DVD Review: The Sting (Legacy Series Edition)
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: September 16, 2005
In 1973, "The Sting" was nominated for ten academy awards, and won seven of them, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. That should be plenty of awards for any movie, but I'd like to add one more: Best Movie for a Single Woman. Why? I'll explain.
Robert Redford: Robert Redford is adorable as Johnny Hooker, a 1930s grifter determined to get revenge on the mob boss who ordered a hit on his best friend. Despite the mob's thugs who are still chasing him, and trouble with the law, Hooker is determined to do right by his friend by arranging a perfect con. With his golden hair and mega-watt smile, who could be better eye candy?
Paul Newman: The only one who could give Robert Redford a run for his money is Paul Newman, who is sublimely gorgeous as Harry Gondorff, the older, experienced grifter who reluctantly agrees to aid Hooker in his undertaking. Newman has those eyes! That profile! And he oozes charm as the ultimate con man.
The Supporting Cast: You can't make a meal of chocolate (as much as it's fun to try). And similarly, all eye candy and no spice isn't as satisfying as a mixture of tastes. "The Sting" has a great selection of supporting actors -- Robert Shaw as the menacing Doyle Lonnegan, Charles Durning as Lieutenant Snyder, Ray Watson and Harold Gould as con men, Eileen Brennan as a madam.
The Plot: Women like smart men, and women like to have their own intelligence respected. This is a smart screenplay, inviting the viewer to share in the con being developed, and teasing the viewer with a con on the audience. Even if you've seen it once and know the twists, it's enjoyable to watch again, to appreciate the clues and misdirections that were dropped along the way.
No Julia Roberts: Ordinarily, with two gorgeous leading men, there's some gorgeous woman involved in a romantic subplot. For example, Julia Roberts as George Clooney's love interest in "Ocean's 11," the twenty-first century equivalent of "The Sting." But in "The Sting," the main female leads are Eileen Brennan and Dimitra Arliss -- strong women who are also more accessible than Julia Roberts of this world.
All of this is not to say that married folks, single men, even kids, can't enjoy "The Sting." It's a classic of the American film industry, and a heck of a lot of fun to boot.
Extra Features - Legacy Series
Universal released this "special edition" version of "The Sting" as part of its Legacy Series. From first looking at the packaging, the impression truly is of a special edition. The casing is thicker than usual, with a rich, faux-leather background and shiny gold lettering.
The film itself looks gorgeous -- bright colors, and very crisp. Looking at the theatrical trailer, included in the bonus features, really demonstrates how remarkable the restoration job was.
The main bonus feature is a collection of reflections on the movie called "The Art of the 'The Sting.'" It's divided into three sections ("The Perfect Script," "Making a Masterpiece," and "The Legacy"), which can be played individually or all together. I didn't notice a particular distinction between the three portions, and would advise the "play all" feature to get all 56 minutes at one time. The reflections, by Redford, Newman, Brennan, Walston, Durning, screenwriter David Ward, and musical adaptor Marvin Hamlisch, are very interesting and enlightening. Hamlisch, in particular, provides fascinating details about his use of music in the film, and doesn't shy away from technical discussions about, for example, why one piano was chosen over another.
The only other bonus feature are some screens of "production notes." Strictly speaking, Universal probably could have included all the bonus features on the same disc as the movie. But it's undeniably a more luxurious presentation with the two discs, and, in a movie devoted towards the art of the con, I give Universal a pass for this small con on the consumer. This is a movie which is a delight to watch from beginning to end, and it's only appropriate that the delight begin from the moment of picking up the case.
Film Rating: A
Extra Material: B+