Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ONE-EYED JACKS: Blu-ray (Paramount 1961) Criterion Collection

Marlon Brando once said of his opus magnum, One-Eyed Jacks (1961) that it failed to achieve what he had set out to do. Yet, the oddity of this claim ought to be called into question, since even Brando was not entirely certain what he was doing throughout the shoot, employing improvisation techniques to add dialogue and scenes not in the original script, and using every cheap trick in the actor’s guidebook to will a performance from his inexperienced leading lady, Pina Pellicer. Given a viewfinder on his first day as director by his cinematographer, Charles Lang Jr., Brando famously held the piece up to his eye, looking through the wrong end of its lens; portending of the arduousness in many trials and tribulations yet to follow. By then, One-Eyed Jacks had already been through the gristmill of development and pre-production; a purgatory begun on Brando’s bright-eyed optimism in the summer of 1956, only to emerge with a leaden thud at the box office five years later, truncated and severely watered down.  Brando’s initial statement issued to the press suggested he intended to make a picture that would prove a “frontal assault on the temple of clichés (then) permeating the traditional Hollywood western.” Yet, the finished product does not entirely reflect this vision. Some critics of the day argued far from it. While One-Eyed Jacks did respectable business, by the time of its release the budget had ballooned from $1.6 to $6 million; an investment Paramount Pictures could never hope to recoup.
For decades, the infamy of Brando’s directorial debut has only served to obscure its merits as a competently made, oft engaging piece of entertainment; albeit, one never to test, much less assail the time-honored traditions of the Hollywood western. There are flaws to be sure; starting with Paramount’s eleventh hour decision to remove Brando from the executive decision-making process; paring down Brando’s rumored five to eight hour rough cuts, complete with intermission, to a 141 minute pseudo-epic, missing whole portions from its methodically plotted narrative structure. It is rumored Brando exposed over a million feet of film by the time One-Eyed Jacks was in the can and ready to be cut; a process Brando, who had assumed the duty at the outset, described as nightmarish and impossible. The core of Brando’s reputation as a difficult artist is implied to have begun on the set of One-Eyed Jacks. But actually, Brando’s standing had already suffered with back-to-back box office flops. One-Eyed Jacks failure to recoup its negative costs was compounded by the disastrous returns on Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), released one year after One-Eyed Jacks to rank criticism and mediocre box office. There is little to deny Brando’s repute as an oft caustic perfectionist, impatient with others who did not share in his vision, was impacted by the release of this picture. It is reported he banged on a Chinese gong to get director, Stanley Kubrick’s attention; becoming increasingly incensed when Kubrick repeatedly failed to see things his way.
For a first-time director, Brando’s high concept for One-Eyed Jacks is remarkably and refreshingly solid, if hardly prophetic. One-Eyed Jacks was conceived in blind chaos in 1956, the apex of Hollywood’s rekindled love affair with the big-budgeted western. And in some ways the resultant, if delayed, release five years later serves as a sort of postmortem for a genre that had outstayed its welcome by 1961. In hindsight, Hugo Friedhofer’s score is just a little too genial in a sort of plush shag mainstream fifties sentiment, belying some of the other post-production conventionality Paramount imposed upon the picture; forcing Brando to iron out the contemplative aspects of his character, intermittently referred to as either ‘the Kid’ or ‘Rio’. Paramount also ordered Brandon to make his character’s competition, Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) the irrefutably villain of the piece; a part, Brando had originally envisioned as possessing more variance and tonality in his modus operandi. Using Louie L’amour’s novel, To Tame a Land as his initial template, Brando hired Niven Busch (the author of another infamous western, Duel in the Sun) to adapt the screenplay. But only two weeks in, Brando had Busch fired; a chain-reaction to afflict virtually all of the ill-fated writing talent that would come then go as the handmaid’s work passed from Robert Buckner to Robert Parrish, then Rod Serling, Sam Peckinpah, and finally, Brando himself.
