A DRIFTER'S PLAN TO FINALLY SETTLE DOWN QUICKLY GOES AWRY WHEN HIS ANIMAL MAGNETISM ATTRACTS EVERY WOMAN IN TOWN. SPECIAL FEATURES: SUBTITLES IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, PORTUGUESE, CHINESE, KOREAN, AND THAI, LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, ... more »SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE, PRODUCTION NOTES, TALENT FILES, THEATRICAL TRAILERS AND MORE.« less
Mike M. from REDWOOD CITY, CA Reviewed on 8/30/2009...
be very careful when ordering this dvd; the asin number is used interchangeably with the fullscreen only version (same cover without columbia classics on top) to add to the confusion there's a letterboxed variant as well as at least one low picture quality import. i'm still looking for the one that has true widescreen on one side as claimed...
note: this dvd is NOT avaiable on amazon; they have the fullscreen only version.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Holden Sparks, Novak Smolders, Kansas Burns
Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 05/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a decade of conformity and great prosperity William Inge and Tennessee Williams tackled subjects ahead of their time. Of course they in some cases had to veil the subject matter but that lead to some wonderful revelations in writing and reading between the lines. In this DVD from Colombia of Inge's Pulitzer Prize winning `Picnic' we have one of the best films of this genre of sexual repression, animal heat, and desperation in small town America.
Most reviewers of this film might begin with the leads but I must start of with the wonderful Verna Felton as Helen Potts the sweet old lady who is caretaker of her aged mother and lives next door to the Owens family. This gifted and now forgotten character actress sets the tone of the picture as she welcomes drifter Hal Carter (William Holden) into her house. At the end of the film she glows in tender counterpoint to the dramatic ending. She is the only person who understands Hal, even more than Madge (Kim Novak). Her speech about having a man in the house is pure joy to watch. It is a small but important performance that frames the entire story with warmth and understanding.
Betty Field turns in a sterling performance as Flo Owens, Mother of Madge and Millie. She is disapproving of Millie's rebellious teen and smothering of her Kansas hothouse rose Madge. A single Mom trying in desperation to keep Madge from making the same mistakes she did. She becomes so wrapped up in Madge's potential for marriage to the richest boy in town she completely ignores the budding greatness that is bursting to get out in her real treasure. Millie.
Susan Strasberg creates in her Millie a sweet comic oddball. She is the youngest daughter who awkwardly moves through the landscape nearly un-noticed, reading the scandalous "Ballad of the Sad Café" being the only one who is different and can't hide it. Her yearning to get out of the smallness of small town life is colored with the skill of a young actress with greatness her.
Rosalind Russell nearly steals the show as the fourth woman in the Owens household boarder, Rosemary, a frantic, hopeless and clutching spinster. In the capable hands of Miss Russell we have a real powerhouse of a performance. She imbues Rosemary with all the uptight disapproval of a woman who knows that her time has past and there are very few options left. She is electric in her need for love. Every nuance of her emotions is sublime in her presentation. Just watch her hands alone.
Floating above all of this is Madge Owens, the kind of girl who is too pretty to be real. The kind of girl who in a small town like this is not understood to have any real feelings or thoughts other than those that revolve around being beautiful and empty. Enter Kim Novak, who is just such a girl. Who could ever expect such a beauty to be anything more than just pretty? But Miss Novak, a vastly underrated actress in her day paints a knowing and glowing portrait of Madge. Her explosion of sexual heat upon meeting Hal for the first time is internal and barely perceptible until she looks at him from behind the safety of the screen door the end of their first scene. That screen door is a firewall protecting her from the flames. She fights in the early part of the film to keep her sexual desire for Hal in check. That night she loses her fight at the picnic and we watch as she opens to reveal a woman of feelings and dreams so much deeper than the prettiness of her eyes or the luminosity of her skin. This is one of Kim Novak's early great roles and one she fills out with lush and deep emotion.
The lives of all of these women of Nickerson Kansas are changed one Labor Day when Hal comes steaming into town. William Holden gives a raw and wounded portrayal to Hal, a man at the edge of his youth and on the verge of becoming a lost man. He lives as he always has, on the fading glow of his golden boy charm and his muscular magnetism. Holden was 35 when he made Picnic, a real golden boy at the edge of his youth. He was perfect for the part. Some reviewers say he was too old to play Hal, but I disagree. Without being thirty-five in real life as well as in the story Rosemary's "Crummy Apollo" speech would not be so effective or devastating. Hal is a man who never bothered to grow up, a man who never let anyone get too close for fear they might see through is bravado and discover his fears of feeling something, anything before it's too late.
Holden also brings a sexual heat to the film that is eons beyond the time it was filmed. He is presented almost like a slab of meat. He struts around in a pre-Stonewall dream of sexy hotness. Not only the girls in town notice him but a few boys too. (There are several layers to Nick Adams paperboy if one bothers to look.) When finally Holden sparks with Novak they blow the lid off of the uptight code bound studio-strangled world of Hollywood in the Fifties.
The film is photographed magnificently in lush color and cinemascope by famed cinematographer James Wong Howe. The famous score by George Durning is classic not only for the famous reworking of the old standard "Moonglow" but for his virtuosity in dramatic power. This is a giant of a score from the silver age of film music. The direction by Josh Logan is perfect in every way and stands among the best of his work."
