BEST PICTURE 1949
All The King’s Men (1949) is a scathing indictment of the American political machinery – so vast in its spurious underpinnings that it seeks to dismantle those fundamentals that the constitution was founded on, and so devious that even when an honest candidate appears on the horizon, he is doomed to despair and moral corruption.
The film stars Broderick Crawford as small town good ol’ boy, Willie Stark. Stark is on a crusade to rid his local community of its hypocrisies in high places…at least, so it would seem. He runs for office, but is no match for the political machinery already in place - until the death of students during a fire drill prompts civic leaders to reconsider what an ‘honest’ man might do for their own political welfare.
Reporter Jack Burden (John Ireland) is sent by his newspaper to cover Willie’s rise to fame and glory. At first Jack is taken in like all the rest. He believes in Willie’s home spun pride and is instrumental at celebrating his rise in bold type headlines as the new leader for moral reform.But Jack has been fooled. Willie is easily bought and paid for by the political machinery and by a publicist in sheep’s clothing, Sadie Burke (Mercedes McCambridge). But here’s the wrinkle – it was all a rouse. The home spun act; the rise from rags to riches; the white knight rising from the ashes through the graft and corruption. Willie’s not only more of the same – he’s become worse.
Director Robert Rossen pulls no punches in illustrating the brutalities of politics and just how far ‘an honest man’ will go to get his name engraved on a gold plate at city hall. There’s an urgency to the narrative that gains momentum and never lets the audience go. Broderick is spellbinding as Stark – taking the audience in just as easily as he does the characters in the story until the brilliant screenplay by Rossen (derived from the novel by Robert Penn Warren) allows the great lie to unravel.
Sony Home Entertainment has re-released All The King’s Men just in time for its much publicized remake. However, save an ad for the new film, this DVD is virtually identical in quality to a version released under the old Columbia Classics banner in 1998. The B&W gray scale is riddled with age related artifacts and contrast levels that have been considerably boosted. Whites are blooming. Blacks are not solid or deep.
The entire film seems to have been sourced from a second or third generation prints with inherent downgrades in image quality. A hint of edge enhancement adds yet another layer of distortion to this already marred visual patina. The audio is mono as originally recorded and is presented at an adequate listening level. There are NO extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)