The story eventually ironed out by these varied contributors is serviceable; though hardly breaking with the traditions of the classic Hollywood western. The picture opens with a daring holdup in Sonora, Mexico; Dad Longworth, Rio and a third accomplice, Doc (Hank Worden) stealing two saddlebags of gold from a local bank. Brando lightens a young senorita of her family ring on the way out, a prize he attempts to use to seduce another unsuspecting virgin at a nearby cantina. This latter sequence is played strictly for laughs, as Rio takes liberties, is slapped in the face for his efforts, but then is encouraged by the girl to call again when his passion has cooled. Dad, Rio and Doc elude the Mexican Rurales, who eventually track them to a nearby brothel. Doc is easily dispatched by the Captain of the Guard (Rodolfo Acosta). But Dad and Rio manage a clumsy, if daring escape across the wasteland. Cornered on a high plateau, Rio and Dad draw bullets to see who will make the escape for fresh mounts to a jacalito in the neighboring canyon. Rio fixes the deal to afford Dad his opportunity. But Rio’s faith in the man he has looked up to as a mentor or sorts is shattered when Dad elects to take all of their stolen plunder as his own, leaving Rio to face retribution from the Rurales. Captured, Rio learns of Dad’s betrayal and vows bloody revenge.
Flash forward five years. We see Rio and another man, Chico Modesto (Larry Duran) escaping from prison across these same barren plains. The two are partners, sheltered by Modesto’s friends and given food, new clothes and lodgings. Rio allies himself with Bob Emory (Ben Johnson), a bad man he believes he can exploit to his own advantage by promising to help him and a partner, Harvey Johnson (Sam Gilman) in their daring holdup on the bank in Monterey. Rio’s venom for Dad has only intensified during his incarceration; more so when he discovers Dad, now married to Maria (Katy Jurado) – having adopted her illegitimate daughter, Louisa (Pina Pellicer) – has since used his ill-gotten gains to set himself up as the pillar of law and order in Monterey. Presumably, Maria knows nothing of Dad’s past, or rather, only part of it. She is concerned for her husband’s safety - at first. But Rio slyly pretends not to have been in prison these last five years; to have lived obscurely and now merely come to this belated reunion as a friend in search of a long-lost acquaintance. Dad lies to Rio too, suggesting when he arrived at the jacalito there were no horses available; thus, no way to come back for him. Knowing this to be a lie, Rio nevertheless plays along and is invited by Dad, first, to dine with the family and later, to partake of the town’s fiesta.  Rio sees a way to exact his revenge by stealing Louisa’s virtue. Unaware his intentions are not honorable, and strangely attracted to this man she has only just met, Louisa naively allows Rio his indiscretions, only to be disillusioned in her post-coital bliss by Rio’s sheepish confessions. Louisa returns home, sadder but wiser.
Early the next morning, Dad is informed by his Deputy Sherriff Lon Dedrick (Slim Pickens) Louisa spent the night with Rio. Dad tries to make his stepdaughter confess to being deflowered, but only after he has left the room dissatisfied by her reluctance, does Louisa reveal the true extent of her previous night’s behavior to her mother. Maria elects to keep the incident a secret from her husband. Meanwhile, Rio is captured and taken into the town square where Dad makes an example of him for all to see; binding and whipping Rio to the point of collapse before mashing the fingers of his gunslinger’s hand with the butt of his rifle. Rio and his accomplices are driven out of town; Dad vowing to shoot them dead on sight if ever they are bold enough to contemplate a return. Meanwhile Dedrick makes repeated attempts to seduce Louisa. She resists and eventually confides in Maria she is carrying Rio’s child. Held up at a remote seaside bungalow to allow his wounds to heal, Rio contemplates forgoing his vengeance against Dad. He will instead sneak back into town to take Louisa away with him. Alas, Emory has grown restless of waiting for the riches promised. When Modesto attempts to thwart his and Harvey’s plans to continue, Emory leaves Modesto for dead on the outskirts of a fishing village. Alas, their bank heist goes awry; bank teller, Carvey (Elisha Cook Jr.) making a valiant, but botched move to defend himself. In a hailstorm of bullets, Carvey and Emory shoot each other dead, killing an unsuspecting young girl caught in their crossfire. Despite his lack of participation, Dad blames Rio for the crime and, with his posse, takes Rio prisoner, vowing to see him swing from the gallows after a ‘fair trial’.
