The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

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Released 5-Jan-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 119:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Otto Preminger
Studio
Distributor
Rajon Vision Starring Frank Sinatra
Eleanor Parker
Kim Novak
Arnold Stang
Darren McGavin
Robert Strauss
John Conte
Doro Merande
George E. Stone
George Mathews
Leonid Kinskey
Emile Meyer
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $4.95 Music Elmer Bernstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, its 1955, theres smoking in many scenes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Kristen:

       The Man with the Golden Arm opens with Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) just getting out of either a drug rehabilitation facility or a jail (it is never made clear exactly which). What is clear is that he has recently gotten the monkey off his back (or so he thinks), and has returned to his old New York street haunts with new dreams of getting a job as a drummer in a jazz band. However, old vices are never far away. Frankie wants to give up poker and stay clean while pursuing a career in music. But can he, given the pressures he is under to be “the dealer” at after-hour poker games, steady offers of drugs, and living with his wife (Eleanor Parker) who is confined to a wheel chair after he crashed their car while drunk (insert major feelings of guilt here). To add to the pressure, Kim Novak is an additional temptation as Frankie’s old flame Molly – the girl he really wants and really the only positive influence in his life.

      I was looking forward to reviewing The Man with the Golden Arm. I am a fan of older movies and thought this could be a hidden gem given the presence of Sinatra and Novak, and especially given that poker has become the new fad in worldwide “sports”.

      However, I found the movie slow and didn’t feel any worry or concern around Frankie’s attempts to give up poker and stay clear of the drugs. The drug used is never called by name (heroin is my guess), but it is shown as an addictive drug that has a detrimental effect on Frankie’s life.

 Ryan:

      Sorry KC, I have to disagree. I felt a great deal of involvement with Frankie’s plight – the moments when he succumbs to his drug dealer’s pleading, with Elmer Bernstein’s great score reaching a crescendo, had me really rooting for the guy to just find the strength to kick the habit and focus on the drums. In fact, the depiction of drug use is the movie’s most interesting feature to me. It isn’t surprising that in 1955 the Motion Picture Association of America originally refused to issue a seal for the film due to its depiction of drug use, which is amazingly graphic at times.

    There are a bunch of other things to like about the film. Sinatra’s excellent performance makes you wonder why he was never as respected as an actor as he was a singer (although he did receive a well deserved Academy Award nomination for his role in this film). Novak is always very watchable, and while she is presented as a temptation for Frankie, I was interested to find her here as a good influence on Frankie’s life – usually she is the icy blonde who destroys men’s lives as in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The movie also features some great old-school street talk:

 “I’m the kind of guy, boy when I move – watch my smoke. But I’m going to need some good clothes though.”

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie is in black and white, and perhaps because of that it does become dark at times, particularly some night scenes. While the overall clarity of the video is reasonable for a movie that is 50 years old, there are some significant issues with the video that that spoil several key scenes altogether.

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Being black and white, some of the DVD’s  problems with shadow detail and low level noise are more obvious. Blacks are rarely black and there is a high degree of low level noise throughout the transfer.

 

    The movie is filmed in black and white, hence there is no colour.

 

    There are positive and negative film artefacts throughout the movie, prominent early on at 8:29, 9:23 and 18:19. Many of these appear as large black or white circular blotches and are highly distracting.

    The worst aspect of the video transfer is the flickering that occurs at several points, most notably from 26:56 right through to 27:16. It is possible that these are analogue tape tracking errors, as they bear a great deal of resemblance to tracking errors on a VCR, meaning that this DVD may have been mastered from an inferior analogue video tape source. In any case, this entire scene between Frankie and his drug dealer, a pivotal moment, is spoiled by this problem and sadly it occurs at several points throughout the film (although never as bad as in this scene).

    The movie has no subtitles, and is presented on a single layered DVD. Strangely, the movie only has two chapters, with the second chapter at 61:15.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The movie is mainly dialogue driven, and while music and jazz in particular is a theme throughout, there are no real extended musical sequences besides the main score and some drumming from Frankie.

    The audio track drops out briefly at 9:21 and completely drops out from 44:1844:23. Luckily there is no dialogue during this period, while the silence is very noticeable and highly distracting.

 

    The film features one audio track, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s). As with many inferior quality stereo tracks which have been converted from the original mono, the general sound level is quite low.

 

    There were no audio sync problems.

 

    The intro to the movie, with credits by noted titles man Saul Bass, features the frenetic jazzy score which punctuates key moments throughout the film. The score was provided by Elmer Bernstein, who went on to great some of the most memorable film scores of all time, like The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven, and was nominated for an Academy Award.

 

    There is no surround channel usage.

 

    There is no LFE channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on this disc. This is a shame, because Golden Arm is the kind of film that could have provided some very interesting history. A documentary on its depiction of drug use and the controversy this would have presented at the time would have made fascinating viewing.

    As an interesting side note, Marlon Brando was originally offered the lead role but Sinatra moved quicker and was signed before Brando could accept. This is exactly the kind of thing that would have made for a great commentary track, if only…..

R4 vs R1

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

    A 2-disc The Man with the Golden Arm (50th Anniversary Edition) has been released in Region 1, which includes:

 

    Obviously, this Region 1 50th Anniversary Edition is a clear winner.

Summary

    This movie was too slow for Kristen, while Ryan found it to be an entertaining piece of 1950s film history, with a great performance by Sinatra.

    The video transfer of the movie has some fatal problems.

    Sound was clear and passable, with the exception of some dropouts in audio.

    The extras don’t exist.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Kristen Clark & Ryan Woodforde (I love the smell of bio in the morning.)
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using S-Video output
DisplayPanasonic TX-51P15H rear projection TV (136cm).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS494
SpeakersKrix Lyrix front speakers, Krix KDX-C centre speaker, Krix Equinox rear speakers, BIC D-121OR 12' 200 watt powered sub-woofer.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Rajon - James R
Public domain? - Neil