The Ugly American (1963)

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Released 1-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 115:13
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Englund

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Marlon Brando
Eiji Okada
Sandra Church
Pat Hingle
Arthur Hill
Jocelyn Brando
Kukrit Pramoj
Judson Pratt
Reiko Sato
George Shibata
Judson Laire
Philip Ober
Yee Tak Yip
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Frank Skinner

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I have reviewed a few Marlon Brando films recently and his presence in this one prompted me to choose it for review. His performance here is excellent and the film is an interesting political drama which, unlike many American films, does not only see things from one angle.

    The Ugly American is set in the imaginary South East Asian country of Sarkhan in 1960. Despite some objections from the senate, Harrison 'Mac' MacWhite (Marlon Brando) has been appointed as the new US ambassador to Sarkhan. His background is journalism and his main qualifications for the job seem to be the time he spent there during WWII, fighting with the resistance after being shot down. He established and has continued a friendship with a man called Deong (Eiji Okada, a Japanese actor) who is now a popular (but not official) leader of the Sarkhanese people. The US are currently constructing a major highway in Sarkhan called 'Freedom Road' which is not popular with many people including Deong. The construction is being managed by Homer Atkins (Pat Hingle), a generous man who seems to want to help the local people as much as he can. Despite this an accident is staged which results in the death of one of the road workers, heightening anti-US feelings. Upon arrival in Sarkhan, MacWhite and his wife Marian (Sandra Church) are greeted by a riot at the airport which results in their car being mobbed and damaged. As MacWhite tries to get on top of the situation, he quickly reveals his lack of understanding of the local situation, deciding with little evidence that Deong is a communist because he objects to 'Freedom Road'. Three groups struggle for control of the country; the popular nationalist movement led by Deong; the local communists backed by China, Russia & North Sarkhan (a communist country); and the US backed dictatorship which is resisting democratic reforms.

    This film is quite interesting for the fact that although remaining staunchly anti-communist it is also critical of US foreign policy and the way that they operated at the time (and still operate today). Both Marlon Brando and the director George Englund received Golden Globe nominations for this film in 1964. On the other hand, the film is a bit preachy and most of the running time is taken up by political discussions and other dialogue. It was filmed in Thailand and has an interesting notice at the beginning pointing out that although filmed in Thailand, it does not represent the political situation in Thailand.

    I would recommend this film as a worthwhile one to see if you are interested in the topic that it covers or if you are a fan of Marlon Brando, as this certainly contains a very good performance from him as the initially arrogant and later contrite Harrison MacWhite.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is decent but is pan & scan.

    The feature is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is NOT the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Based upon the way certain shots are framed I would assume that it is pan & scan rather than full frame. As per the site's policy I will remove one star from the overall video rating due to the film not being presented in its original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout, with close-ups being quite good and longer shots being a little soft. There was no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was acceptable for a film of this age. There was also some grain throughout.

    The colour was generally good, however it is dull throughout and one or two scenes had some variability in what should have been solid colours. Skin tones were fine.

    Artefacts were not too bad for a film of this age but present nonetheless. Specifically, I noticed quite a few black lines for example at 55:10 and 100:50. There were also some white hairs every now and again. Camera pans were slightly shimmery and there was some noticeable edge enhancement.

    There are no subtitles.

    The layer change occurs at 74:59 and caused a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is good but mono.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Frank Skinner is fine but does not really make that much of an impression on the viewer.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu was preceded by a forced piracy advertisement. The menu itself was unremarkable including a still from the film and the ability to select scenes.

Trailer (3:01)

    This is a pan & scan version of the trailer, which is obvious from the way the on screen text gets cut off at the sides. It includes quite a few spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis the Region 1 version of the disc is clearly the winner.


    A interesting political drama from the early 1960s starring Marlon Brando, in fine form.

    The video quality is decent but pan & scan.

    The audio quality is good but mono.

    The disc has only a theatrical trailer as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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