Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 30th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1970
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writer: Robert Stone
Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle, Don Gordon, Michael Anderson Jr., Leigh French, Bruce Cabot, Cloris Leachman, Moses Gunn, Wayne Rogers
DVD released: February 8th, 2011
Approximate running time: 115 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Olive Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: A jaded disc jockey gets a job working for right-wing influenced radio station, who has a hidden agenda.
With a career that spanned six decades and 50+ feature films. Paul Newman created many iconic characters like Eddie Felson from The Hustler, Butch Cassidy from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and what is arguably his most revered role Luke from Cool Hand Luke. In 1970 three years after collaborating with director Stuart Rosenberg on the aforementioned Cool Hand Luke. They would re-team for what has become their least known collaboration WUSA. There other collaborations include Pocket Money and The Drowning Pool.
The screenplay for WUSA was adapted by author Robert Stone from his own novel titled ‘A Hall of Mirrors’. Reportedly the a preview version of this film clocked in at three hours and ten minutes. Many characters screen time and their motivations were made less clear due to shortening the film to just under two hours. The version that was ultimately released theatrically while more concise. It is not without it fare share of flaws. With some of the sub plots reduced to an afterthought. Thus taking away from their overall impact. Despite these shortcomings. The film does still manage to move at a reasonably good pace.
Other key collaborators on WUSA include composer Lalo Schifrin, who’s other notable scores include Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt and Dirty Harry. His score not only fits with the New Orleans locations. It also does a great job setting the mood. Even though the majority of the film takes place in more intimate settings. Cinematographer Richard Moore (The Wild Angels, Myra Breckinridge) takes full advantage of the 2.35:1 ‘scope’ frame.
Without a doubt the most impressive aspect of this production is its extraordinary cast. Which is headline by Paul Newman in the role of Rheinhardt, a down on his luck musician who gets a job at a right-wing radio station. It is easy to see why Paul Newman considers this his best work. Rheinhardt’s stoic personality is far from being charismatic. And yet Paul Newman creates a multilayered persona that is totally convincing. Other notable performances include Anthony Perkins (Psycho) in the role of Rainey a man hired to collect information about those on welfare and Joanne Woodward (The Long, Hot Summer) in the role of Rheinhardt’s love interest. Perkins performance echoes the fragile personalities that he is all too well known to portray. Woodward’s performance on the other hand. Is easily the most surprising performance in this film. Rounding out this impressive cast is Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate) in the role of Farley an opportunistic holy man and Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein) in the role of crippled woman named Philomene.
Besides unlikable characters. This film’s other main obstacle is its heavy handed message. And while this does tend to wear thin as the plot progresses. It is amazing just how much of what is depicted in this film. Mirrors the social ills that continue to plague the poverty stricken class in America. And this is where the film resonates the most. The more political thriller aspects of the plot are merely adequate. Ultimately WUSA is a challenging film that is carried by the superb performances from its entire cast.
Olive Films presents WUSA in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 ‘scope’ aspect ratio. This is strong looking progressive flagged transfer. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital Mono mix in English. The audio sounds clean and consistent throughout.
This release comes with no extra content. Overall WUSA makes its DVD debut via a strong audio / video presentation from Olive Films.