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THE HARDER THEY FALL

THE HARDER THEY FALL ($25) may have been screen legend Humphrey Bogart’s swan song, but the actor ended his career by delivering another potent performance. In THE HARDER THEY FALL, Bogart portrays Eddie Willis, a respected sports writer who has had a turn of bad luck since his newspaper folded. With money being tight, Eddie is willing to compromise his principals and goes to work as a press agent for shady boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger). Eddie’s creative writing talents are put to the test when he has to build up Benko's latest discover- a new South American fighter named Toro Moreno (Mike Lane).

As it turns out Toro is no boxer, just a big lumbering giant, who looks good towering over his opponents in the ring. Of course, Benko wants to maximize his investment in Toro and arranges a series of fixed fights that will bring him closer and closer to the heavyweight championship. Although Eddie is initially willing to go along with Benko’s plans, and even seems to be selling his soul to the devil a little at a time, Eddie's character makes it impossible to take advantage of Toro, especially when it appears the naïve giant might actually get hurt in the ring. The cast of THE HARDER THEY FALL also includes Jan Sterling, Max Baer, Jersey Joe Walcott, Edward Andrews, Harold J. Stone, Carlos Montalbán and Nehemiah Persoff.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE HARDER THEY FALL available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The opening credits appear framed at 1.66:1 and that may be a more appropriate aspect ratio for the film, although I did not notice and compromises in the picture’s composition during the rest of the movie. The black and white film element used for the transfer shows few signs of age, with a few minor blemishes appearing from time to time. Image quality is very good for a late fifties production; everything appears fairly crisp and nicely defined. There is a noticeable grain structure to the picture, but it is never excessive. Blacks are deep and solid, while the whites appear clean and crisp. Contrast is good and the grayscale has a nice variety. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is in very good shape, providing a crisp, clean sound that is free from most vestiges of hiss and surface noise. While one would normally expect very limited fidelity from a monaural track of this vintage, THE HARDER THEY FALL has a bit of a bottom end. I Don’t know if the track was artificially sweetened, but fight scenes has a bit of oomph, with the punches sounding as if they are actually connecting. Dialogue sounds snappy and is always completely understandable. A Portuguese language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. A Bogart Collection retrospective, with vintage advertising materials is the main extra on the DVD. Additionally, trailers for ON THE WATERFRONT and THE GREATEST are also provided on the DVD.

 

THE HARDER THEY FALL is an entertaining fight film, in which Bogart gives another solid performance. This particular movie also marked Bogart’s final screen appearance, which may pique the curiosity of those who might not have had any interest in otherwise seeing THE HARDER THEY FALL. Regardless, Columbia has done a good job with the DVD, producing a presentation that will keep his fans and movie buffs happy.

 

THE HARDER THEY FALL 


The Harder They Fall (1956)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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