"Don't let the stars fool you, I love this movie and if I were reviewing the movie itself on its merits alone, it would get 6 stars. My love for this classic is the reason I can give this DVD version only two stars. The print is very poor - the lighting in some scenes is too dark to pick up some details. There are skips and jumps in the frame. The sound transfer is also very uneven. In fact my 20 year-old VHS tape is STILL better quality than this DVD. But all those technical faults could be forgiven were it not for the most egregious cut of all - a few lines of dialogue. In a pivotal scene where the grocer delivers to the Davis house, Charley has just told Peg that he needs his money to bet on the fight. The grocer comes in and talks about everyone betting on the fight - Charley says anyone who bets is foolish. The grocer disagrees. The words that were cut out of this print, essentially the heart of why the neighborhood loves their champ, are very simple "In Europe, the Nazis are killing our people, but here Charley is Champeen! No, it's not about the money." I have no idea why these lines are missing, but it was the final straw before I returned the DVD for a refund.
Unfortunately us movie fans lose out again. We can't get a decent transfer or an unedited copy of a great film. Many lesser films released in the last 5 years have several editions available, with added footage, interviews, alternate endings, "director's" cuts and other gimmicks to drive sales. It's a good thing I haven't given away my VHS tape or dumped my VCR, otherwise I'd never again see this movie in a facsimile of its intended presentation. I guess the simple grocer was wrong, it's always about the money."
Classic John Garfield Role and Realistic Boxing Scenes.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 06/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When actor John Garfield wanted to make a boxing movie, Abraham Polonsky came up with this story on the spur of the moment. "Body and Soul" found great popular success and went on to garner Garfield an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Polonsky a nod for Best Screenplay, and win the 1948 Oscar for Best Editing. In addition to being one of John Garfield's most popular roles, "Body and Soul" is remembered for its realistic depiction of boxing matches, filmed by cinematographer James Wong Howe, who had been a professional boxer in his youth. It probably didn't hurt that John Garfield had been an amateur boxer when he was young also, although he had to be doubled in some of the fight scenes due to his heart condition.
"Body and Soul" begins the night before World Boxing Champion Charley Davis (John Garfield) is to defend his title. He's supposed to throw the fight and make a bundle for the promoter, Mr. Roberts (Lloyd Goff). He's uneasy, can't sleep, and wanders around town seeking comfort -or something- in friends and family with little luck. Right before the fight, Charley drifts into sleep, murmuring "It's all gone down the drain" as he begins to dream. Most of the film is in flashback. Charley recalls his humble beginnings as an amateur champion and the pride of his old neighborhood. His mother (Anne Revere) disapproved of boxing, but Charley wanted to break free of the Lower East Side's violence and poverty. He wanted success more than anything in the world. With the help of his old friend Shorty (Joseph Pevney) and his manager Quinn (William Conrad), Charley became a pro with a promising future. But he sacrificed control of his career in a corrupt partnership with Roberts in order to get a championship fight.
John Garfield is too old for this role, but it's still perfect for him. He excelled at playing barely working class tough guys who are foolish and self-destructive, but somehow lovable and sympathetic. Perhaps because Charley came from a life of deprivation, he thinks of nothing but money -making it and spending it- to the detriment of his relationships and his integrity. "Body and Soul" is elevated from conspicuous morality tale to classic film by virtue of its supporting cast. William Conrad is terrific as the gruff, two-faced, but somehow sympathetic Quinn, even though he has few lines. And Charley's gold digging mistress, Alice, an even less prominent character, is played memorably by Hazel Brooks. Charley's fiancée and beloved Peg, an art student and aspiring painter played by Lilli Palmer, is an odd character. She's intelligent, articulate, and temperate -in contrast to Charley. But her European accent and refined demeanor make her seem as out of place in the film as in the Lower East Side. Somehow, this works in the film's favor by putting Peg on a moral pedestal. "Body and Soul" is an entertaining film, a must for John Garfield fans, notable for being one of the first boxing films and one of the last "social conscience" films of the classic era. In fact, the film is plainly about the 1930s even though it takes place in the 1940s.
The DVD (Republic/Artisan 1999 release): This is a good print of the film, without serious flaws, but it's not actually restored. I counted 2 momentary audio problems. The single bonus feature is "Production Notes", a 7-page essay that discusses the film's inspiration, how Abraham Polonsky came to write it, some anecdotes about filming, and an alternate, more cynical, ending. No subtitles."
