On the Waterfront [DVD] [1954]

Columbia-TriStar Home Entertainment's DVD release of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront is a fine and worthwhile tribute to the film and to its legacy. The picture, offered in its correct full-screen presentation, is the best it has ever looked. The stark black-and-white cinematography is sharp and relatively clean-looking considering its age. The film was a hit-and-run affair getting made (as noted in the commentary) so there are scenes which lack the finesse of a more polished studio production. But the overall picture is excellent and really shines. The film's soundtrack is available in English mono, as well as French. In terms of extras, the film has been given an informative and thoroughly entertaining commentary track with Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel (he is also author of a book on Brando as well as director of a documentary on Kazan called Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey) and Kazan biographer Jeff Young. The track is more of a rambling, anecdote-filled commentary than a scene-by-scene examination of the film, though they do that as well. Occasionally, the two get sidetracked by their conversation (especially when discussing Kazan's involvement in the McCarthy hearings), but there is plenty of information to soak up here and it's a track well worth examining more than once. The disc also includes a nice 12-minute video interview with the director, a 25-minute exclusive featurette which includes lots of telling background info, video stills gallery, the original theatrical trailer (along with two other Columbia releases), and more. The disc is a must for any serious film lover.
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Special Features

  • Digitally mastered audio & video
  • Full-screen presentation
  • Audio: English [mono], French
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
  • Exclusive featurette
  • Video photo gallery
  • Elia Kazan Interview
  • Audio commentary with film critic/author Richard Schickel and Elia Kazan biographer Jeff Young
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Filmographies
  • Animated menus
  • Production notes
  • Scene selections


On the Waterfront
This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he's been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb ("plead D & D"). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly's rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker's sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). "Waterfront priest" Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie's brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the crime commission. Because he could have intervened, but didn't, Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly's goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando's famous "I coulda been a contendah" speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of "naming names" against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s. Director Elia Kazan famously informed on suspected Communists before a government committee -- unlike many of his colleagues, some of whom went to prison for refusing to "name names" and many more of whom were blacklisted from working in the film industry for many years to come -- and Budd Schulberg's screenplay has often been read as an elaborate defense of the informer's position. On the Waterfront won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Brando, and Best Supporting Actress for Saint. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Marlon Brando
    Marlon Brando - Terry Malloy
  • Karl Malden
    Karl Malden - Father Barry
  • Lee J. Cobb
    Lee J. Cobb - Johnny Friendly
  • Rod Steiger
    Rod Steiger - Charley Malloy
  • Image coming soon
    Pat Henning - "Kayo" Dugan

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