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Best Picture classic returns to Blu-ray 4.5 Stars

One of the most successful writers of television’s first Golden Age, Paddy Chayefsky had a knack for intimate realism as well as satire that was perfect for the burgeoning medium. That quality also transferred well into Hollywood, looking to keep pace with the format in the 1950’s, and made the leap successfully, earning three Oscars over the years for his scripts like The Hospital (1971) and Network (1976); his first Oscar win came for a film he first scripted for an episode of The Philco Television Playhouse, Marty. One of the first Blu-rays Kino released as part of their Studio Classics line, they have revisited the movie for a brand new release.

Marty (1955)
Released: 10 Jun 1955
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 90 min
Director: Delbert Mann
Genre: Drama, Romance
Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti
Writer(s): Paddy Chayefsky
Plot: A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who have given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other.
IMDB rating: 7.7
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 07/19/2022
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 4.5/5

34-year-old Bronx butcher Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) has resigned himself to a life of a lonely bachelor, despite attempts to reach out and find a date, even if only for a Saturday night. His luck changes one Saturday night, when – reluctantly following the advice of his mother (Esther Minciotti) – he attends the Stardust Ballroom and meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a schoolteacher at a local high school who’s just as lonelyhearted as he is. However, his newly found happiness is quickly challenged by friends and family, who want the new relationship to end for different reasons. But – despite initial doubts himself – Marty is about to discover a newfound resolve to follow his heart…

Making the leap from the small screen to big, Marty exudes genuine charm. Adapting from his own teleplay, Paddy Chayefsky keeps the story’s heart intact while jettisoning a few of the more downbeat qualities that marked the original TV version. Delbert Mann, who also made the leap from the original teleplay here, deftly combines warmth, humor and pathos in an assured, Oscar winning debut as a feature film director. Best of all, everyone working either in front of or behind the camera is at the top of their game here, capturing a Bronx neighborhood atmosphere that feels genuine throughout. A little film with a big heart, Marty still manages to capture the hearts of those who witness its simple yet fully involving story, whether for the first or the hundredth time; one final note: the movie is one of only three movies in history to take home both the Best Picture Oscar and the Palme d’Or at Cannes (The Lost Weekend and Parasite are the other two, in case you were wondering).

Picking up the lead role when Rod Steiger – who portrayed Marty in the teleplay – declined to sign a contract with producers Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster (the latter uncredited here) to reprise the role for the big screen, Ernest Borgnine not only broke free from typecasting as a heavy, but also won a Best Actor Oscar for his heartfelt portrayal of the lonely butcher who finally finds love; while he would never again be nominated for an Oscar, Borgnine would still be a reliable character actor and found greater fame on TV with McHale’s Navy. Breaking her blacklist status here (with a little help from husband Gene Kelly), Betsy Blair earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for playing the plain Clara, whose own loneliness is ended as well; despite the nomination, she would make only sporadic appearances in film following this one but continued to be active on the stage. One of the three carryovers from the teleplay cast, Joe Mantell earned the film’s third acting Oscar nod for portraying Angie, Marty’s best friend; he would later make more memorable appearances as the ill-fated diner lighting a cigar in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and in Chinatown (1974), where he utters the film’s famous closing line: “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” Rounding out the cast here are Esther Minciotti as Marty’s mother (reprising her role from the teleplay), Augusta Ciolli as Aunt Catherine (the third role reprisal from the teleplay), Karen Steele and Jerry Paris (the latter later a movie director himself) as married couple Virginia and Tommy and uncredited appearances by Jack Klugman as a bar patron, Minerva Urecal as butcher shop patron Mrs. Rosari and even Paddy Chayefsky as Leo, another one of Marty’s friends; look carefully for Jerry Orbach as a patron of the Stardust Ballroom (it was his uncredited film debut).

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

This release has two aspect ratio options for the movie: the 1:37:1 version (which was how the movie had been presented on home video for many years) and the 1:85:1 version (which represents the original theatrical presentation, available on home video here for the first time); both versions are taken from brand new 4K masters created for this release. Film grain, gray scale and fine details appear to be presented faithfully with minimal instances of scratches, tears or dirt present; this release also has the original hexagonal United Artists logo restored to the beginning of the movie. This release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and easily bests Kino’s previous Blu-ray.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and music score (composed by Roy Webb with additional music by George Bassman) are all faithfully presented with minimal to no instances of fluttering, crackling, distortion, popping or hissing present. Again, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and is another step up for Kino’s previous Blu-ray release.

Special Features: 3.5/5

Commentary by authors/entertainment journalists Bryan Reesman and Max Evry – Recorded for this release, Reesman and Evry go over details on the film’s production – like how Ernest Borgnine got cast in the lead to which Bronx locations seen in the film are still standing today – in a jovial and lively manner.

Theatrical Trailer (2:59) – Burt Lancaster (who’s uncredited for co-producing the movie) appears and narrates the trailer.

Bonus KLSC Trailers – The Lost Weekend, The Apartment, In the Heat of the Night, Separate Tables, Fitzwilly & The Pink Jungle

Overall: 4.5/5

A film that captured the hearts of audiences and critics in America and around the world, Marty still maintains its light yet potent charm in its translation from TV to the big screen. Kino has done the movie full justice here with a solid HD transfer that presents the movie in two different aspect ratios (including the original theatrical aspect ratio for the first time) as well as an informative commentary as a special feature. Very highly recommended and absolutely worth upgrading from the previous Kino Blu-ray.

