The Verdict Blu-ray Review
In one of my file cabinets of long collected movie memorabilia sits a fold out featuring a picture of Robert Redford over a book shelf full of legal books heralding his soon to be great performance in THE VERDICT. And while I’m sure Sundance would have done a fine job, it was Butch Cassidy himself, Paul Newman, who would go on to star and in the process give one of his greatest performances ever.
Frank Galvin is a lawyer down on his luck. In layman’s jargon he’s pretty much nothing more but an ambulance chaser. When his former assistant steers a wrongful death case to him he’s encouraged to take the hospitals generous out of court settlement. In a rare case of sobriety (Frank has a penchant for hitting the bottle) he decides to take the case to trial, hoping to not only serve his client but to redeem himself.
Based on the novel by Barry Reed and adapted by the great playwright David Mamet (his 2nd feature film screenplay), THE VERDICT can easily be placed on the list of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time. Director Lumet (whose “12 ANGRY MEN would also be on that list) was a pro at getting the best performances out of his actors. James Tolkan once told me that Lumet’s secret was having a full rehearsal period before the cameras rolled, allowing the actors to get into their characters. This led to very few takes when filming began, getting the most honest and best performances out of his actors. That truly is the case here. Newman, in an Oscar nominated performance, hides his handsome, blue-eyed persona behind the haggard face of a man who looks 20 years older than he is, his once dancing eyes now bloodshot. Yet Frank continues to fight the system, taking on a wily foe in the great James Mason, also an Oscar nominee. This was one of Mason’s last roles and he matches Newman step for step in his performance.
A top notch supporting cast, including Milo O’Shea as the unsympathetic judge, Lindsay Crouse (who was Mrs. David Mamet at the time) and Charlotte Rampling as Franks on again/off again gal, make this film a must see for anyone who enjoys a great drama. Director Lumet, also Oscar nominated here, shows why he was a true master of dramas (DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK). THE VERDICT earned him his last of five Oscar nominations. Criminally, he never won though he did receive an honorary award in 2005. The film also received Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture (it would lose the top prize to GANDHI). If you want to see two of films genuine legends (though Newman would go on to win the Oscar four years later for THE COLOR OF MONEY according to his biography he considered his role in THE VERDICT his favorite) this is definitely the film to see. And keep your eyes peeled for Bruce Willis and Tobin Bell as observers in the court room.
THE VERDICT BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though the majority of the film takes place inside (and when the setting is outside the weather always seems to be dreary) the image is sharp and the color does not have a washed out look. And even when their bloodshot, Paul Newman’s eyes are still incredibly blue.
Audio: Presented in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, the dialogue is clear throughout.
Commentary by Sidney Lumet and Paul Newman: Though it’s obvious that the two commentaries were recorded separately (how cool would it have been to have Lumet and Newman in the same room sharing stories?) this is a must listen for anyone that loves Sidney Lumet. Newman drops a few nuggets occasionally.
The Making of “The Verdict” (9:06): I remember seeing this on cable in 1982. A basic “making of” featurette with interviews and clips.
Paul Newman: The Craft of Acting (8:45): Newman talks about the challenges of playing Frank Galvin.
Sidney Lumet: The Craft of Directing (10:47): Same thing here with Lumet sharing some of his secrets.
Milestones in Cinema History: “The Verdict” (23.14): A document of the history of the film, pretty much from conception to opening.
Hollywood Backstories: “The Verdict” (22:08): More behind the scenes footage.