Louisa attends her lover in jail with a ‘last meal’ presumably baked by Maria. However, when Dedrick investigates he discovers a small revolver buried inside the meat pie. Dedrick forcibly removes Louisa from the prison. But he leaves the gun on a nearby table and Rio hurriedly and skillfully manages to drag it across the floor using his belt, only to discover its chambers are emptied of bullets. However, Dedrick does not know this. Hence, when Dedrick returns, Rio holds him at gunpoint, forcing Dedrick to unlock his cell door. Rio then beats Dedrick into submission and gains control of his loaded pistol, locking Dedrick inside and hurrying to make his escape out of town. Having learned of Louisa’s pregnancy from Maria, Dad is confronted with another unholy surprise from his wife; she has suspected all along he has been plotting to destroy Rio out of his own shameful guilt.  Charging into town on horseback, Dad is confronted by Rio; the two men exchanging gunfire in the square with Rio gaining the upper hand. Louisa witnesses her stepfather being shot to death by the man she loves. Emotionally torn, she nevertheless elects to follow Rio to the outskirts. Realizing Rio is a hunted man already wanted in Mexico, Louisa bids him goodbye; Rio, planning to retreat to Oregon but return in the spring for the birth of their child.  As envisioned by Brando, the original ending to One-Eyed Jacks was quite different and far more somber; one of Dad’s stray bullets killing Louisa; she sacrificing herself to save her lover. As she lies dying in the streets, Rio avenges her murder by killing Dad, coddling Louisa’s lifeless body in his arms.
While Brando was off shooting The Teahouse of the August Moon for MGM, One-Eyed Jacks acquired more moss than inspiration; Paramount too grew impatient about the deal they had inked with Brando at the outset. By the mid-1950's the studio system had crumbled to the extent stars were assuming a more proactive part in the reshaping of their own careers. While some became their own free agents, making the rounds from one studio to the next, marketing their goodwill, talent and popularity with audiences on a freelance basis, others chose to invest in their own independent production companies, using the studios merely as a means for lucrative distribution of their product. Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino were among the first to dabble in this newfound freedom; actor-owned indie productions suddenly in vogue. As a tribute to his late mother, Pennebaker became Brando’s company brand. The first objective for this fledgling enterprise was to challenge the industry by making pictures to promote the moral good. But Brando also believed he could shore up whatever rifts existed between him and his father, providing Brando Sr. with an outlet to occupy his time after his wife’s death. Finally, there were tax breaks to consider.
Somewhere amidst the chaos of setting up shop and making other movies on the side to keep the cash flow lucrative, Brando found time to fall in love and marry Anna Kashfi. Ironically, their union would be shorter than the shooting schedule on One-Eyed Jacks.  While off in Japan, making Sayonara (1957), Brando reasoned the only way to gain absolute satisfaction with the screenplay for his pet project was to write it himself. Unhappy circumstance, Brando knew as much of screen writing as he did directing: that is to say, no direct knowledge, his 200+ page draft judged an unwieldy mess. At this particular juncture, Brando considered A.S. Fleischman’s novel, Yellowleg, rechristened A Burst of Vermillion. Brando also broke with tradition by announcing in Variety he intended to direct the movie himself. By now, the executive brain trust at Paramount was both weary and nervous. Their ‘lucrative’ deal was getting very expensive, very fast. Enter producer, Frank T. Rosenberg, suggesting a way around the stalemate; Charles Neider’s The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, a fictionalized account of Billy the Kid. Paramount agreed and Rosenberg put Rod Serling on the payroll to pen the script. Again, this proved futile; Serling, fired by Brando and Sam Peckinpah, rapidly making a name for himself, brought in for an additional six months’ rewrites. Interestingly, Brando preferred Peckinpah’s screenplay, affording Rosenberg producer’s credit as a result.
