The Long, Hot Summer (1958) Blu-ray Review: Climax Change

Twilight Time heats things up with Martin Ritt's Southern Gothic tale starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Tony Franciosa, and an inarticulate Orson Welles.
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Though the notion of someone ‒ anyone ‒ being labeled as a "barn burner" in this day and age may give you an inkling as to how outdated The Long, Hot Summer may be, the various tawdry emotions and tempers depicted in this mish-mash of several William Faulkner works sprinkled with a dash of Tennessee Williams is just as fresh as ever. Especially to anyone who may have lived in a small town. Beating Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to screens by just five months, The Long, Hot Summer finds acting legend Paul Newman as a vaguely regular rogue in slightly familiar surroundings: the Deep South, complete with all of the festering pent-up passions and prejudices commonly associated with it.

Here, in a movie full of method actors, Newman ‒ starring as a loner named Ben Quick ‒ is to get out of town in a fashion in-line with his surname after being accused of burning down a barn (one can only imagine how severe of a sentence they passed out for cow-tipping). He gladly does so, only to wind up in a corrupt Mississippi community dominated by a greasy, inarticulate Orson Welles (whose deliberate mumbling ‒ a very Wellesian way of mocking his method actor co-stars ‒ is so extreme, you'll need to turn on the subtitles). As Summer heats up, Newman Quickly works his way into Welles' family, much to the chagrin of Orson's lazy, entitled son, Anthony Franciosa (Web of the Spider).

Naturally, no Paul Newman movie would be complete without his future bride, Joanne Woodward, who plays one of Welles' daughters (it was their first pairing; the classic cinematic couple married soon after). Lee Remick (as the other daughter), Angela Lansbury, and Richard Anderson also star in this Southern Gothic tale from previously blacklisted director Martin Ritt (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Stanley & Iris). The screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. was based on three different Faulkner stories. Joseph LaShelle provided the gorgeous CinemaScope photography, and Alex North (Spartacus, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) composed the music score.

Twilight Time presents this late '50s classic in a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode direct from the Fox archives which ‒ other than the fact the overall hue is way too yellowish ‒ is quite crisp (to the point where Orson Welles' consistently inconsistent stage makeup is more than obvious). Two DTS-HD MA audio options are available for this Blu-ray release in 2.0 and 5.1, and optional English (SDH) subtitles are also included. Alex North's isolated score (in DTS-HD MA 2.0), an episode of AMC's Hollywood Backstories about the film, a Fox Movietone Newsreel clip, and an original theatrical trailer make up the Twilight Time selection's special features, which is wrapped up by liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

Like all (or at least, most) of Twilight Time's releases (the catalog of which includes several more titles from Martin Ritt and Paul Newman), The Long, Hot Summer is limited to 3,000 copies, available while supplies last.

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