Amazon.com: Marty (Special Edition): Delbert Mann, Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti, Jerry Paris, Karen Steele, Augusta Ciolli, James Bell, Paddy Chayefsky: Movies & TV

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lark144

Screenwriter
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Feb 22, 2012
Messages
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mark gross
As always, Mychal, an engaging and commendable review. Based on your recommendation, I would rush right out and buy it, except I already have it. I wanted to comment a bit on the image quality of the 1:85:1 version. I haven't watched the 1:35:1 iteration as I always thought that framing, with its figures lost in immense headroom, made Joseph La Shelle, one of the greatest DPs in Hollywood history, look like a rank amateur, as if the film was shot on the fly in Super 8. Now, in the 1:85:1 framing, the compositions have a sensitivity and intimacy that matches that of the performances. But the main reason I double-dipped was the image looked so fuzzy on the first release of the Blu-Ray, especially the scene at the dance in which the ballroom itself was flat and very soft, with no depth of field and in the master shots, you couldn't make out people's faces. That's been fixed now, and I find it much better, and well worth the upgrade for me. It's not perfect however. As Mr. Harris mentions in his "few words", there is a heavier than usual grain field, and in certain scenes, for instance, the aforementioned dance, there is some loss of shadow detail on the faces. If you compare that same scene with the one on the trailer, you can see the difference. However, for me, these defects are slight and and hardly noticiable and don't interfere with my pleasure in viewing the film.
 

Frankie_A

Agent
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Messages
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A word about the 1.37:1 vs 1.85:1 aspect ratio framing -- this film was shot in 1955, a period when Hollywood was transitioning from the Academy ratio (the near-square screen image) to wide screen. Once those theatre owners paid the big bucks to put in CinemaScope screens for THE ROBE, there was no way they were going to waste half that wide screen showing non-CinemaScope films dwarfed on it in the "square" Academy frame. After the public saw CinemaScope, the Academy AR was gone forever.

Theatre owners and projectionists found that they could simply crop the 35mm frame to whatever aspect ratio they wanted simply by cutting new aperture plates to mask the top and bottom of the image in the projector as the film with its 1.37:1 frame area was projected. Then using a lens of higher magnification, the image would be blow up on the screen to meet the top and bottom of the screen which of course resulted in a wider image. Thing is, this "spherical wide-screen" was not standardized; in fact, it was all over the place with some theatres using 1.66, some 1.75, 1.85 and some even 2:1 (idiots) and in some theatres, depending on what spare lenses they had laying around in storage, anything in between. Even after the industry pretty much standardized cropping to 1.85, Disney stuck with 1.75:1 saying the extra magnification to get to 1.85 was simply to detrimental to the image quality in terms of image brightness, increased grain size, and contrast, especially in the large theatres that were common in those years. The Rodent was right. European productions, even to this day, for the most part have stuck with 1.66 for that same reasoning.

In order to avoid a studio's release that was composed for 1.85 from being presented with frame lines on top and bottom showing by theatres not cropping out to 1.85, the cinematographer almost always shot "wide open," in other words, exposing the full 1.37 aperture on the film and that full frame was usually left on the release print or hard masked as 1.66, the assumption being that the theatre itself would crop to the intended 1.85:1. For theatres that were cropping to only 1.75 or 1.66, they had that extra bit of image or "protection" so black frame lines wouldn't show on the screen. Back then, if frames lines were visible on the screen, it was considered unacceptable presentation; audiences would think there was something wrong. Today we just are so used to letterboxing on TV that no one would have any trouble with it if frame lines were visible in a theatre presentation.

So here's the thing with MARTY -- the studio, the director and the cinematographer all intended the 35mm release prints to be projected with a 1.85:1 aperture plate, even though the image filled the entire 1.37:1 35mm film frame. The trailer shows that the Original Negative was indeed shot "wide open," but this certainly doesn't mean that was how it was intended to be shown in theatres. If there is a DVD or VHS out there of the feature that shows that full, 1.37:1 image, it is VIDEO DONE WRONG! Of course with VHS transfere, video done wrong was the rule of thumb -- can anyone say, pan and scan transfers? I rest my case. VHS aside, there is no excuse for any DVD of this film to be incorrectly transferred with an unmasked 1.37:1 image.
 

usrunnr

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Mar 28, 2012
Messages
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Real Name
usrunnr
So here's the thing with MARTY -- the studio, the director and the cinematographer all intended the 35mm release prints to be projected with a 1.85:1 aperture plate, even though the image filled the entire 1.37:1 35mm film frame. The trailer shows that the Original Negative was indeed shot "wide open," but this certainly doesn't mean that was how it was intended to be shown in theatres. If there is a DVD or VHS out there of the feature that shows that full, 1.37:1 image, it is VIDEO DONE WRONG! Of course with VHS transfere, video done wrong was the rule of thumb -- can anyone say, pan and scan transfers? I rest my case. VHS aside, there is no excuse for any DVD of this film to be incorrectly transferred with an unmasked 1.37:1 image.

I agree. Is this not true also of "Summertime" the current Criterion blu ray release?