But now, Paramount began to shop the project around to directors, most notably, Stanley Kubrick; then, a rising star in the cinema firmament. Alas, Kubrick did not think much of Peckinpah’s treatment, he quietly undercut Peckinpah's participation by encouraging Paramount to have him removed from the project while he hired Caulder Willingham (who had worked with him on Paths of Glory, 1957) to hack into the screenplay yet again for extensive rewrites. As the summer of 1958 drew to a close, Brando celebrated the birth of his son, Christian. But his association with Willingham quickly soured; the project now flying under the header of ‘Guns Up’ and Brando’s character renamed ‘Rio’. At this point, Rosenberg chimed in with his displeasure about the direction – or lack thereof – of development. Rosenberg hired Guy Trosper to gussy up the prose; a move that infuriated Kubrick immensely. At some point, Kubrick bowed out of the movie, now renamed One-Eyed Jacks; a title, mercifully to stick. Was Kubrick fired or did he quit? Hmmmm. The ‘official’ announcement was Kubrick was preparing Lolita (1962) and could not reconcile this schedule with his commitments on One-Eyed Jacks, forcing him to choose one over the other. However, Kubrick’s career would take another detour entirely, hired to helm Kirk Douglas’ costly epic, Spartacus (1960).
Possibly, Kubrick had foreseen the confrontations yet to ensue on One-Eyed Jacks and decided he wanted no part of it; Brando informing Kubrick he had already cast Karl Malden for the pivotal role of Dad Longworth; a part, Kubrick heavily campaigned to cast with Spencer Tracy. And Rosenberg’s choice of leading lady, Pina Pellicer – chosen for her virginal south-of-the-border exoticism – equally left Kubrick flat. Indeed, Pellicer was sent off to an elocutionist almost immediately to brush up her English. But the novice proved also to suffer from grave and stifling insecurities, eventually to lead to suicide in 1964 at the age of 30. As for Karl Malden and Brando; they had evolved an amicable working relationship during their legendary Broadway run of A Streetcar Named Desire; a symbiosis refined for 1951’s movie version, and later, rekindled on Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954). The two men respected one another immensely. Alas, Malden’s cache and salary demands would cost the One-Eyed Jacks’ production plenty. As one of the first hires, long before cameras began to roll and during One-Eyed Jacks continued rocky gestation, Malden remained on full salary for nearly a year. In the meantime, Brando began to assemble the rest of his cast; including Katie Jurado (as Dad’s devoted Spanish wife, Maria), and professional cowboys cum actors, Slim Pickens (the disreputable Deputy, Lon Dedrick) and Ben Johnson (the thoroughly sinister, Bob Amory). Brando would model his own dialect on Johnson’s authentic twang. He also proved his loyalty to Larry Duran, his stand-in, herein given the plum part of Rio’s devoted sidekick, Chico Modesto.
