Review: Fat City
Blu-Ray & DVD: Fat City (1972)
Tully is a boxer way past his prime, who for probably not facing up to the reality of his alcoholism ends up in the local gym sweaty and knackered. Here he ends up bumping into Ernie Munger, an eighteen-year-old amateur boxer. They spar and Tully realizes Munger has great potential. Tully suggests that Munger look up his former manager and trainer, Ruben (Cheers’ Coach, Nicholas Colasanto).
This is a pretty straight forward and simple story, but effectively told in a series of small vignettes, each part giving full attention to the characters.
It’s like a slightly softer version of Bukowski, or a song by Tom Waits, the hopelessness and squalor seeps from the screen. The film really picks up the pace when Tully meets Oma (Susan Tyrrell) a bloody minded, lazy, alcoholic half dressed (notice the zip on her dress, it’s a wonderful touch) barge slag, who’s boyfriend (and boxer) Earl (Curtis Cokes) is in prison. I have to say, hand on heart, that the scene between Keach and Tyrrell in the bar is worth £15 for this Blu-ray. It is one of the best bits of acting onscreen I’ve ever seen, it’s easy, real, heartbreaking, sexy, wretched and how Keach and Tyrell weren’t given Oscars on the spot is beyond me.
Tully’s life has been a mess ever since his wife left him. He drinks too much, is pissed all the time and can’t hold down a job, even picking fruit with migrant workers is beyond him, until he meets Munger, and his youthful spark ignites Tully into action. He says at one point that he’s 29 years old and I did a double take of Keach, as he really WAS 29 when he made this film. He looks about 40. Bridges however, is his usual handsome all-American boy blonde, but is so intense in the film following up on the promise of The Last Picture Show (seen it? If not buy it now). He’s more or less ‘trapped’ into marriage by his young virginal girlfriend Faye (Candy Clark).
Although Bridges and Colasanto give really solid performances (Colasanto is wonderful as a trainer who does his best for his fighters, even for Tully who still blames him for his ‘downfall’), this is Keach and Tyrells film. I have never seen anyone play drunk so heartbreakingly realistic before (and I was married to an alcoholic for 16 years) the way they cling to each other, and fight through their shared love of the one true God – Booze, is so realistic.
John Huston’s film is without a doubt a classic and I am amazed it’s not more widely known (hopefully this new release by Powerhouse Films will encourage more people to seek it out). It’s somewhat somber but compassionate and yes, even life affirming in a way. There is always a way back, and perhaps no matter how many times you fall, if someone holds their hand out to you, you can climb back up.
I really can’t emphasize just what a truly great film this is. I absolutely loved it.
Apart from the film itself being fantastic, Powerhouse have really surpassed themselves on this Indicator release. Firstly the sound and picture are fantastic, and then there are the extras. Now some discs can be loaded with – what seems like –great extras, which do tend to turn out to be a bit ‘all filler… no killer’. But these extras are definitely ALL killer. I normally skip through as I don’t have time because of the amount of films we have, but I sat and watched all the extras. I would go as far as to say that not only is this the best film I’ve seen this year, but this disc has the best extras I’ve seen for a long time!
A must buy. 10/10 for me!
- INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 4K restoration from the original negative
• Original mono audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Audio commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman
• Sucker Punch Blues: Looking Back on John Huston’s ‘Fat City’ (2017, 55 mins): new documentary featuring interviews with actors Stacy Keach and Candy Clark, casting director Fred Roos and assistant cameraman Gary Vidor.
• An American Classic (2015, 22 mins): a newly illustrated audio interview with Fat City author Leonard Gardner
• John Huston on Fat CIty (1972, 6 mins): an archival interview filmed for the French TV programme Pour le cinéma.
• The John Player Lecture with John Huston (1972, 88 mins): audio recording of an interview conducted by Brian Baxter at the National Film Theatre, London
• Isolated score
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 28-page booklet with a new essay by Danny Leigh, a contemporary review, and John Huston’s reminiscences about the film
• UK home video premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies