You're an unprincipled man, Hud
Steven Hellerstedt | 06/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Welcome to the last Western. HUD is a chronicle of what killed the western ethos - it was done in by a man with a "barbed wire soul" driving a pink cadillac. Before HUD men raised cattle or plowed the earth, after HUD men ceded the land to the oil drillers.
The movie opens with 17-year-old, wide-eyed Lonnie looking for Hud. The trail leads him past a busted up saloon and ends when he finds a married woman's high heel shoe carelessly flung on her front porch. Hud seems to have a taste for married women and a way with the bottle that the curious Lonnie finds attractive.
When they get home Homer drives them out to a freshly dead heifer. There are no bullet wounds or other signs of injury and Homer decides to call the authorities. Hud disagrees. If the heifer died of a disease it could jeopardize everything, and Hud is too close to inheriting the ranch for that. Homer has more at stake, but burying the cow without an investigation would simply be wrong. The drama proceeds from there as deliberately, and inevitably, as a Greek tragedy.
Like other epics, and HUD deals with epic themes, there are great battles. Hud Bannon battles with his father, Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas) for the heart and mind of his nephew Lonnie (Brandon de Wilde.) Hud and Lonnie battle over their "half-wild" maid Alma (Patricia Neal.)
Hud, a man of little patience, is brutally direct in his approach to Alma. The inexperienced Lonnie admires her from a gentler distance. Director Martin Ritt includes two scenes that highlight this difference. One night Hud tomcats his way into Alma's room asking for a cigarette. The experienced and wary Alma gives - Hud lights the handout and blows out the match just as Alma asks for a light. With his back to her Hud drops the burnt out match into her hands and waits a beat before dropping the matchbook. It's a short throwaway that highlights Hud's loutish behavior. It gains relevance a little later when Lonnie takes a blow to the head and has to take to his bed. Alma brings him a glass of `fresh squeezed lemonade.' Lonnie takes the drink and a worried look beetles his brow. Alma puts her hand under his mouth and urges him to spit. `C'mon, honey,' she says, `they're just lemon pits.'
Lonnie spits his seeds into her hand, Hud a useless, burnt out stick, and Dr. Freud has just left the building. Maybe Ritt put those scenes in to delight louts like me four decades on. HUD is filled with powerful, multi-layered scenes. Another memorable one occurs when Homer Bannon's herd is driven into an enclosure. It is very long, maybe four minutes, and deliberately edited. I don't know if we'd see its like today, but its length and deliberation gives it awesome power.
Melvyn Douglas won an Oscar in this movie, and he portrays Homer Bannon as a man about as played out as his over grazed land and about as obsolete as the two longhorn he keeps solely for sentimental reasons. Neal also won an Oscar in this one, and her character is almost as worn out as the elder Bannon. Life has used her hard. Paul Newman was nominated as the title character, and in my opinion would not have made an embarrassing winner. One of the most charming and charismatic actors in movie history, Newman manages to play a man of hollow charm. When he flirts, we see the snake lurking behind his smile. HUD won a third Oscar for photography, and James Wong Howe presents a parched and arid black-and-white landscape.
This is an excellent movie, and well worth the investment of anyone's time."
Magnificent in every respect
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot say enough about this movie. Paul Newman ("HUD") is completely convincing as the narcissistic son of an aging cattle rancher (Melvyn Douglas) who takes all he can get from life, leaving only destruction in his wake. Perhaps the reason Newman is so convincing is that, despite HUD's reprehensible character, one is drawn in to the allure of his personality, just like those on the screen that are used and tossed aside. Although we may not be "rooting" for HUD, we become more than a little sympathetic to his cause, probably a reflection of our own selfish natures. And it is a tribute to Newman's acting ability to draw out these conflicting emotions from the audience.The supporting cast in this "character study" is nothing short of superb. Melvyn Douglas as the pious and self-righteous father is the perfect mirror image of HUD. Patricia Neal (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) is simply outstanding as the earthy, motherly yet somewhat-still-sexy housekeeper who both HUD and Lon (Brandon De Wilde) have sexual yearnings for, but for very different reasons. James Wong Howe's cinematography is top notch and his choice of black and white film really makes this movie work - far more than it would have in color.There are also other "small touches" that add so much to the film. When HUD picks up Patricia Neal by the side of the road with her groceries, she offers him a Fig Newton. The same effect was used again when Lon is discussing the book "From Here To Eternity" with the local drugstore owner. Not a just a "cookie" or a "book", but real pieces of "Americana" the help set the mood, tone and timeframe of the film.There is one last item I think is worth commenting on, because it is often overlooked. That is the seeming genuine affection that HUD has for his nephew (Lon). Yes, HUD is a scoundrel out for himself first and foremost, but there are many scenes where HUD appears almost human (particularly when HUD finally tells Lon how his father died), and those scenes are always with Lon. This is why, if the movie has any flaw in my mind, it is the ending where Lon is leaving the ranch and HUD is left all alone. I get the sensation that HUD is practically begging Lon to stay, though outwardly this isn't the case at all and HUD tries to act aloof and non-caring, shouting one of his famous lines "This world is so full of ..., a man's gonna get into it sooner or later whether he's careful or not." Whether my reaction was the one Martin Ritt had in mind I am not sure, but the last scene always leaves me unsettled, at least in terms of HUD's humanity.Regardless, a first class film in every way. There are very few this good."
Finally! This wonderful film on DVD.
Donato | La Verne, CA United States | 02/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"HUD, quite simply, has some of the best performances ever put on film by its four leading cast members: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal and Brandon De Wilde. Equally powerful is the black and white photography, which serves as the perfect background for the story and the performers. (B&W just can't be beat for some types of stories, and this is one of them.) Newman has never been given as much credit as he deserves, in my opinion, and he makes the tactless, self-centered, womanizing Hud come to life spectacularly. Patricia Neal, who won the Oscar for this, is amazing to watch, using her body language and her voice with consummate mastery. This film leaves you with an appreciation of how simple stories, handled by talented professionals, can pack a punch even forty years later. When compared to half of the "product" that's pumped out these days, HUD towers over most, propelled by character and story. Not a bad thing, if you ask me!"
Newman At The Top Of His Form
James L. | 08/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Melvyn Douglas stars as a cattle ranch owner faced with every cattleman's worst nightmare - foot and mouth disease which could lead to the mandatory destruction of his whole stock. Paul Newman is his selfish son Hud, a man with an appetite for the ladies and his own interests that has caused his morally driven father a lot of grief over the years. Brandon de Wilde is Douglas' grandson by his oldest son, a boy torn between the morality projected by his grandfather and the fun, careless image of his uncle. Patricia Neal stars as the housekeeper, a woman wise beyond her years who has seen a lot in her life and finds Hud dangerously attractive. These four characters are the heart of this character driven film, shot in beautiful, stark black and white that emphasizes the emptiness of the land around and the lives of those living on it. The conflicts are well presented, with sharp, revealing dialogue, and in the hands of these terrific actors, each character comes to life. Enough praise can't be given to each actor for their work here, although Paul Newman must be singled out. This is as good as he gets, and that says a lot. There's not much in Hud's character to admire, but in some ways, the viewer does. He's dangerous and doesn't pretend to be anything else. He lives for himself, and makes no apologies. Hud is an unforgettable character. This is a movie that everyone should make a point to watch."