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Sidney Lumet
Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason, Milo O'Shea
David Mamet

Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor-Paul Newman; Best Supporting Actor-James Mason; Best Screenplay.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Castillian DTS-HD MA Monaural
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 5/7/2013

• Audio Commentary from Director Sidney Lumet and Actor Paul Newman
• “The Making of The Verdict” Featurette
• “Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting” Featurette
• “Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing” Featurette
• “Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict” Featurette
• “Hollywood Backstories: The Verdict” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Verdict [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 17, 2013)

Every year, I like to see the entire roster of Oscar Best Picture nominees before the ceremony occurs. This doesn’t always happen – especially now that the Academy nominates up to 10 films - but I make the attempt.

The first year I made it through all five prior to the show took place back in 1983. I barely got through them, as I took in the fifth film on the day prior to the presentation, but I managed to do it.

Some times I have no strong opinion about what I want to win. That didn’t happen in regard to the nominees for 1982, as ET the Extraterrestrial was my easy choice. I adored ET and felt seriously cheesed when it lost to the long and smug Gandhi.

I would have been peeved no matter what beat ET, but some of the other selections would have been more acceptable than Gandhi. I suppose Richard Attenborough’s epic might have bested Missing, but I’d definitely take Tootsie as the better flick.

Logically, that comedy should have been my second pick for 1982’s Best Picture. However, it wasn’t. Instead, I preferred the one I saw last of the five. I didn’t watch The Verdict until the day before the Oscar ceremony, but it become my second favorite.

That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve always liked courtroom dramas, and The Verdict seemed to provide a satisfying affair. 30 years later, the movie still has some moments, but I must admit it doesn’t work quite as well for me as it did in 1983.

At the start of The Verdict, we meet Frank Galvin (Paul Newman), a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer reduced to “ambulance chaser” status. When his assistant Mickey (Jack Warden) hands him an easy case as a way to get back on his feet, Galvin plans to settle and move on with his life. However, some of his youthful idealism stirs in him when he actually deals with the case. A young woman entered a coma during childbirth, and malpractice may have occurred. When Galvin actually sees the comatose woman in person, he decides to take the case to court, against the wishes of his clients, the woman’s sister and husband.

This puts Galvin up against the powerful Catholic Church community in Boston, the group that runs the hospital. It also pits Galvin against Ed Concannon (James Mason), one of the city’s top attorneys. Galvin battles against the odds. With his meager resources, he attempts to cobble together his case, but almost everything works against him. At least he meets a babe named Laura (Charlotte Rampling), and she seems to help, though appearances can be deceiving. All of this leads to the climactic courtroom hearing, where Galvin will ultimately sink or swim.

I won’t reveal the ending, but don’t expect anything shocking. As a personality, Galvin feels like an extension of “Fast” Eddie Felson from 1961’s The Hustler. You sense that Galvin once possessed tremendous skill and potential, but various life issues beat him into the wreck he became. Galvin sure seems closer to the original Felson that does the version of that character seen in the sequel to The Hustler, 1986’s The Color of Money. In The Verdict, Newman displays a sense of weariness and confusion totally absent from the inappropriately cocksure Felson of Money.

Really, Newman’s performance is one of the few reasons Verdict stands out at all after all this time. Just like ET got jobbed when it lost to Gandhi, Newman should have beaten Ben Kingsley for Best Actor that year. Newman demonstrates a remarkable lack of ego as he makes Galvin a realistic loser. He allows just enough of Galvin’s potential to emerge, but he keeps the character low-key and pained throughout the movie. Newman nicely suppresses his own natural charisma to make Galvin a fully formed person.

The rest of the cast also adds depth to the movie. Mason seems particularly noteworthy. He makes Concannon rich and believable. The role easily could have turned into a stock villain, but though we root against Concannon, we never really dislike him. Even after some of the lawyer’s sleaziness comes to light, we still view him as a reasonably noble man and don’t think of him as a bad guy. In lesser hands, the part could - and probably should - have become one-dimensional, but Mason does nicely in the role.

Where The Verdict falters relates to its storyline. Although the script came from no less a talent than David Mamet, the tale feels like warmed-over TV movie material. The film becomes rather melodramatic at times, and it goes too far out of its way to place obstacles in front of Frank; I thought those elements really stretched.

Primary in that regard, I definitely disliked the romantic subplot between Frank and Laura. This felt pointless from moment one, and some twists that occur late in the film make it seem even more flawed. I felt these segments existed just to give the movie some stereotypical “female appeal”. The Frank/Laura relationship lacked depth and did nothing to move the story or improve it. Unlike the Eddie/Sarah affair in The Hustler, the film would have worked just as well - if not better - without the romance.

Overall, I found The Verdict to offer a mixed bag. The film provided some excellent acting, and it seemed generally entertaining and compelling. However, the story seemed forced and artificial at times, and it failed to deliver much depth. Nonetheless, The Verdict has enough going for it to recommend a viewing.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+ / Audio C+ / Bonus B

The Verdict appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the movie could look good, it delivered a mix of concerns.

Sharpness appeared positive, as most of the movie came across as fairly detailed and accurate. Unfortunately, edge haloes came along for the ride; they weren’t heavy, but they created frequent distractions. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and with a good layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any heavy-handed noise reduction occurred. In terms of print flaws, I saw occasional specks and marks, but these weren’t a big problem; they were more numerous than I’d anticipate but not a notable distraction.

