The Pawnbroker Blu-ray Review
On a beautiful summer day, a woman spreads out a blanket for a picnic lunch. Nearby, her two children play in a field while her husband and other relatives relax in the sunshine. As she calls them all to lunch the husband looks up and then freezes in horror.
Twenty-five years later, we meet Sol Nazerman (Steiger). He is lounging on a chair in the suburban backyard of the house he owns and shares with his sister-in-law and her family. After reading the morning paper he says his goodbyes, gets into his car and drives to 116th Street and Park Avenue in New York City. There he unlocks the metal gates and then the front door of his pawn shop. Sol is a Pawnbroker.
An incredibly powerful film that rests solely on the mighty shoulders of its star, THE PAWNBROKER is a film that broke many taboos along the way, as well as blazing a path for many other films to follow it. The film is one of the true gems in director Sidney Lumet’s crown, but is often overlooked as it is sandwiched between LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT and FAIL-SAFE. It is a hard, gritty look at life in New York City, a town that Lumet, like Woody Allen and Spike Lee, made his own on film. Steiger’s Sol is a concentration camp survivor, a man who lost his family to the Nazis and had to endure watching the rape of his wife at the hands of the camp guards. As the quarter-century anniversary of that day approaches, Sol is reminded of the past by innocent happenings in the present. A simple subway ride takes him back to the crowded trains he and his people were forced to ride. We slowly see the horrors that unfolded in his life and we can’t help but feel the helplessness he also endured.
I was stunned to see that the film only received one Oscar nomination, which went to Steiger. I was equally stunned to see that he lost to Lee Marvin’s dual-role in CAT BALLOU. Steiger would win the award a few years later for “In the Heat of the Night” but in my opinion, this is his best on-screen work. Also doing fine work in the cast is Geraldine Fitzgerald, who plays a woman who just opened a business down the street; Jaime Sanchez, who plays Sol’s eager to learn employee; and Brock Peters, as the neighborhood tough guy whose business effects Sol’s in a very surprising way. Also, in un-credited, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles: Reni Santoni and Morgan Freeman. This is Freeman’s first film appearance and you’ll have to look hard to find him.
The film is also known for knocking down a few Hollywood walls. It was one of the first mainstream films to detail the actions that took place during the Holocaust. It also was the first film to be released with an approved seal from the Production Code that showed female nudity. It was this film, and others, that led to the end of Production Code office and the creation of the rating system.
THE PAWNBROKER is a must for any Sidney Lumet fan or for anyone who wants to see a great actor at the top of his game.
THE PAWNBROKER BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in it’s original 1:85.1 aspect ratio, the film transfer is quite good for a film that is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, the dialogue is crisp and clear and Quincy Jones’ musical score is as lively as it was in 1964.
There are no extras included on this disc.