Review: The Strange One
Blu-ray: The Strange One (1957)
Powerhouse Films and their Indicator label seem to find the most interesting(ly odd) films to release, lost ‘classics’ of cinema that have passed most film fans by. The Strange One, adapted from Calder Willinghamis’ novel and stage play, was made in 1957 and was the film debut of Ben Gazzara and George Peppard. Gazzara, Pat Hingle, Peter Mark Richman and Arthur Storch reprise their roles from the stage version.
It’s quite an odd film, based at an army cadet training school, the story jumps right in with no lead-up as we’re introduced to Gazzara’s ‘louse’ protagonist Jocko De Paris as he bully’s and manipulates all around him. The tradition of hazing in the American colleges is well known, but this is far more psychological and hate filled as De Paris effectively does what he pleases.
Everyone at the school is either afraid of him or believes he is a normal or even exemplary cadet. Gazzera gives a restrained and believable performance as a good looking kid who at first you think is a brat, but turns out to be evil incarnate. Its obvious he’s a method actor, but while you’d expect someone to chew the scenery up in a role like this, he keeps it low key and menacing.
And it’s obvious there’s no real reasoning behind his actions, he’s doing all these things simply because he can, because he enjoys it, because he doesn’t care.
It’s also noteworthy for its portrayal of homoerotic themes including one very openly gay character (Hays Code prohibited). Although some scenes could descend into double entendre heaven; spanking, punishment, inferences to anal rape, it never crosses the ‘giggle’ line, but rather makes you feel uncomfortable knowing what is really meant, but can’t be said.
It’s a hard, intense watch, all the characters seem to huddle together, be in smoke filled rooms, they loom over each other with intent. It’s not a film you’d get much enjoyment out of, enjoyment is the wrong word, endurance perhaps? But this is because the subject matter is insidious and the acting is spot on.
There is a great extra feature; an interview with a much older Gazzara describing being in the original play, working with Sam Spiegel and how the film was more or less abandoned by the studio on completion.
Yet another great Indicator package.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
- High Definition presentation
- Two presentations of the film: The Strange One, with the original US title sequence, and End as a Man with the rarely seen UK titles
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with critic Nick Pinkerton (2020)
- Finding Direction (2020): Jack Garfein recalls his directorial debut and his work with the Actors Studio
- Ben Gazzara Remembers ‘The Strange One’ (2009): archival interview with the acclaimed actor
- Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
- Original theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Brad Stevens, Ben Gazzara on The Strange One, an archival interview with Jack Garfein, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
- World premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies
Extras subject to change
The Strange One is released on 27th April 2020.
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.
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