While Brando continued to grapple with an inadequate and incomplete script, One-Eyed Jacks began to take on a more concrete manifestation on the Paramount back lot as Art Director J. McMillan (Mac) Johnson constructed some fairly elaborate sets to tie in with the actual Monterey location work, including a lavishly appointed town square populated by 300 extras for the fiesta sequence. The production would also utilize preexisting Spanish mission sets built on the Warner Bros. ranch for that studio’s 1939 production of Juarez, costarring Bette Davis and Paul Muni.  Upon Kubrick’s departure (dismissal) from the project, Brando relieved Trosper of his duties as screenwriter. While squibs in Variety suggested a short list of possible directors to helm the picture included Sidney Lumet and Elia Kazan, Brando had already made up his mind to share double duty as both One-Eyed Jacks’ director and star; arguably, a hefty load for someone unaccustomed to sharing the dual burdens.  On Dec. 2, 1958, Brando finally called ‘action’ in Monterey; the studio confident that with Charles Lang’s participation; also, that of Cecile B. DeMille’s right hand man, Chico Day, the shoot would come off without a hitch. Their faith was only partly affirmed. Indeed, shooting in Technicolor and VistaVision (Paramount’s patented widescreen process), Lang possessed a true artist’s eye; later confirmed with the release of Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Magnificent Seven (1960). In hindsight, One-Eyed Jacks is a sumptuous feast for the eye, marginally distilled by a few rear-projection process shots inserted throughout, and some last minute retakes shot months after principle photography had wrapped. Unfortunately, after only five days, Rosenberg estimated the production was already two weeks behind schedule; the result of Brando’s insistent ‘work-shopping’ of the dialogue with a scribe present to incorporate all the ad libs into the as yet incomplete screenplay.
“I tried to figure out what to do as I went along,” Brando would later reflect, “I shot over and over again, making things up by the moment, not sure where the story was going. I also did a lot of stalling for time…for inspiration to hit.” The proof of Brando’s creative stagnancy was revealed to all when he elected to wait nearly an entire day to shoot a pivotal sequence where Rio contemplates his future prospects on the outskirts of town; Brando holding off until the waves crashing against the craggy Pacific Coast were ‘just right’. While Brando knew this scene would have to match up with footage shot previously, the press attending this day’s work on a PR junket took to cover the holdup as merely the idiosyncratic behavior of a navel-gazing amateur too high on his own supremacy as a first-time director. It was the first sting of negative publicity and it sent minor shock waves through Paramount’s front offices while they contemplated their options. And the studio, now more anxious than ever to have a movie ready for release before Christmas 1961, was as unimpressed by another Brando hiatuses, suspending production for Christmas and New Year’s and flying everyone home at his own expense. Possibly, their fretfulness was compounded by the fact the picture was being shot in VistaVision, a cumbersome – if superior – widescreen process that Paramount was eager to retire. By January 1959, One-Eyed Jacks had relocated to the studio back lot on Mac Johnson’s $100,000.00 town square set; Brando staging the fiesta with maximum ostentatiousness in a myriad of explosive colors. PR of the period suggested 300 extras were fed 400 baked potatoes, 100 chickens and gallons of lemonade and barrels of beer while Brando and Charles Lang expertly maneuvered their camera amidst the gaiety and spectacle of the piece. Regrettably, production was once again halted; this time, by a powerful storm laying siege to the set and adding nearly $300,000.00 in damages to the cost of the picture.
As pressure mounted to complete the picture, Brando faced a personal crisis; divorcing Anna Kashfi in April and steadily turning to food as his comfort away from the stresses buffeting him on all sides. Brando’s gourmandizing reached its critical point when he split his pants during a fight sequence and began to show other signs of excessive weight gain, necessitating costume designer, Yvonne Wood constantly letting out his wardrobe. Now Brando turned his attentions to ‘the whipping scene’; a pivotal moment where Dad publicly lashes Rio before smashing his fingers with the butt of his rifle. Unfortunately, Brando dislocated his shoulder while shooting this sequence, creating another delay in the production schedule. Like most movies, One-Eyed Jacks was shot out of sequence; the opening, depicting Dad and Rio’s daring escape across the barren plains near Zabriskie Point shot last; Mother Nature conspiring with yet another postponement; a blindingly powerful dust bowl and staggering 117 degree temperatures – logistically, a nightmare. Doubling for Brando on horseback, stuntman Henry Willis broke his pelvis after being thrown from his horse while riding up a very steep embankment. He was airlifted for treatment.
On June 2, 1959, after an extensive six months shoot, One-Eyed Jacks ‘officially’ wrapped; hardly a cause for celebration as the real challenge for Brando now lay in the whittling down of this raw footage into a cohesive narrative with a manageable run time. Turning to ace editor, Archie Marshek, Brando endeavored to achieve his vision on the screen. But Brando had already committed to Sidney Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind (1961) in New York. Unable to delay that schedule and fearing ‘breach of contract’ proceedings if he refused to appear, the net result was Brando would spend the bulk of his summer working for Lumet from Monday to Friday in New York before taking the red eye back to the West Coast, editing One-Eyed Jacks from sun up till sundown, Saturday and Sunday; a breakneck pace effectively to sour Brando on the editing process. Brando would later label the cutting room “the most monstrous place on earth.” Indeed, in distilling his footage into a rough cut, Brando was to make another ‘monstrous’ discovery; he had forgotten to shoot a pivotal transitional sequence depicting Rio’s rakes’ progress. Re-assembling cast and crew, Brando lensed this final bit of necessary conjoining footage in early January 1960, almost six months to the day he had officially ended principle photography.
But Brando’s rough cuts, rumored to have run eight, then five hours, and shown exclusively to Paramount’s top brass, failed to impress. Indeed, the executives were appalled by the subtleties of the piece; insisting Brando recut Karl Malden’s performance so he now appeared as a more clear-cut villain.  Perhaps either from exhaustion or simply to see the damned thing to completion, Brando complied; but later, he regretted this decision, suggesting Malden’s character was far more fascinating in tonal areas of gray than the black and white-washed portrayal that exists in the movie today. As Brando was now committed to beginning principle photography on Mutiny on the Bounty, Paramount seized upon the opportunity to relieve him entirely of his post-production participation on One-Eyed Jacks. They had waited two and a half years for Brando’s magnum opus and were not about to release a five hour cut of the movie. In Brando’s absence, the picture was recut; pared down to its 141 minute runtime and given a hasty premiere on March 30, 1961. Brando was still in Tahiti working on ‘Bounty’ when One-Eyed Jacks began receiving its mixed critical appraisal, calling it “one of the sizable efforts of my life.” Ultimately, neither Paramount nor Brando was vindicated by the final outcome. Though One-Eyed Jacks earned a respectable $4,300,000 in the U.S. alone, this figure was eclipsed by the production’s $6 million investment. And Brando was hardly pleased by the cuts made to his masterpiece in his absence.
It should be noted One-Eyed Jacks, while skillful in its storytelling, does contain some rather glaring omissions; chiefly, the depiction of Rio and Modesto’s time spent in prison together, presumably where there bond of friendship was first established. Also lost in transition are the motivations for Luisa’s love for Rio. There is also the anomaly of Rio’s character – or lack thereof – to grapple with; Brando’s performance occasionally teetering on rather insidious sadism. Rio is not simply misguided in his motivations, or even cruel as a classically drawn desperado from the Hollywood western guidebook, but a bundle of contradictions; a real gross pig of a human being where women are concerned, preferring, and even deriving pleasure from, the ruination of as many ‘innocent’ young girls to the creature comforts of ill-mannered/lustful Spanish whores meant to procure such diversions. Rio’s seduction of Louisa is thus bittersweet and ironically passionless; more venal and destructive in fact, until Rio is suddenly brought to heel by Louisa’s uncompromised goodness. Though scarred by his post-coital confessions, Louisa nevertheless refuses to surrender her love for this man who has taken her virtue. Her decency, virtually unknown in any of the male/female relationships fostered by Rio thus far, reforms him; another cliché, not only of the movie western but also its dramas and romantic comedies; a good woman and a bad man making their beautiful music together.
