The Good

An interesting showcase of both Paul Newman and the growth of film.

The Bad

Some of the bonus features are a mess.

The Paul Newman Collection is a 7 film set featuring the actor in some of his well known and most interesting performances. In this set are the following titles:

Somebody Up There Likes Me

The Left Handed Gun

The Young Philadelphians

Harper

Pocket Money

The Mackintosh Man

The Drowning Pool

Probably the most well known performance in this set is that of Newman playing prizefighter Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me. Newman takes a turn as Billy the Kid in the western The Left Handed Gun. Aside from the interesting performance by Newman, this is the directorial debut of Anthony Mann. The Young Philadelphians sees a slick Paul Newman playing lawyer Anthony Judson Lawrence. He's looking to elevate his status among the towns socialites amidst a murder trial. In what is being billed as his first detective movie, Newman plays the titled role of Harper. He's a different kind of private detective on the case on the streets of Los Angeles. Pocket Money sees icons collide when Newman teams up with the great Lee Marvin in this tale of modern day cowboys. In a different sort of role, Newman plays Joseph Rearden in The Mackintosh Man. He's a covert agent who finds some shady dealings in England's Parliament. Lastly, reprising his role as Lew Harper in The Drowning Pool, we see this character dealing with an extortion ring in the Big Easy.

All 7 films in this collection show some different shade of the many nuances that Paul Newman is able to deliver. It would be hard not to peruse this set and realize just how fine of an actor he really is.

Features

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Commentary Track

This was a weird commentary to listen to because it features Paul Newman, Robert Loggia, Robert Wise, Martin Scorsese and film critic Richard Schickel. However, they are not all in the room together (which would have been a very interesting meeting of the minds). We begin with Robert Wise talking about how he wasn't into the idea of doing another boxing movie (he'd already done The Set-Up), then he read the screenplay and that changed his mind. Also, apparently James Dean was the first choice to play the role of Rocky Graziano. Then after this, believe it or not, Paul Newman calls in and does his commentary parts via speakerphone. No, I'm not kidding. After that, this track became a mishmash of the other people on this commentary, with the sound varying in quality for whoever it was that was handling the talking duties. While I was excited to have all these good people do this, I sort of wish it had just been Robert Wise, or maybe Wise and Scorsese.

The Young Philadelphians

Commentary by director Vincent Sherman and Film Historian Drew Casper

Harper

Introduction by TCM Host Robert Osborne

Osborne gives us a succinct historical account of this movie. He talks about how Paul Newman had done well playing characters whose names began with an "H," so that accounts for the main characters name in the film. He then mentions how it was based on a novel, and he goes on to discuss the other actors and actresses in the film. This isn't mandatory viewing, but it does give this movie a nice perspective before you watch it.

Commentary Track

William Goldman commentary tracks are always good because he is very smart and he also isn't afraid to speak his mind. He also layers his commentary tracks with just enough anecdotes and screenwriting theory to make them educational and entertaining. He talks about not having seen this film in 40 years, and that it's the first thing he ever wrote (it was novel) that got made. He discusses how he learned about the importance of the opening credit sequence doing this film, and he even says that he believes this movie is Robert Wagner's best work.

The Mackintosh Man

Vintage Featurette - John Huston: The Man, The Myth, The Moviemaker

The Drowning Pool

Vintage Featurette

I love when they include old time featurettes in these DVD sets and this one was no exception. We mainly hear from the director Stuart Rosenberg as he discusses the production. He talks about the cast, the characters, and how he is pulling off the story being told within this film. We also get to see a lot of production footage, which is really nice because this film also stars Newman's real life wife, Joanne Woodward. Then we hear from Ross MacDonald (who wrote the book) on the history of the Lew Harper character that Newman reprises here.

The Left Handed Gun

Commentary by director Arthur Penn

Video

All of the films in this collection are widescreen version presented in a "letterbox" widescreen format preserving the "scope" aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. Another of my favorite things about these kinds of sets is that we get to see a rather broad evolution of the language of film. The look of Harper for instance is totally different than it's sequel "The Drowning Pool." Getting to examine films like this side by side is a really visceral experience. I was also impressed with how good all of these films looked on DVD. It is probably a mixture of the compression process, and the way that these titles have been kept up, that has made them look so good in their presentation.

Audio

The audio on the 7 discs is Dolby Digital and it's in either English Mono, French mono, or both. Now, I know that this might upset those people with amazing sound systems, but for my purposes everything played fine. There is a naturalness to Paul Newman's acting and delivery that is really consistent. I never felt like he was playing the same character, so much as he was experimenting with the various components of his acting persona. I was quite surprised to find that all these discs played relatively the same in regards to how they were leveled.

Package

A great cover shot of Newman in a black suit against a brick wall tells you all you need to know about this 7 disc set. The back features a list of what the extras are in this set, a short description of the films, and small images of each cover. Due to the nature of these covers, I have to think that they were same ones used when these films were originally released. On the bottom portion of this slipcase cover is a minimal technical specs listing. All of the films are stored in 7 slim classes which, while making this set feel heavy, is nonetheless economical. Warner Bros. again gets high marks for packaging and content.

Final Word

I had an interesting thought while watching through The Paul Newman Collection. He is that rare American actor who doesn't seem like he's ever faltered along the way. Okay, not every one of his films has hit it out of the park, but as an actor he seems to have taken few missteps. It is as if he knows the material he is getting involved with is going to be of some merit. In addition to this, he is very strong in every one of the films he makes. When one looks at the later work of Marlon Brando, or even people like Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, these actors seem to have periods where they were really extraordinary. However, there are also a great deal of dry spells for these thespians. I don't know that we can really say that about Paul Newman. He may have had periods of inactivity, but to say that he made bad films wouldn't really be accurate. All actors fall out favor, but like some of the more prominent and talked about ones, Newman always has taken his craft seriously.

The Paul Newman Collection is a 7 film love letter that is packed with a variety of movies and interesting extras that makes this set a film school unto itself.

The Mackintosh Man was released July 25, 1973.