Garfield Sizzles in Morality Play
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 01/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Body and Soul" was the pride and joy of Enterprise Productions, an independent company located just off Melrose Avenue near RKO and Paramount. It was dedicated to developing productions for its superstar, John Garfield. This is a morality play in which New Yorker Garfield, playing a role not unlike his own life, rises above temptation, reclaims his respectability, and bows out his professional boxing career as winner and still champion.After his father is killed, an accidental victim of a turf war involving New York gangland elements, Garfield turns to the world of professional boxing despite his mother Ann Revere's admonitions against it. His mind is made up after a government official shows up at their apartment to ask Revere questions concerning going on relief, or in today's parlance, welfare. Garfield finds the process dehumanizing, evicts the government worker, and enters the professional boxing realm, aided by the area's noted boxing manager, William Conrad.Eventually Garfield hits the big time and wins the world championship, but sells his soul in a Faustian bargain to unscrupulous promoter Lloyd Gough. In the process his decent, highly ethical girlfriend Lillie Palmer drops him, saying she will not deal with him as long as the unsavory Gough guides his destiny. After that he takes up with opportunistic night club singer Hazel Brooks, who lives for luxury in the fast lane.Gough hits his lowest point when matching Garfield with the talented and popular champion Canada Lee, whose manager beseeches him to quit due to brain damage. One more extra hard blow can do the champion in, he has been warned by doctors. Gough explains that Lee need not worry, and that he will tell Garfield that he should carry him and not land any hard blows. He then purposely neglects to tell Garfield, with Lee almost losing his life in the process. Garfield, feeling terrible, then gives Lee a job as a trainer.Eventually Gough decides that it is Garfield's turn to lose to the up and coming young contender from Texas. Garfield is pressured to accept the dive. He even bets his entire purse on his challenger.The championship bout is so boring that fans boo and taunt. Garfield pulls his punches and spends much time clinching. Then, in the next to last round, Gough initiates his doublecross by giving the go ahead to the challenger to use full strength on Garfield as he pummels the surprised champion and knocks him down."I'll kill him, I'll kill him," Garfield promises. By the time the round ends he has cleared his head. In the final round he devastates the challenger, knocks him out, and receives a standing ovation. He wins Palmer back and rejects an advance from Brooks.When Gough tells Garfield afterwards that he has run a great risk in crossing him, the champion coolly replies, "What are you gonna do, kill me? Remember what you told me, 'Everybody dies.'"James Wong Howe's photography of the fight scenes were staggeringly real. He did them while on roller skates, enabling him to keep up with the flow of action.Director Robert Rossen and screenplay author Abraham Polonsky had a difference of opinion on the film's ending for awhile. Rossen, favoring a more realistic ending befitting a fighter who has crossed a major mob figure, shot a sequence of Garfield walking down a dark New York street, being gunned down, then shoved into a garbage can to serve as an example to anyone who dared cross the mob. Polonsky favored the ending that was ultimately used as Rossen told him after viewing both endings, "You were right. Your ending is better." Enterprise made one more great film, with Polonsky adapting his own script and making his directorial debut in "Force of Evil," with Garfield playing a mob lawyer who reforms."
Body and Soul
Steven Hellerstedt | 10/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charlie Davis grew up poor but proud, a brash young kid with fists of stone and an appetite for the better life. John Garfield plays Davis in BODY AND SOUL, one of the starkest morality plays Hollywood has ever produced. BODY AND SOUL is deeply cynical and enjoys a pessimism untainted by many promises of redemption. People don't fall in love in the world Charlie is so eager to join - they negotiate angry contracts with each other. William Conrad plays Charlie's manager who at one point loses his girl to Charlie. In a happier moment Conrad once told her, "Remember, first mink and then ermine." It's a constant theme in the movie - everything is for sale, and the more of you you shell out the better the reward. The girl's bitter fall from Charlie's grace takes her back to Conrad and his rabbit fur territory. Conrad welcomes her back with a snarled "Looks like you're back in my league." "I don't know," she says, "you're getting kind of old." Conrad ends this little woo-pitching session with the pleasant observation that "You could use a new paint job yourself." This is a Social Darwinism without much sociability and one where all the predators are keeping score. About the only light radiated in Charlie's life come from girlfriend Peg and his mother, both long-suffering forgivers. But the lure of the Damned overshadows that of the Graced. The former dress better and have bigger toys. Besides, we imagine Charlie tells himself, I can always step away when I've had my fill.... BODY AND SOUL was custom made for its star and plays to all his strengths. John Garfield shines in this career defining role that fits him like a glove - a pugnacious and cocky kid from the wrong side of town chases the brass ring and stumbles when he runs into something tougher than his fists and immune to his wise cracks. Garfield's other great acting asset was his ability to explore the dark corners of his soul and take the audience along for a melancholy tour. Garfield is corruptible, but incapable of being corrupt. His mortal attempt to reclaim his soul is announced with one of the greatest tough guy lines in movie history: "What are you gonna do, kill me? We all gotta die." An essential movie.
Classic John Garfield, Classic Fight Film
firstname.lastname@example.org | Madison, WI | 09/24/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Garfield offers one of his most memorable roles in this thrilling boxing expose. He's up and coming fighter Charley Davis, a tough kid being pulled in opposite directions by his family and by the local mob kingpin. Academy Award-nominated script from Abe Polonsky (who'd collaborate with Garfield again in "Force of Evil"), the directorial debut of Robert Rossen, and the usual stellar photography from super-D.P. James Wong Howe. Great support comes from Canada Lee (like Garfield, a victim of the Blacklist) as a fellow fighter."