Arguably, Paramount’s tacked on ending, allowing Louisa her ambiguous survival as the fallen women, affords One-Eyed Jacks its reprieve from the existentially depressing and morally ambiguous finale Brando initially planned to conclude his movie. It’s still not a ‘happy ending’ as Hollywood then always favored, nor, arguably, is it faithful to the story itself. Given that One-Eyed Jacks premiered at the beginning of the 1960's, and would go on to enjoy a brief theatrical reissue in 1966, the height of the anti-heroic western revival, it would have meant so much more to have Brando’s cut preserved for posterity. Alas, in the intervening decades, the picture would all but vanish from public view; occasionally revived on late night television, further truncated in its runtime to accommodate commercial interruptions; its glorious VistaVision aspect ratio chopped to fit the 1.33:1 TV dimensions. For decades, One-Eyed Jacks survived only on cheaply manufactured VHS tapes, culled from the original VistaVision negative, but without any care applied to preserve either the quality or content of its presentation.
Now, Criterion has released a stunning new Blu-ray, the result of an extensive restoration put forth by Universal Home Video (the custodians of the archival VistaVision print master) and with financial assistance from The Film Foundation. The results are mostly pleasing and light years ahead of anything this movie has looked like anywhere since 1961. I have one sincere bone of contention to pick with this release, and it is Universal, in their infinite wisdom (or lack thereof) have elected to lop off the original Paramount VistaVision logo preceding the main titles; also, the Paramount studio logo that ought to have concluded virtually all studio releases from this particular vintage. They have replaced the former with their own Universal logo and the latter with a laundry list of credits attesting to those involved in restoring One-Eyed Jacks for this home video presentation. In the first place, One-Eyed Jacks was never a Universal Picture. In the second, the Uni logo preceding the main titles is not even of the sixties vintage, but a newly redesigned logo, slightly altered from Uni’s own 100th anniversary studio logo. As Universal has proven a willingness to release Paramount movies now under their custodianship to hi-def home video with the Paramount logos preserved, even reinstated from previous home video releases and for posterity, its omission herein is not only curious but utterly inexcusable.  
Now, how about the transfer?  Well, for starters, utilizing the original 35mm, 8-perforation Vista Vision negative with extensive color correction performed throughout, and scanned in at 6K resolution (later dumbed down for 1080p Blu-ray) the improvements to overall depth, clarity and image stability are irrefutable. This is a magnificent resurrection of the original theatrical presentation, complete with finite and distinguishable grain structure, ever so slightly tempered by properly applied DNR. A few density fluctuations persist, but have been greatly resolved throughout for a mostly smooth and creamy looking visual experience. Colors are vastly improved, although there appears to be some residual weakness in the blue layer. Skies and ocean surf, as example, do not pop as they should in VistaVision, and reds in particular lack that blood-red punch one might have expected to see, while other hues, most notably browns and oranges (and sometimes yellows) occasionally seem to dominate the spectrum, if not overpower this presentation entirely. There is also a hint of inexplicable edge enhancement cropping up in the scene where Rio confronts Dedrick with his own pistol. VistaVision’s claim of motion picture high fidelity is on display herein. For those unaccustomed to VistaVision in its prime, this disc gives a plausible account of the original theatrical showing with noted variations already discussed herein.  Criterion remains devoted to its LPCM 1.0 uncompressed audio presentations, One-Eyed Jacks sounding quite aggressive in spots with vastly superior depth, albeit monaural.  Extras are rather scant for a Criterion release; a few short featurettes covering the gestation of the project, some audio excerpts from a 1971 Brando interview where he discusses particular scenes, and a trailer. Bottom line: One-Eyed Jacks has never looked better on home video. Is this presentation perfection itself? Sadly, no, but I suspect it comes as close as will ever be possible for this movie. But please, Universal Home Video, for future reference: keep the damn studio logos preceding subsequent releases status quo. We know you own the Paramount library. No need to advertise it!
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)


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