Although The Verdict featured a muted palette, the disc replicated the film’s colors well. Despite the low-key tones, the hues appeared nicely rich and warm. Skin tones could be a bit ruddy, but otherwise the colors came across as pretty solid. Black levels also seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail usually appeared appropriately clear without excessive opacity. Some of the interiors looked a little drab, but low-light situations generally came across as accurate. This was a transfer with drawbacks but it usually looked decent to good.

When released theatrically, The Verdict came with a monaural soundtrack, one we can find here. The Blu-ray also brings us a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix that one could call pointless. A film that emphasized dialogue with minor effects and infrequent music didn’t boast much chance for sonic dynamics, so the track felt monaural most of the time. Those occasional snatches of score offered vague stereo presence but otherwise, the mix remained pretty focused on the center;

udio quality appeared fine. Dialogue sounded a little thin given its age, but speech usually was fairly natural and warm, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music seemed a little muted, but that fit the low-key score, and those parts appeared reasonably distinct and full.

Effects also played a minor role in the film, as those aspects came across as acceptably distinct and accurate. The Verdict offered a lackluster soundtrack, but it seemed fine for a 30-year-old film.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the CE DVD from 2007? The DVD came only with a mono mix and lacked this one’s 5.1 track, but that didn’t matter; the remix was so subdued that it might as well have been monaural. The DTS-HD MA audio might’ve had a little more clarity than the old mono track, but one shouldn’t expect notable changes/improvements.

Visuals did work better on the Blu-ray, though not to the degree I’d hoped to find. I strongly suspect the Blu-ray recycled the DVD’s transfer, as I got no impression that a new master had been made for the movie.

Most of the CE’s extras reappear here, and we start with an audio commentary from director Sidney Lumet. The case indicates that Paul Newman also appears in the commentary. While technically correct, that’s really a joke. We hear nothing from Newman until almost the end of the movie. We get literally about two minutes of fairly bland and generic material from the actor and that ends his participation. For Fox to state that The Verdict includes a commentary from Newman borders on false advertising; you definitely shouldn’t buy this disc with the hope that you’ll learn anything from the actor.

Not that you’ll get much from Lumet either, though he certainly contributes a great deal more information during his running, screen-specific track. On the positive side, Lumet gives us some basic background about the project and also briefly remarks upon the novel. More significantly, he discusses the methods used via set design, color palette, and other elements to convey a certain mood and tone.

Those elements seem good, but unfortunately, you must sit through many empty spaces to get to them. Lumet goes silent for much of the commentary, and that becomes very frustrating. At times, Lumet contributes some useful material, but the sparse nature of his interaction makes it a below average piece as a whole.

Next comes The Making of The Verdict. This 1982 featurette runs nine minutes, six seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Lumet, Newman, author Barry Reed, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown and actors Jack Warden and James Mason. Though the piece offers some good behind the scenes images, overall it exists to promote the film. As such, it lacks much substance.

For the eight-minute, 45-second Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting, we get notes from Newman. He chats about acting in general and some details of working on The Verdict. It’s always nice to hear from the genial Newman, but I can’t say he provides a lot of meat here. We find a few decent details but not much that seems memorable.

Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing goes for 10 minutes, 47 seconds and features the director as he talks about his filmmaking methods. Newman also throws out a couple of remarks, but Lumet dominates. He offers a mix of reasonably useful comments, though like the prior Newman piece, this is a lackluster program without great depth.

Two movie-specific programs follow. Milestones in Cinema History: The Verdict lasts 23 minutes, 14 seconds and includes remarks from Lumet, Newman, Zanuck, Brown, USC School of Cinema and Television professor Dr. Richard Jewell, and actor Lindsay Crouse. “Milestones” looks at how the book moved to the screen and the development of the screenplay, casting, characters and performances, visual design and Lumet’s approach to the material, and the film’s reception.

A good examination of the flick, “Milestones” works especially well during its first half. I really like the notes about the script and casting. The rest of it is just fine as well, and this ends up as a nice look at the production.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get the 22-minute, eight-second Hollywood Backstories: The Verdict. It presents Lumet, Newman, Brown, Zanuck, film historian Leonard Maltin, biographer Elena Oumano, executive producer Burtt Harris, and actor James Mason (from 1982). “Backstories” mostly covers the same territory as “Milestones”. It traces the production territory examined there along with some location details and a few anecdotes.

This show provides a few intriguing facts previously uncovered, such as Bruce Willis’s presence as an extra. However, I don’t like the program’s slightly scandal-mongering tone; it tries to make small problems sound like huge controversies. Since “Backstories” doesn’t tell us much we don’t already know, it fails to offer much value.

Do we lose any extras from the last DVD? Yes, but not much – the Blu-ray drops a small photo gallery, trailers for other Newman films, and a booklet.

The Verdict presents a good but not great film. The story has promise, and the actors make it work, but the execution of the plot seems flat and melodramatic much of the time. Still, it works well enough to offer an enjoyable experience. The Blu-ray offers decent picture and audio along with a fairly informative mix of bonus materials. This is an upgrade over the DVD, but only a minor one, as I don’t get the impression it delivered a new transfer.

To rate this film visit the original review of THE VERDICT

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