the source material justice.





    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!

    Unfortunately, there are no bonus features included.




    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras:
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    The DVD for Charly is a fairly simple offering, with serviceable image/sound quality and absolutely no extras to speak of, not even a theatrical trailer, which is sure to disappoint fans of this film. Despite a few flaws in the film itself, however, Cliff Robertson’s superb portrayal performance in the title role of this touching story about a man trying to remain in control of his mind and hold onto his newfound love makes this one worth a rental at least.


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I've had the disc for weeks, and I must say I completely and respectfully disagree about the transfer. I thought it was very sharp, and really top-notch. I noticed no "jitter" at any point, and whatever "debris" (I really loathe that term) there was was negligible.

    IMO, anyway, and just another viewpoint. I like but don't love the film and have felt that way since I first saw it on its initial release. I find the whole Charly as hippie section almost unwatchable.

    But, on the whole, I thought this transfer was a fine job (and I don't often say that about MGM/UA).
     
  3. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The transfer should give a good representation of the source material (1968 Techniscope, 2perf).

    The 16x9 2.35:1 OAR version is the first time the film has ever been released on home video in widescreen. In fact, the DVD was going to be released in October, but it was cancelled to make way for a dual-sided disc after complaints.
     
  4. JackKay

    JackKay Second Unit

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    PatrickMcCart

    Hear, hear!
     
  5. Matt Birchall

    Matt Birchall Supporting Actor

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    Sounds like MGM really pulled a Charly Gordon on that one.
     
  6. Joel Vardy

    Joel Vardy Supporting Actor

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    I've seen this film a handful of times and it has always appealed to me. I can understand that in today's market this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea but I went ahead and reordered it after an inexplicable disappearance from my preorder list on DDD a few months ago. It is on its way and I'm looking forward to watching it again with a renewed interest and anticipation [​IMG] .

    Joel
     
  7. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thanks for the review, Jason! [​IMG] Definitely a title thats dated, but I'm glad that its available...in widescreen! [​IMG]

    Looking forward to picking it up. I just hope it won't be hard to find in a B&M (kinda like The Agony and The Ecstasy).
     
  8. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie

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    I wonder if the transfer issues are because of the status of the film. This is one of the ABC Films titles licenced to MGM by Disney, so the materials provided by Disney may have been less than optimal. That being said, I'd really like to see this for myself and will be looking out for it.
     
  9. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    I don't happen to think there are any transfer issues, but obviously the reviewer here does. I was very very pleased with this disc, and one shouldn't automatically assume that there are transfer issues until one judges for themselves.
     
  10. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    While not a great film, Charly is a decent adaptation of Keyes' landmark novel. Robertson's performance is superb and the speech he gives about Modern Living is one of the great movie speeches.

    Bravo for MGM listening and releasing the film in 2.35:1 - the only way to see this film. How we can still be subjected to panning and scanning of 2.35:1 films that have plenty of spilt-screen shots is beyond me. It took long enough for The Boston Strangler to be presented properly on home video, that's for sure.

    Are there any other split-screen Scope movies that have never had decent OAR transfers?

    Good review, Jason.
     

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