Dear Sony/Columbia Pictures: Why fullscreen, and no widescre
Baron Sardonicus | Pennsylvania | 02/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I wonder what's wrong with some of these corporations that release dvd's of classic American films. We aren't given a choice of widescreen or fullscreen most of the time. I'll take widescreen any day.
If a film came out after 1953, chances are that it was filmed in widescreen. Then, when it was eventually sold to play on TV, it was altered (shrunk or cropped down) to fit into the square shape of the TV screen, thus losing one third of the image.
I prefer the black bars because I know that the image I see between them is exactly what people saw in the movie theater when the film was originally shown to audiences ... a nice wide rectangle like we see on the silver screen.
This dvd of Picnic is "modified from its original version...it has been formatted to fit this screen", as the message flashes before the film begins. Yet, the Columbia torch bearer lady and the opening credits are in the original aspect ratio. And then we cut from William Holden to the home of Verna Felton (Mrs. Potts) and, POOF, we suddenly have a grainy, shrunken, pan-and-scan fullscreen image for the rest of the film. A big disappointment.
The aspect ratio is not 2.35:1 as advertised in the product description above. "
A great American film
R. Scharba | Chicago, IL USA | 06/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen "Picnic" more times that I could count, most recently on the excellent DVD edition. It was released in 1955 and powerfully evokes old-fashioned small town America, but the essence of it transcends time and place. The dilemmas and stages of life portrayed can only be fully appreciated by someone who's gone through some of them. It was always one of my mother's favorite movies, but you need to grow up to a certain extent before fully appreciating it. It's one of those films that gets better with repeated viewings, and changes even as you yourself change.A scene that immediately comes to mind is one where Rosalind Russell, as a desperately lonely middle-aged woman living in denial, is unblinkingly staring at a blazing red sunset with her gentleman friend, Howard. In a tight, intense tone of voice she suggests that the day doesn't want to end, that it's going to "put up a big scrap, try to set the world on fire," to keep the night from creeping in. Yow! Besides being an example of great acting, it's a scene that just can't be fully appreciated until you've reached a certain age, seen some time slip by, and pondered mortality. Russell makes the most of it, and it always brings a lump to my throat. Howard, in his clueless way, agrees that "a sunset is a beautiful thing, all right." I suspect that people who watch this film, shrug, and say "so what? Kim Novak is fat and dull, and Holden is too old" are a lot like the character Howard, which may be to their advantage after all.Regarding Kim Novak, I could certainly picture a more nuanced performance in that role, but she is better than OK, and not fat by 1950's standards! As for William Holden being too old to play Hal, I can forgive much for the sake of charisma like his. He certainly seems older than Cliff Robertson, who plays his former college fraternity brother (Holden was 37 at the time). The age issue is addressed in another scene with Rosalind Russell (now I think of it, hers may be the best performance in the film), where her insecurity and anger are suddenly let loose in a drunken rage as she lashes out at Hal. She shouts: "you're no jive kid, just afraid to act your age," and her tirade gets meaner with each second. This is the turning point of the whole story, and contains some more great acting. She spits the words out like venom at Hal, whose agony on hearing things he is afraid to think about, let along say out loud, is clearly visible on Holden's face. "Picnic" is full of vivid scenes like this, as well as more subtle and lighthearted character studies, and it is not a soap opera by any means.Incidentally, this film contains a technical milestone at the very end. The last shot is reputedly the very first helicopter shot in a motion picture, done using a borrowed US Navy chopper. In this landmark shot, the maximum effect is achieved with no words. We have already seen Hal catch a passing freight train out of town, and we've seen Madge (Kim Novak) break the bond with her mother and catch a bus out of town. We know that their paths are to cross again as the helicopter shot begins by tracking the bus with Madge on it, and she is represented by a busy, hopeful-sounding version of the "Picnic" melody heard earlier in the film. As the camera continues to rise, we catch sight of Hal's freight train nearer the horizon, heading in the same direction, at which time a rough and virile melody begins to sound right alongside Madge's "Picnic" theme. What a great way to end a great film."
5 stars for the film, 1 for this DVD release
DSR | Florida | 01/08/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I've waited for years to get this wonderful classic on DVD and was so disappointed to discover it's only available in a full-screen format. For those who don't know the difference, this classic was originally filmed in a widescreen format, so to make it fit the traditional square television, they had to crop out a lot of the picture. What's more, this "restored" version contains no documentaries--only trailers and cast lists. I e-mailed Sony about a possible widescreen release and was told there are no plans for another release at this time. What a shame! The film was released on VHS in a widescreen format and deserved to be handled with the same respect in the DVD release. If you want to get the full impact of the theatrical release, don't buy this chopped-up version. Save your money and watch the VHS or widescreen airings on Turner Classic Movies. Eventually someone will do right by this film and release a better DVD."
DVD video quality disappointing
Larry Dell of Sacramento, CA | Sacramento, CA | 10/16/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The movie itself is classic entertainment, and my wife and I have enjoyed our VHS tape of it (in "letterbox" format) many times. However, our recent purchase of the DVD was a disappointment due to (1) the "pan and scan" format and (2) the poor color quality characterized by a brownish tinge throughout much of the movie, making it look "old".
Until a restored version is available on DVD, I recommend avoiding the DVD and settling for the VHS tape. The sharpness of the DVD may be a little better than the tape, but the letterbox and color tones of the tape far outweigh the surprisingly marginal quality of the DVD. Such a great motion picture deserves a better DVD."